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Find the Best Student Loan Companies

Student loans provide access to higher education to those who cannot afford tuition — but they are also a significant responsibility. Use our guide to research the best student loan company for you. We explain what students should look for when they take out federal loans, private loans or both. There are many differences between lenders, including rates and terms, so it is essential to research companies before applying. More than 43 million students and graduates have student loan debt, and that number continues to grow with the high cost of postsecondary education.

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Compare Reviews for Top Student Loan Companies

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LendingTree
Read 1,538 Reviews

Compares rates and quotes from multiple lenders for a variety of loan types. Free services. Use of the site doesn’t affect credit score. Provides a list of loan options tailored to the user’s situation.

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Sallie Mae
Read 1,430 Reviews

Offers private student loans, college planning advice, credit cards and savings products. Variable rates on undergraduate loans range from 1.25% to 11.35% APR. Fixed rates range from 4.25% to 12.59% APR.

Navient
Read 726 Reviews

Services federal and private student loans. Interest rates depend on the government and your private lender. Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans available for federal student loans. Military benefits available.

Credible
Read 17 Reviews

Helps find personalized rates from multiple lenders in minutes. Over 100 lending partners. Free to search and view loan and refinancing options. Inquiries don’t impact credit score. Allows co-signers.

Great Lakes Higher Education Corp.
Read 234 Reviews

Guarantees, services and originates student loans. Works with Federal Student Aid. Repayment options include standard and income-driven plans, deferment and forbearance. Also services consolidation loans.

Wells Fargo Student Loans
Read 138 Reviews

Offers private student loans, loan consolidation and refinancing. Requires a $5,000 minimum debt for consolidation. Provides interest rate discounts for enrollment in autopay and for those with other Wells Fargo connections.

US Education Department
Read 155 Reviews

Promotes student achievement. Assists students in getting and paying off loans. Provides various loans and grants to make education more accessible. Offers more than $150 billion in new and consolidated loans annually.

PNC Student Loans
Read 9 Reviews

Offers refinancing and private student loans for undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Provides online tools for managing loan repayment obligations. Variable APRs start as low as 2.91%.

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LendKey

Works with over 13,000 local banks and credit unions to provide private student loans and loan refinancing. Interest starts at 1.49% for variable-rate and 3.99% for fixed-rate loans. Terms of up to 20 years. No origination fees.

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SimpleTuition

Lets users browse refinancing and scholarship options at no charge. Compares private student loan lenders side by side. Offers tips, advice, interactive tools and deals for students in higher learning.

What to consider when choosing a student loan company

Money-saving benefits

Frequently, lenders offer a variety of discounts and other financial incentives.

  • Cash back: Many lenders offer cash back on the loan for on-time payments. Other firms offer interest rate discounts.
  • Interest: Interest rates vary from lender to lender and within a specific company. Lower interest-rate loans can save a dramatic amount of money over time. Lenders offer variable interest rates, which change throughout the course of the loan, and fixed rate loans. Make certain to understand the cap or maximum interest rate on a variable interest rate loan. Before accepting the loan, find out the future payment amount for the loan repayment.
  • Amount: The total amount available for borrowing varies among private student lenders. Consider borrowing as small amount as possible to keep future loan repayments lower.

Waiting period

The waiting period before the consumer receives payments varies. Understand when the loan funds will be released.

  • Application process: Before selecting a lender, review their application process. In most circumstances, a simpler application process is preferable.
  • Requirements: Buyers should investigate the loan requirements. Certain loans require borrowers to have a specific credit score, and others look at your total current debt as well as prior repayment patterns of the borrower. Be aware of loan cosigner requirements as well.
  • Fund transfer: Understand how you’ll receive the loan proceeds. Find out if the loan is distributed over time or in a lump sum.

Reseller of loans

It’s common practice for the initial lender to sell your loan to another firm. The borrower should investigate the lender’s loan reselling policy.

  • Change of terms: If the loan will be resold, make sure that the terms of loan will remain intact.
  • Markets: To avoid confusion, choose a lender that sells to only one secondary market. That way, the private student loans are easier to manage and remain with one company.
  • New owners: Check the reviews of the company that may buy your student loan. The borrower should verify that the new company is reputable and easy to work with.

Servicers

A loan servicer is a company that manages loans for a lender. Their duties include processing the payments, helping borrowers adjust repayment plans and assisting with repayment problems.

  • Contact: Borrowers can ask the lender who the loan servicer is. It’s important for the borrower to update the servicer with change of address, income and other important loan related details.
  • Payment method: Borrowers should find out the methods of payment accepted by the loan servicer.

Capitalization

This term describes the addition of interest to the principal loan amount borrowed from a loan. As soon as the private student loan funds are dispersed, the interest accrual begins. Ultimately, the borrower will pay back both the principal amount borrowed and the interest that continues to be capitalized or added on to the loan.

  • Timeframe: Interest on the loan, calculated as a percent of the current principal balance begins when the money is sent to you or your school. The loan interest grows or accrues daily.
  • Payment amounts: Find out the amount of the monthly loan payment, how it is calculated and ways to negotiate the payment, if necessary.

Repayment options

When taking out a loan, it's important to understand the terms of the loan including types of repayment plans offered by the lender. Choosing a lender with educational resources that helps the borrower manage their money is also important.

  • Graduated repayment: Graduated repayment plans help borrowers pay less when they are first starting out with payment increases as their income goes up over time.
  • Consolidation: Consolidating student loans can be helpful. Loan companies may offer various repayment solutions including bundling all the loans in order to make one monthly loan payment. The borrower should understand the terms and additional fees, if any, for the opportunity to consolidate their student loans.

What are different types of student loans?

Federal loans

Federal student loans are funded by the government. They may be included in a financial aid package. Federal loans include direct subsidized loans and direct unsubsidized loans, direct PLUS loans (for graduate students and their parents) and Federal Perkins loans. In general, interest rates and fees are lower for Federal student loans than for private student loans.

Federal direct subsidized loans

These loans are available to undergraduate students with a demonstrated financial need. The government pays interest on a direct subsidized loan while the student is in school and enrolled at least half-time. The government also pays the interest during the first six months after leaving school and during a period of deferment.

Federal direct unsubsidized loans

These loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students without demonstrated financial need.

Federal direct PLUS loan

A loan available to both graduate students and their parents. The borrower is responsible for the interest payments.

Federal Perkins loan

Also called the Perkins loan, these are low-interest federal student loans for both undergraduate and graduate students with extreme financial need.

Private loans

Private loans are nonfederal loans made by a bank, credit union, state agency, school or other type of lender. The terms, amounts and benefits vary by lender.

Who are student loans for?

Undergraduate students with financial need

Undergraduates without an income or without the means to pay for college are eligible to apply for student loans to assist with the costs of attending college, university or post-high school educational institutions.

Graduate students with financial need

Graduate and professional school students without an income or without the means to pay for college are eligible to apply for student loans to help pay for tuition, fees and expenses.

Parents of students

The parents of graduate and undergraduate students may benefit from student loans to help pay for their children’s education. Loans are also available to parents of students attending private K through 12 educational institutions.

Students who don't qualify for scholarships

Many students are able to get free money in the form of scholarships to help pay for college tuition. It's a smart idea to explore this option before applying for student loans. Additionally, scholarships may be an important supplement to the student loan proceeds.

Not sure how to choose?

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    Author reviews for student loan companies

    Sallie Mae

    Sallie Mae is one of the largest and most reputable student loan companies offering both undergraduate and graduate student loans. They have been in business for over 40 years and have helped more than 30 million students and their families save, plan and pay for college.

    Read more about Sallie Mae
    PNC Student Loans

    PNC Education Loan Center offers private loan solutions for undergraduate and graduate students with special programs for the Military. The comprehensive loan portal provides financial educational resources as well as college scholarship information.

    Read more about PNC Student Loans
    Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loans

    Citizens Financial Group, Inc. began operations as High Street Bank in 1928 and established Citizens Savings Bank in 1871. After many acquisitions, Citizens Financial Group (CFG) became an independent publicly-traded company in 2015.

    • Services: Citizens offers private undergraduate and graduate student loans as well as student loans for parents. The company also arranges student loan refinancing, student banking and provides an educational portal.
    • Fees and interest rates: Citizen charges no application, origination or disbursement fees. The company has fixed or variable interest rate loans and a new multi-year borrowing option to streamline the loan process.
    • Discounts: The available discounts can lower the borrowers interest rate by up to 0.50 percent.
    • Student loan process resources: This section of Citizens’ website answers important educational financing questions such as how to get financial aid, loans, grants and scholarships. Additional guidance includes basic budgeting advice and details about loans and repayment.

    Compare Reviews for Top Student Loan Companies

    Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loans Read Author Review

    Offers private student loans for parents, undergraduates and graduates. Helps consolidate private and federal student loans. No penalties for paying above the minimum monthly payment or for prepayment.

    Conduent Education Services
    Read 392 Reviews
    Out Of Business

    Formerly named ACS. Provides student loan repayment and customer care services related to federal, campus-based and private loans. Performs services like payment processing and applying deferments for qualifying customers.

    by Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance Contributing Editor

    Barbara Friedberg, MBA, MS is a former investment portfolio manager with decades of financial experience. Friedberg taught Finance and Investments at several universities. Her work has been featured in U.S. News & World Report, Investopedia, Yahoo!Finance and many more publications.