RISLA Review: Student Loan Refinancing and Private Student Loans

RISLA offers income-based repayment, making it a good choice for borrowers who may require flexibility in the future.
Cecilia Clark
By
Last updated on April 16, 2024
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed
Karen Gaudette Brewer
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed

Many, or all, of the products featured on this page are from our advertising partners who compensate us when you take certain actions on our website or click to take an action on their website. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

  • 35+ student loans lenders reviewed and rated by our team of experts.
  • 10+ years of combined experience covering higher education and student loans.
  • Objective, comprehensive star-rating system assessing 43 categories and 40+ data points across student loan origination and student loan refinance.
  • Governed by NerdWallet's strict guidelines for editorial integrity.
NerdWallet's student loans content, including articles, reviews and recommendations, is produced by a team of writers and editors who specialize in consumer lending. Their work has appeared in The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Nasdaq, MSN, ABC News, MarketWatch and many other national and regional media outlets. They also have appeared on NerdWallet's “Smart Money” podcast, as well as local TV and radio.

Student loan ratings

RISLA Student Loan Refinance
RISLA Student Loan Refinance

4.5

NerdWallet rating
The Nerdy headline:

The Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, known as RISLA, is a nonprofit state-based agency that refinances student loans and makes loans to undergrads, graduate students and parents. Its loans are available nationwide and best for borrowers who may need wiggle room on payments in the future.

Top Private Student Loan Lenders
Ad
2024 Best Private Student Loan Overall
College Ave Private Student Loan
5.0/5
NerdWallet rating
College Ave Private Student Loan
Fixed APR
4.17-16.69%
Variable APR
5.59-16.85%
Min. credit score
Mid-600s
on College Ave's website
on Credible’s website
Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan
Fixed APR
4.25-15.49%
Variable APR
5.37-15.70%
Min. credit score
Mid-600's
on Sallie Mae's website
on Credible’s website

RISLA Student Loan Refinance review

2024 BEST State-Based Private Student Loan 
RISLA Student Loan Refinance
RISLA Student Loan Refinance

5.0
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score
680
Fixed APR
6.34-8.29%

Pros

  • Income-based repayment plan available, with forgiveness after 25 years.

  • Co-signer release available after 24 months.

Cons

  • Students cannot refinance a parent PLUS loan in their name.

Best for borrowers who want payment flexibility should they run into financial trouble.

Full Review

RISLA offers refinancing customers a rare option: an income-based repayment plan if they experience extended financial hardship. However, loans are available at fixed interest rates only.

RISLA student loan refinancing at a glance

  • Generous repayment flexibility for struggling borrowers.

  • Borrowers without a degree can refinance.

How RISLA could improve

RISLA could improve its student loan refinance product by offering:

  • Students the option to refinance a parent PLUS loan in their name.

How much can refinancing save?

RISLA student loan refinancing details

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

    • Loan terms: 5, 10 or 15 years.

    • Loan amounts: $7,500 to $250,000, depending on the highest degree earned.

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

    • Application or origination fee: No.

    • Prepayment penalty: No.

    • Late fees: No.

    Compare RISLA'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 RISLA will offer you, apply on its website.

  • Financial

    • Minimum credit score: 680.

    • Minimum income: $40,000.

    • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 771.

    • Typical income of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.

    • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 50%.

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

    Other

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

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

    • Must have graduated: No.

    • Must have attended a school authorized to receive federal aid: Yes.

    • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: Did not disclose.

    • Academic deferment: Yes.

    • Military deferment: Postpone payments if you're an active duty military member who is deployed to war or supporting war efforts.

    • Forbearance: Postpone payments for up to 24 months if you're experiencing economic hardship.

    • Income-based repayment: Pay a maximum of 15% of income per month if you're unable to afford your bill. The remaining balance will be forgiven after 25 years, though the forgiven amount will be taxed.

    • Co-signer release: Available after 24 months.

    • Loan discharge if primary borrower dies or becomes disabled: Yes.

    • 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: RISLA.

    • In-house customer service team: Yes.

    • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.

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

    • Average time from application to approval: Did not disclose.

Before refinancing with RISLA

You can apply for a RISLA refinanced student loan on its website. Before deciding on a student loan refinance lender, compare multiple 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 borrowers who are struggling to make payments.

If you aren’t eligible to refinance with RISLA

If RISLA 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.

STUDENT LOAN REFINANCE RATINGS METHODOLOGY

Our survey of more than 29 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing includes the top 10 lenders by market share and the top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets.

We consider 41 features and data points for each financial institution. Depending on the category, these include the availability of biweekly payments through autopay, minimum credit score and income requirement disclosures, availability to borrowers in all states, extended grace periods and in-house customer service.

The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

Compare private student loans
Lender
Fixed APR
Min. credit score
Variable APR
Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student LoanSallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan
4.5
GO TO LENDER SITEon Sallie Mae's website
on Sallie Mae's website
COMPARE RATESon Credible’s website
on Credible’s website
4.25- 15.49%
Mid-600's
5.37- 15.70%
College Ave Private Student LoanCollege Ave Private Student Loan
4.17- 16.69%
Mid-600s
5.59- 16.85%
Ascent Credit-based Student LoanAscent Credit-based Student Loan
4.29- 15.96%
Low-Mid 600s
6.23- 16.09%
Custom Choice LoanCustom Choice Loan
4.43- 14.04%
600
5.38- 15.56%
Education Loan Finance Private Student LoanEducation Loan Finance Private Student Loan
4.50- 14.22%
680
6.00- 14.22%

RISLA Private Student Loan review

RISLA Private Student Loan
RISLA Private Student Loan

5.0
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score
680
Fixed APR
4.05-8.64%
on RISLA's website

Pros

  • Income-based repayment plan available, with forgiveness after 25 years.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Partial loan forgiveness for eligible internships; interest forgiveness for qualifying nurses.

Cons

  • Fewer repayment terms available than other lenders.

Best for students who may need wiggle room on payments in the future.

Full Review

RISLA’s private student loan is a good option for borrowers who value payment flexibility. RISLA offers an income-based repayment plan that caps payments at 15% of income and forgives any remaining balance after 25 years, similar to the federal government’s income-driven repayment plans. RISLA also forgives up to $2,000 for borrowers who complete eligible internships, and covers interest costs for up to 48 months for qualifying nurses.

RISLA’s offerings are now available nationwide but you may be eligible for lower interest rates if you live or work in Rhode Island, or if you went to college there.

RISLA private student loan at a glance

  • Rare repayment flexibility and forgiveness options.

  • Personalized rate estimates via a soft credit check.

  • Co-signer release after 24 on-time payments.

How RISLA could improve

RISLA could improve its private student loans by:

  • Offering more loan terms.

  • Allowing students with a visa to take out loans.

RISLA private student loan details

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

    • Loan terms: 10 years for immediate repayment plan; 15 years for deferred repayment plan.

    • Loan amounts: $1,500 to $50,000.

    • Application or origination fee: No.

    • Prepayment penalty: Did not disclose.

    • Late fees: No.

    Compare RISLA'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 RISLA will offer you, apply on its website.

  • Financial

    • Minimum credit score: 680.

    • Minimum income: $40,000.

    • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Did not disclose.

    • Typical income of approved borrowers: Approximately $90,000.

    • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Did not disclose.

    • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Did not disclose.

    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: No.

    • Loan can be used for past due tuition: Did not disclose.

    • Types of schools served: Title IV degree-granting schools and public or nonprofit institutions of higher education.

    • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: Did not disclose.

  • In-school repayment options

    • Immediate: Begin making full monthly payments as soon as the loan is disbursed. This option will save you the most in interest.

    • Deferred: You won’t be required to make any payments until your six-month grace period ends, but you can choose to make payments if you’d like. Interest will accrue while you’re in school and will capitalize, or get added to your principal balance, at the end of your grace period.

    Post-school repayment options

    • Grace period: 6 months, but only for the deferred repayment plan.

    • Academic deferment: Postpone payments if you return to school. Graduate students must attend at least half-time.

    • Military deferment: Postpone payments if you're on active military duty.

    • Forbearance: Postpone payments for up to 24 months if you're experiencing economic hardship.

    • Co-signer release: Yes, if the borrower makes the first 24 monthly payments on-time and meets additional eligibility criteria.

    • Forgiveness for interns: Get $2,000 in loan forgiveness if you complete a three-credit internship and apply for forgiveness within one year of graduation. The forgiven amount is taxable as income.

    • Interest forgiveness for nurses: Licensed registered nurses in Rhode Island can make 48 months of payments interest-free.

    • Income-based repayment: Pay a maximum of 15% of income per month if you're unable to afford your bill. The remaining balance will be forgiven after 25 years, though the forgiven amount will be taxed.

    • Loan discharge if primary borrower dies or becomes disabled: Yes.

    • 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: RISLA.

    • In-house customer service team: Yes.

    • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.

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

    • Average time from application to approval: Typically one - two business days.

Before applying for a RISLA student loan

Before taking out a RISLA student 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 a RISLA student loan

If RISLA denies your student loan application, the lender will let you know why. Depending on the reason, you may want to consider other lenders or, if you haven’t already, try applying with a co-signer.

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 LOAN RATINGS METHODOLOGY

Our survey of more than 29 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing includes the top 10 lenders by market share and top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets.

We consider 40 features and data points for each financial institution. Depending on the category, these include the availability of biweekly payments through autopay, minimum credit score and income requirement disclosures, availability to borrowers in all states, extended grace periods and in-house customer service.

The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

Find the Right Student Loan

Private student loansStudent loan refinancingCalculate monthly paymentsGraduate school loansStudent loan interest rates

Frequently asked questions

  • RISLA is a 4.5 star lender based on NerdWallet's student loan rating system. Our ratings prioritize low interest rates and flexible repayment options that allow borrowers to repay loans faster and avoid default.

  • No. RISLA lends to students in all 50 states.

  • A RISLA student loan is good option for borrowers who value payment flexibility. RISLA also offers incentives for qualifying nursing students.

NerdWallet Pixel