Best Graduate Student Loans 2022

As a graduate student, you have the option to take out federal direct unsubsidized loans, graduate PLUS loans or private student loans. Federal direct unsubsidized loans generally have both the lowest interest rates and the most flexible repayment options.

But you can only borrow up to $20,500 per year in direct unsubsidized loans, and some students need to borrow more than that. Below we have identified the best federal and private loan options for graduate students based on features like fees, repayment options and ease of the application process.

Several lenders offer specialized loan programs for those pursuing a master of business administration (MBA), law or medical degree; for this list, we compared only generalized graduate degree loans for master’s or Ph.D. students in other fields.


SoFi is perhaps best known as a student loan refinance lender, but it also makes loans to undergraduates, graduate students, law and business students and parents. Its undergraduate student loan product offers mostly industry-standard features, plus a few perks: no late fees, an interest rate discount of 0.125% if your co-signer already uses another SoFi product and job search help through its career team.

Federal Graduate PLUS Loan

The federal graduate PLUS loan also offers wide-ranging benefits to borrowers, but fewer than direct unsubsidized loans offer. Since borrowing limits are higher for PLUS loans than direct unsubsidized loans, they’re an option to cover any funding gaps after you’ve maxed out direct unsubsidized loans for graduate study.

The graduate PLUS interest rate is slightly higher than the unsubsidized loan rate; the origination fee—4.228%, which comes out of the loan amount that’s disbursed to you—is much higher. PLUS loans are also the only federal loan type that require a credit check, but it’s possible to get a PLUS loan even if you’re determined to have an adverse credit history (more on that below).

Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank provides an additional 0.25% loyalty discount if a student loan borrower or their co-signer has an existing account with the bank. (Checking and savings accounts are only available in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.)

It also makes its loans available to international students. But co-signers must wait a longer period of time to be released from the loan than what many other lenders provide.

College Ave

College Ave offers a solid all-around private loan product with a few unique features. Borrowers can choose an eight-year term, which is in addition to the typical five-, 10- and 15-year terms many lenders provide. Borrowers can also access an extended six-month grace period beyond the initial payment-free six months allowed after separating from school.

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, known as RISLA, is a nonprofit based in Rhode Island that lends to students across the country. It offers two different loan types for undergraduate students, which each comes with its own fixed interest rate. One loan requires immediate repayment and one lets you defer payments until six months after you leave school. Everyone who qualifies for each of the loan types gets the same rate, which makes it easy to compare RISLA loans with others you’ve qualified for.

For borrowers who struggle to afford their loan after graduating, RISLA is one of the only private lenders to offer an income-based repayment plan, which limits payments to 15% of income for a 25-year period.

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