Best Student Loans of 2022

Quick Answer

Many companies offer private student loans to undergraduate students. Ascent, College Ave, Earnest, MPOWER Financing and SoFi stand out as five of the best options.

A group of college students smile while raising their hand at the classroom.

For most students, the best student loans are those available through federal student loan programs. Federal student loans don't require a high income or good credit (for undergraduates, there's no credit check at all), and all borrowers receive the same fixed interest rates. Federal loans are also eligible for deferment, forbearance and forgiveness programs.

Experian data shows the average student loan balance in 2020 was $38,792. However, there's a limit to how much you can borrow from federal student loans. In 2022, dependent undergraduate students can only borrow up to $31,000 in federal loans, and independent undergraduate students are allowed to take on up to $57,500 in federal loans.

Private student loans can be helpful if you need additional funds beyond your federal loan limit, don't qualify for federal student loans or qualify for a lower interest rate from a private lender. Some of the top private student loan options also come with benefits that you won't find on federal student loans, such as no origination fees. Here's an overview of some of the top private student loan options.

Best Private Student Loans

We're focused on undergraduate student loans here, but many of these lenders also offer graduate student loans, and a few have loan programs for bootcamps as well.

Ascent

Ascent stands out with its three loan options for undergraduates. You can apply with a cosigner for a credit-based loan, or without a cosigner if you've established your credit and have an income. There's also a non-cosigned, outcomes-based loan for juniors and seniors who expect to graduate within the next nine months.

  • Repayment terms: Five, seven, 10, 12 or 15 years
  • Five repayment plans: Payment deferral for up to nine months after leaving school, interest-only payments while in school, $25 monthly payments, progressive payments that start small and get bigger, and full payments
  • Interest rates: Fixed or variable
  • Loan amount: $2,001 up to your cost of attendance
  • Fees: No origination, disbursement or prepayment fees
  • Cosigner release option: Yes
  • Soft inquiry prequalification: Yes
Pros Cons
Choose your loan term and repayment plan Freshman and sophomore undergraduates may need a cosigner
Non-credit-based loans available Outcome-based loans may have higher interest rates
Potentially earn 1% cash back after graduation Aggregate loan cap ($200,000) isn't based on cost of attendance

College Ave

College Ave highlights its short application process—which the lender says can take just three minutes—and the ability to choose from its four repayment terms and four repayment plans. But the online lender also says that most undergraduate applicants will likely need a cosigner.

  • Repayment terms: Five, eight, 10 or 15 years
  • Four repayment plans: Payment deferral for up to six months after leaving school, interest-only payments while in school, $25 monthly payments and full payments
  • Interest rates: Fixed or variable
  • Loan amount: $1,000 up to your cost of attendance
  • Fees: No origination, disbursement or prepayment fees
  • Cosigner release option: Yes
  • Soft inquiry prequalification: Yes
Pros Cons
Choose your loan term and repayment plan Can be difficult to qualify without a cosigner
Offers a cosigner release option Can't apply to release cosigner until you're halfway through your repayment term
No fee to apply or get a loan Fewer benefits or discounts than other lenders

Earnest

Earnest stands out because its private student loans' interest rate ranges start lower than many other lenders. Your rates and offers will depend on your creditworthiness and whether you have a creditworthy cosigner. You can check your offers without impacting your credit.

  • Repayment terms: Five, seven, 10, 12 or 20 years with a cosigner. Without a cosigner, loans are available with 10-, 12- or 15-year terms.
  • Four repayment plans: Payment deferral for up to nine months after leaving school, $25 monthly payments while in school and during deferral, interest-only payments while in school and during deferral (for cosigned loans) and full payments (for cosigned loans)
  • Interest rates: Fixed or variable
  • Loan amount: $1,000 up to your cost of attendance
  • Fees: No origination, disbursement or prepayment fee
  • Cosigner release option: No
  • Soft inquiry prequalification: Yes
Pros Cons
Choose your loan term and repayment plan Repayment term may be limited without a cosigner
Low advertised interest rates Deferring and skipping payments can increase total costs
Can skip a payment every 12 months

MPOWER Financing

MPOWER Financing focuses on offering private student loans to international students and students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. While there aren't as many loan options to choose from, it can be hard to qualify for any student loans if you're not a U.S. citizen and don't have a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

  • Repayment term: 10 years
  • One repayment plan: Interest-only payments with deferred full payments for up to six months after leaving school
  • Interest rates: Fixed
  • Loan amount: $2,001 to $50,000
  • Fees: 5% origination fee, no prepayment fee
  • Cosigner release option: Not applicable; MPOWER doesn't accept cosigners
  • Soft inquiry prequalification: No
Pros Cons
Accepts international and DACA students without a cosigner Only available if you attend one of several hundred schools in the U.S. and Canada
No credit history or cosigner required Only one repayment term and plans
Three interest rate discounts can lower your rate by a total of 1.5% Has an origination fee

SoFi

SoFi offers a variety of loans and banking products, and it gives customers access to different types of benefits and rewards. For example, there's free career coaching for current members. And the unemployment protection plan can give you up to 12 months of loan forbearance if you involuntarily lose your job.

  • Repayment terms: Five, seven, 10 and 15 years
  • Four repayment plans: Payment deferral for up to six months after leaving school, interest-only payments while in school, $25 monthly payments and full payments
  • Interest rates: Fixed or variable
  • Loan amount: $5,000 to your cost of attendance
  • Fees: No origination, disbursement or prepayment fees
  • Cosigner release option: Yes
  • Soft inquiry prequalification: Yes
Pros Cons
Choose your repayment term and plan High minimum loan amount
Multiple benefits for borrowers Applicants may need a cosigner
No fee to apply or get a loan Fewer interest rate discounts than some lenders

FAQs

Choosing a student loan lender can be a daunting process. Review the questions below to help you zero in on which one is right for you.

How Do You Choose a Student Loan Provider?

Some lenders stand out because of their potential loan offers, discounts, benefits or eligibility criteria. However, the loan offers you receive might not match all the advertised options, as the loan amounts, repayment terms and interest rates can depend on your creditworthiness. You may want to apply for student loans from multiple lenders to see which offers you the best rates and terms.

How Do You Qualify for a Private Student Loan?

The qualification requirements for a private student loan will depend on the lender and the type of loan. Lenders may have minimum credit score requirements, only offer loans to residents of certain states or require students to be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school. For undergraduate private student loans, the students often don't have a long credit history or good credit score, which is why many applicants need a creditworthy cosigner (such as a parent) to get a loan.

How Can You Apply for a Private Student Loan?

You can apply for a private student loan by comparing lenders and submitting a prequalification or application. Many lenders have online applications and let you check your eligibility and potential offers with a soft credit check—the type that doesn't hurt your credit scores. But you may need to agree to a hard credit check to complete the application.

Check Your Credit Before Applying

If you're applying for a student loan or considering cosigning someone else's loan, check your credit score first to see where you stand. Experian gives you a FICO® Score for free based on your Experian credit report. You'll also get insights into what's hurting and helping your score, which you may be able to use to improve your score.

All information regarding Ascent, Earnest, MPOWER Financing and SoFi loans have been gathered independently by Experian and has not been provided or reviewed by the issuer. Offer details may be outdated. See issuer website for current details.

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