Private student loans come from banks, credit unions and online lenders, and unlike federal student loans for undergraduates, they require a credit check. That means most undergrads will need a co-signer in order to qualify. Private student loans also are more expensive than federal loans—especially now that federal loan rates are at historic lows—and typically don’t offer the flexible repayment options their federal counterparts do.
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 come with their own fixed interest rates. 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.
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.
While Funding U’s rates are higher than other private lenders’, the company is unique in that it doesn’t make loans based on credit history and it doesn’t require student borrowers to use a co-signer. Borrowers qualify for a loan based on academic and work background, current courses, graduation prospects and likely future earnings.
Also, while Funding U’s loan limits are comparatively low, private loans should be used sparingly, so ideally borrowers won’t need them to finance larger gaps in funding.
PNC Bank offers an extra-generous 0.50% interest rate discount for making automatic payments, and it provides a 12-month loan modification program for borrowers in financial distress (in addition to 12 months of forbearance). Loan modification lowers the interest rate and monthly payment charged.
It also offers co-signer release, though after an even longer period than Citizens Bank’s policy: 48 months.