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Best Private Graduate Student Loans

Kathryn Morstad
best private graduate student loans
best private graduate student loans

Federal student loan
Payments Return December 31

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Federal student loan
Payments Return December 31

We've got you covered.

Get Purefy’s free 20-page Ultimate Guide with just one click.

Graduate school can be expensive — so where do you find the best private graduate student loans once you’ve exhausted other alternatives?

Like undergrad, you want to first use any grant, scholarship, and fellowship money before considering loans. Then it’s time to pursue funds through federal loan programs before exploring private student loan options.

Let’s compare the best private graduate student loans to see how they size up against one another.

Brief Overview of Federal Options vs Private Student Loans for Graduate School

There are two main solutions for funding your graduate school education when borrowing money. First, the federal direct and PLUS loan programs that are funded by the US Department of Education and, second, private student loans from the consumer marketplace.

Similar to undergrad, you will get the same advice to exhaust your federal loan options before accessing the private lending market. This is a good rule of thumb, since the federal program carries a more impressive list of benefits, borrower protections, and repayment options.

However, on the downside, as of July 2022 federal direct unsubsidized graduate school loans have an origination fee of over 1% and PLUS loans have an origination fee of over 4%.

Private loans don’t have application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Graduate School Loans

Like all federal loans, direct unsubsidized graduate school loans are obtained through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process. Here are more details on federal direct unsubsidized graduate school loans:

  • You can borrow up to $20,500 annually and $138,500 in total (which includes undergraduate loans).
  • Federal loans tend to have lower interest rates set by Congress
  • It’s good to exhaust direct unsubsidized loans before PLUS loans since they have lower fees and interest rates
  • Federal loans are not credit-based and don’t require a cosigner, so they’re good for graduate students who have minimal credit history or a low credit score.
  • These loans offer the same interest rate to everyone regardless of financial history.
  • The loans have an origination fee of 1.057% as of July 2022 (as set by Congress).
  • Loan terms are 10 to 25 years (based on repayment plan).
  • You must be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible.
  • Forbearance is available in some circumstances for up to three years.

Federal Grad PLUS Loans

Another federal loan option for graduate school is Federal Grad PLUS loans. Here are some key features of Grad PLUS Loans:

  • Higher interest rates and fees than direct unsubsidized federal loans.
  • You can borrow more money – possibly up to the total cost of your degree, minus any other aid received.
  • PLUS loans are good as a supplement once you have reached the maximum for direct unsubsidized loans.
  • The loans have an origination fee of 4.228%.
  • PLUS loans require a credit check.
  • Loan terms are 10 to 25 years (based on repayment plan).
  • Forbearance is available in some circumstances for up to three years.

Federal Health Professions Student Loans

For those pursuing graduate work in healthcare, federal health professions student loans include the following benefits:

  • They are primarily for physicians, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, and veterinarians.
  • To qualify, you will have to demonstrate financial need.
  • Other eligible degree programs include advanced nursing and paraprofessional degrees, like Nurse Practitioners, as well as Physician’s Assistants.
  • Offers competitive interest rates.
  • Loans offer a 12-month grace period following graduation.
  • May cover up to the cost of attendance, less any other loans or sources of funding.
  • Not eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness or income-driven repayment plans unless consolidated into a direct loan.

The 4 Best Companies for Private Student Loans

Our Top-Rated Picks for 2022 Offer Low Rates and No Fees

earnest-logo

Option to skip a payment once a year

Fixed Rate

3.24% – 12.78% APR 1

Variable Rate

0.94% – 11.44% APR 1
efli-lender

In-school deferment available if you return for another degree

Fixed Rate

3.20% – 11.99% APR 4

Variable Rate

1.86% – 11.52% APR 4

Optional $25 payment plan during school to reduce interest after graduation

Fixed Rate

3.24% – 13.95% APR 2

Variable Rate

0.94% – 12.99% 2

1% Cash Back Graduation Reward program

Fixed Rate

3.15% – 14.75% APR​ 3

Variable Rate

0.97% – 11.90% APR 3

Private Student Loans

In the next section, we will review specific private student loan benefits by company, including any pros and cons. Here are some attributes common to all private lenders:

  • No hard credit check to see your rates. They only pull a ‘soft credit’ history which will not negatively affect your credit score.
  • No pre-payment penalties.
  • No application or origination fees.
  • Most private student loan lenders offer both fixed and variable rates.

Comparing Private Student Loans for Graduate School

When considering private student loans for graduate school, it’s important to compare the pros and cons, as well as to understand each company’s unique programs, benefits, and special offers. From there, you can obtain pre-qualified rate quotes from lenders to determine your best option.

Read on for an overview of the top private student loan lenders to see which programs meet your needs.

College Ave

Terms:

  • Available terms include 5, 8, 10, and 15 years
  • Fixed and variable rates
  • Loan limit up to the total cost of attendance

Pros:

  • Loans available if attending less than half-time (which is good if you work full-time and only take a class or two each term)
  • Minimum credit score requirement in the mid-600s
  • Up to 12 months of forbearance in three-month increments
  • International students can qualify with a cosigner
  • $150 cash bonus upon graduation

Cons:

  • Loan servicing is done by a third party
  • No clear forbearance policy; awarded case-by-case
  • Repayment term before cosigner release could be shorter

Ascent

Terms:

  • Available terms include 7, 10, 12, 15 and 20 years
  • Fixed and variable rates available
  • Maximum loan amount of $400,000

Pros

  • Allows cosigners
  • Offers non-cosigned outcomes-based loans, which consider GPA, major, school and other non-credit factors to determine eligibility
  • Up to 24 months of forbearance possible in three-month increments
  • 1% cash back reward after graduation
  • Forbearance up to 12 months for financial hardship three months at a time
  • International and DACA students can qualify with a cosigner

Cons

  • Must be enrolled at least half-time
  • Cosigner release not available to international students

Earnest

Terms:

  • Available terms include 5, 7, 10, 12, and 15 years
  • Fixed and variable rates available
  • Loan limit up to the total cost of attendance

Pros

  • Ability to skip one payment per year
  • Forbearance available for up to 12 months
  • 9-month grace period following graduation
  • Must be in school at least half-time
  • International students can qualify with a cosigner
  • No late fees
  • In-house loan servicing from start to finish

Cons

  • No cosigner release, refinance needed to drop a cosigner

ELFI

Terms:

  • Available terms include 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years
  • Fixed and variable rates available
  • Loan limit up to the total cost of attendance for the requested academic period

Pros:

  • Excellent customer service with weekend hours
  • Dedicated Personal Loan Advisor to guide you through the loan process
  • Forbearance up to 12 months with financial hardship or medical issue
  • Allows greater than minimum payments via autopay
  • No application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties

Cons:

  • No cosigner release available
  • Must be enrolled at least half-time

Custom Choice

Terms:

  • Loan terms 7, 10, or 15 years
  • Fixed and variable rate loans available
  • Loan limit is $99,000 annually, up to $180,000 total

Pros:

  • 2% graduation reward through principal reduction
  • Returning borrower advantage program makes it easier to apply for a new loan if you have already been approved by Custom Choice
  • Flexible repayment options (deferred, flat payments, interest only, and immediate repayment)
  • Allows biweekly payments and greater than minimum payments via autopay
  • Eligible for cosigner release after 36 consecutive, on-time payments if you meet eligibility criteria on your own
  • Available to students enrolled less than half-time

Cons:

  • No specific eligibility requirements provided up front

Talk to a student loan expert

Purefy’s Student Loan Advisors are ready to guide you through the student loan process.

Shannon

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How to Find the Best Private Graduate Student Loans for Your Circumstances

Now that you know a bit about the various lenders that want to compete for your business, let’s talk about how to find the best deal for your private graduate student loan.

Rather than go to each lender’s site and fill out a separate quote application, you can visit our rate comparison page to get pre-qualified offers from several lenders.

All you do is enter some basic information about yourself and your cosigner (if you are using one) like your demographic information, income, school you are attending, and degree program.

After submitting the form, you’ll undergo a soft credit pull (which has no impact on your credit score) and receive offers from multiple lenders at once, making it easy to compare options.

You can also take advantage of Purefy’s student loan experts. Schedule a call today and your experienced advisor can answer any questions and walk you through the entire process.

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Student Loan Refinancing

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Earnest Rate Disclosure

Rates displayed include the 0.25% Auto Pay discount. You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment from a checking or savings account. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 3.49% APR to 13.03% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.19% APR to 11.69% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account.

Nine-month grace period is not available for borrowers who choose our Principal and Interest Repayment plan while in school.

Earnest clients may skip one payment every 12 months. Your first request to skip a payment can be made once you’ve made at least 6 months of consecutive on-time payments, and your loan is in good standing. The interest accrued during the skipped month will result in an increase in your remaining minimum payment. The final payoff date on your loan will be extended by the length of the skipped payment periods. Please be aware that a skipped payment does count toward the forbearance limits. Please note that skipping a payment is not guaranteed and is at Earnest’s discretion. Your monthly payment and total loan cost may increase as a result of postponing your payment and extending your term.

Loan Eligibility criteria: Eligible students must: 1) For college Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors, attend, or be enrolled to attend, a Title IV school full-time. For college Seniors and Graduate students, attend, or be enrolled to attend, a Title IV school at least half-time; and 2) be pursuing a Bachelor’s or Graduate degree. Earnest private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information, self-certification of loan amount, and school certification.

Responsible borrowing tip: Explore all scholarship, grant and federal options before applying for a private loan.

Earnest Private Student Loans are made by One American Bank, Member FDIC. One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104.

Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC, 535 Mission St., Suite 1663 San Francisco, CA 94105, NMLS #1204917, with support From Navient Solutions, LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by agencies of the United States of America.

ELFI Rate Disclosure

Education Loan Finance is a nationwide student loan provider offered by Tennessee based SouthEast Bank. ELFI is designed to assist students financially with receiving their education. Subject to credit approval. See Terms & Conditions. Interest rates current as of 07-01-2022. Variable interest rates may increase after closing but will never exceed 18.00%. Interest rates may also differ from the rates shown above. The term of your loan, financial history, and other factors, including your cosigner’s (if any) financial history can affect the interest rate. For example, a 10-year loan with a fixed rate of 7% would have 120 payments of $11.61 per $1,000 borrowed. Rates are subject to change.

College Ave Rate Disclosure

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

Rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

Minimum loan amount $1,000, as certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive.

This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 07/15/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

Ascent Rate Disclosure

Ascent Student Loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Ts&Cs.

Rates are effective as of 6/15/2022 and include a 0.25% on the lowest rate offered and a 2.00% discount on the highest offered rate. Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized back account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Rates.

1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details.

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