ISL Education Lending Reviews: Student Loan Refinancing and Private Student Loans

ISL offers refinancing before you graduate and low rates on its in-school products.
Cecilia ClarkSep 24, 2021

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Student loan ratings

ISL
  • Student loan refinancing

  • Private student loan

The bottom line: ISL is a nonprofit lender that offers student loan refinancing and private student loans nationwide. Its refinancing loan is good for borrowers who have yet to graduate — or didn’t in the first place. Its private loan offers consumer-friendly features, like no late fees and a generous forbearance policy.

Student loan refinancing review

ISL Refinance Loan

ISL Refinance Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Fixed APR

2.55-7.63%

Min. Credit Score

670

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • You can refinance without a degree.
  • You can refinance while in school or during a medical residency.

Cons

  • Interest rates vary by refi product.

Best for saving on interest before graduation and borrowers who didn’t finish school.

Full Review

ISL Education Lending, formerly Iowa Student Loans, is a nonprofit state student loan lender that was established in 1979. Despite its regional affiliation, ISL offers nationwide student loan refinancing via its Reset Refinance Loans.

ISL may be a good choice if it offers a lower rate than other refinance lenders or you don’t meet their eligibility criteria. ISL doesn’t have a minimum income requirement, and you can qualify if you don’t have a degree — or haven’t even graduated yet.

While some lenders let you refinance within a few months of graduation, ISL offers true in-school refinancing. If you have private student loans, refinance as soon as you can get a lower rate. If that’s while you’re in school — and before loans enter repayment — refinancing could reduce your interest costs and the amount you repay overall.

ISL also offers specific refinancing loans for medical residents, health professionals and parents. Rates and terms can vary by product. For example, in-school refinancing has a 15-year term only. Understand the details of your loan before accepting.

ISL REFINANCING AT A GLANCE

  • You can refinance without a degree.

  • You can refinance before graduation or during a medical residency.

  • Generous forbearance policy for struggling borrowers.

HOW ISL COULD IMPROVE

ISL, like other five-star loans, isn’t perfect. They could improve by offering additional programs such as:

  • A specific deferment for borrowers who re-enroll in school.

  • Biweekly student loan payments via autopay.

ISL student loan refinancing details

  • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: Yes.

  • Loan terms: Five, seven, 10, 15 or 20 years; 15-year term only for in-school refinancing.

  • Loan amounts: Minimum $5,000 ($10,000 for California residents). Maximum $300,000.

  • Can transfer a parent loan to a child: No.

  • Application or origination fee: No.

  • Prepayment penalty: No.

  • Late fees: No.

Compare ISL's range of interest rates with other student loan refinance lenders. Your actual rate will depend on factors including your, or your co-signer’s, credit history and financial situation. To see what rate ISL will offer you, apply on its website.

Financial

  • Minimum credit score: 670.

  • Minimum income: No income requirement.

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 750; approximately 760 for co-signers.

  • Typical income of approved borrowers: No income requirement.

  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 40%.

  • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Yes, after seven years have passed.

Other

  • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

  • Location: Available in all 50 U.S. states.

  • Must have graduated: No.

  • Must have attended a school authorized to receive federal aid: No.

  • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: Approximately 37%.

Many lenders are offering relief related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Check this list of private loan relief options to see what this lender offers.

  • Academic deferment: Borrowers are eligible for up to 24 months of deferment and can use it for this purpose. No specific academic deferment option.

  • Military deferment: Yes.

  • Economic hardship deferment: Yes, borrowers are eligible for up to 24 months of deferment.

  • Forbearance: No.

  • Reduced payments for medical residents: Medical residents can pay $75 per month during their residency.

  • Graduated repayment: If borrowers experience financial difficulty, this alternate repayment plan is available.

  • Co-signer release available: Yes, after 24 months of on-time payments.

  • Death or disability discharge: Yes, the loan will be forgiven if the borrower dies or becomes permanently disabled, even if the loan has a co-signer.

  • Loan discharge if co-signer dies or becomes disabled: No.

Repayment Preferences

  • Allows greater-than-minimum payments via autopay: Yes.

  • Allows biweekly payments via autopay: No.

  • Loan servicer: Aspire Servicing Center, which is a subsidiary of ISL.

  • In-house customer service team: Yes.

  • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.

  • Borrowers get assigned a dedicated banker, advisor or representative: No.

  • Average time from approval to payoff: Seven days.

Before refinancing with ISL

Before deciding on a student loan refinance lender, compare student loan refinance options to make sure you’re getting the best rate you qualify for. In addition to interest rates, compare lenders’ repayment options and the flexibility they offer for borrowers who are struggling to make payments.

If you aren’t eligible to refinance with ISL

If ISL denies your refinance application, the lender will let you know why. Depending on the reason, you may want to consider other lenders or need a co-signer.

NerdWallet recommends prequalifying with multiple refinance lenders before you apply. This will let you know which lenders you may be eligible with, without affecting your credit.

How does this loan compare?

CommonBond Student Loan Refinance
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Check RateCheck Rate
Fixed APR

2.98-5.79%

Fixed APR

2.49-6.94%

Variable APR

1.99-5.61%

Variable APR

1.74-6.59%

Min. Credit Score

680

Min. Credit Score

650

Private student loan review

ISL Private Student Loan

ISL Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Fixed APR

4.60-7.40%

Variable APR

3.51-6.14%

Min. Credit Score

670

Pros

  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders offer.
  • No late fees.

Cons

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Best for low-interest loans with consumer-friendly features, like a generous forbearance policy.

Full Review

ISL offers undergraduate, graduate and parent student loans. Unlike many state-based lenders, you don’t have to be from or attending college in Iowa to qualify; funding is available nationwide.

Consider ISL if you can’t qualify for a low interest rate elsewhere. As a nonprofit, ISL has maximum rates below many lenders, while also providing consumer-friendly features such as no late fees and 24 months of forbearance if you run into financial difficulties.

Your repayment term will be set at 15 years if you opt to defer payments while in school. Otherwise, loans receive a 10-year term. Other lenders may offer additional flexibility via longer and shorter repayment terms.

ISL PRIVATE LOANS AT A GLANCE

  • Loans available nationwide.

  • Generous forbearance policy for struggling borrowers.

  • Term based on repayment option selected.

HOW ISL COULD IMPROVE

ISL could improve its private student loan product by offering:

  • Personalized rate estimates via a soft credit check.

  • Academic deferment for as long as you’re enrolled half-time.

  • A choice of repayment terms.

ISL private student loan details

  • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: No.

  • Loan terms: 10 or 15 years based on repayment option.

  • Loan amounts: $1,001 or $2,001 (based on residency and school location) up to annual cost of attendance minus other aid received. Lifetime maximum of $100,000

  • Application or origination fee: None.

  • Prepayment penalty: No.

  • Late fees: No.

Compare ISL's range of interest rates with other private student loan lenders. Your actual rate will depend on factors including your — or your co-signer's — credit history and financial situation. To see what rate ISL will offer you, apply on its website.

Financial

  • Minimum credit score: 670.

  • Minimum income: No minimum requirement.

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 759.

  • Typical income of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.

  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 40%.

  • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Yes, after seven years have passed.

Other

  • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

  • DACA borrowers: Not eligible.

  • Location: Available in all 50 U.S. states.

  • Must be enrolled half-time or more: Yes.

  • Loan can be used for past due tuition: Yes.

  • Types of schools served: Borrowers must be pursuing a degree at an eligible Title IV school in the United States.

  • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: Approximately 93%.

Many lenders are offering relief related to COVID-19. Check this list of private loan relief options to see what this lender offers.

In-school repayment options:

  • Immediate repayment: Make full payments as soon as the loan is disbursed, while you’re still in school.

  • Deferred payments: Don’t make any payments while you’re in school.

  • Interest-only repayment: Pay interest every month you’re in school and during the grace period.

Post-school repayment options

  • Grace period: 6 months.

  • Income-based repayment option: No.

  • Academic deferment: Yes, typically 60 months of in-school deferment is available.

  • Military deferment: Yes.

  • Forbearance: Borrowers are eligible for 24 months of forbearance over the life of the loan.

  • Co-signer release: Yes, after the first 24 consecutive monthly principal and interest payments are received on time and the borrower meets credit and underwriting criteria.

  • Death or disability discharge: Yes; the loan will be forgiven if the borrower dies or becomes permanently disabled.

  • Loan discharge if co-signer dies or becomes disabled: No.

Repayment preferences

  • Allows greater-than-minimum payments via autopay: Yes.

  • Allows biweekly payments via autopay: No.

  • Loan servicer: Aspire Servicing Center, which is a subsidiary of ISL.

  • In-house customer service team: Yes.

  • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.

  • Borrowers get assigned a dedicated banker, advisor or representative: No.

  • Average time for approval: About 23 days.

Before applying for an ISL loan

Before taking out an ISL loan or any other private student loan, exhaust your federal student loan options first. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, to apply.

Compare your private student loan options to make sure you’re getting the best rate you qualify for. In addition to interest rates, look at lenders’ repayment alternatives and the flexibility they offer to borrowers who struggle to make payments.

If you aren’t eligible for an ISL loan

If ISL denies your student loan application, the lender will let you know why. Depending on the reason, you may want to consider other lenders.

If you don’t have access to a co-signer — or still aren’t eligible with one — consider lenders that don’t require co-signers or specialize in bad or no credit student loans.

STUDENT LOANS RATINGS METHODOLOGY

NerdWallet believes the best student loan is one you can repay at the lowest interest rate you can get. That’s why NerdWallet’s student loan ratings reward lenders that offer a variety of loan terms, limit their fees and penalties, and extend borrowers multiple options to avoid default. Points are also awarded for soft credit checks, underwriting transparency and other consumer-friendly features. Use these ratings as a guide, but we encourage you to shop around for the lowest interest rate you can qualify for. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for its reviews. Read our editorial guidelines.