Your Earnest student loans and COVID-19

Your Earnest student loans and COVID-19 Learn more

Private Student Loans

Get student
loans on your
terms

Shop for a low interest rate on a student loan,
whether you’re a student or cosigner.

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Your credit score won’t be impacted.
We currently do not provide student loans in this state.
Quick Start Guide

Am I a good fit for an Earnest private student loan?

Before applying for private student loans with Earnest, use this checklist to see if you’re ready. View full eligibility details.

I’ve factored in contributions from my family, such as 529 plans (aka money already designated for your education).

I’ve applied for grants, scholarships, and work-study opportunities (aka money you don’t have to pay back).

I’ve filled out the FAFSA® to maximize my Federal financial aid (aka money you borrow that comes with repayment protections).

Apply Now

I am a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident

Both my student and I live in the District of Columbia or a state in which Earnest is licensed to lend – all but NV. (Note: you do not need to live in the same state.)

My income is above $35,000 per year

My credit score is above 650

Said yes to all four? Great! Ask your student to start the application at earnest.com/student-loans

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Benefits of Earnest private student loans

  • Fast application and approval process
  • 9-month grace period (3 months more than most lenders)
  • No fees for origination, disbursement, prepayment, or late payment
  • Skip a payment once a year (once repayment period has started)
  • Expert support from our Client Happiness team
  • 0.25% Auto Pay discount
  • Covers up to 100% of school’s certified cost of attendance

Earnest private student loan interest rates

An interest rate is assigned based on the length of your loan, as well as the credit history of you and/or your cosigner. Learn about the difference between variable and fixed interest rates.

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Starting at
1.24%
( including 0.25% Auto Pay discount )
variable rates
Are rates that fluctuate over time with general market interest rates.
Starting at
3.49%
( including 0.25% Auto Pay discount )
fixed rates
Are rates that stay constant for the entire length of your loan.
Starting at
1.24%
( including 0.25% Auto Pay discount )
variable rates
Are rates that fluctuate over time with general market interest rates.
Starting at
3.49%
( including 0.25% Auto Pay discount )
fixed rates
Are rates that stay constant for the entire length of your loan.

How to apply for Earnest private student loans

1

Check your eligibility in 2 minutes

All you need to know is where you’ll be going to school and an estimate of your credit score.

2

Complete application and choose cosigner

You (and your cosigner, if you have one) add further financial details to help us fully understand your needs.

3

Customize your loan options

Once approved, choose your preferred repayment plan—then get back to preparing for class.

Earnest vs. other lenders

Compare Lenders

See how Earnest stacks up (hint: we're better)

We've built a private student loan from scratch, with features students actually care about.

SallieMae Discover Citizens One
eligibility check
eligibility check
eligibility check
eligibility check
zero fees
zero fees
zero fees
zero fees
9-month grace period
9-month grace period
9-month grace period
9-month grace period
choice of loan terms
choice of loan terms
choice of loan terms
choice of loan terms
skip 1 payment a year
skip 1 payment a year
skip 1 payment a year
skip 1 payment a year

* Feature comparison current as of April 1, 2020

Pick the in-school payment option that fits your budget

  • Deferred Payment: Waiting until the end of your grace period to make payments means the highest total cost.
  • Fixed $25 Payment: Making small monthly payments while in school reduces your accrued interest.
  • Interest-Only Payment: Paying the accrued interest each month is the middle ground for in-school repayment options.
  • Principal & Interest Payment: Making full payments right away makes the biggest impact on your total loan cost.

    See loan cost examples for each repayment option.

Cosigners don't always wear capes

Being a (financial) hero just requires a signature

Many students can’t qualify for a private loan on their own, but an eligible cosigner can help. Click below to read about the requirements and responsibilities of being a cosigner.

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Common questions about private student loans

What federal loan alternatives should I consider before applying for a private student loan?

Before applying for private student loans, it’s best to look at other sources of financial aid first. It’s recommended that you use a 4-step approach to get the funds you need:

1) Prior to enrollment, look for educational funding you don’t have to pay back, like scholarships, grants, and work-study opportunities.

2) Fill out a FAFSA® form to apply for federal student loans. Most federal student loans don’t require a credit check or a cosigner, and offer federal loan relief programs if you’re struggling with payments.

3) Consider asking a parent to look at federal parent loans to help with college costs. The Parent PLUS loan is issued directly to parents or guardians of current students.

4) Look at a private student loan to cover any differences between your total cost of attendance and the amount not included in steps 1-3.

To learn more about federal student loan programs for higher education, visit the U.S. Department of Education. You can also fill out a free application for federal student aid or FAFSA® at studentaid.gov.

The best private student loans should give you a low interest rate that will complement your federal financial aid. Keep in mind that you will accumulate interest on both federal student loans and private student loans over time.

What is the most I can borrow with student loans?

Federal loans have different limits. They depend on the type of student loan, what year of school the student is applying for, as well as whether the student is considered a dependent (relying on their parents/guardian for financial support) or independent.

A student is considered independent if he or she meets any one of the criteria below:

  • Is married
  • Is in grad school
  • Will be 24 years old before January 1 of the school year for which they’re applying
  • Has been legally emancipated from parents or guardians
  • Has a child or dependent
  • Is on active duty or a veteran of the U.S. armed forces
  • Was orphaned or in foster care after age 13
  • Was determined to be an unaccompanied/homeless youth

Below are the borrowing limits for different students.

Dependent undergraduate students

First year: $5,500 total / $3,500 subsidized

Second year: $6,500 total / $4,500 subsidized

Third year and beyond: $7,500 total / $5,500 subsidized

Total limit: $31,000 / $23,000 subsidized

Independent undergraduate students

First year: $9,500 total / $3,500 subsidized

Second year: $10,500 total / $4,500 subsidized

Third year and beyond: $12,500 total / $5,500 subsidized

Total limit: $57,500 / $23,000 subsidized>

Graduate students (unsubsidized only)

Annual limit: $20,500

Total limit: $138,500 (including undergraduate loans)

Direct PLUS loans, which are another type of federal loan available to graduate students only, do not have the same restrictions—but they have higher rates than regular federal student loans.

Private student loan limits can vary depending on the cost of attendance of the school. A private student loan may cover up to 100% of the cost of attendance. Before applying for a private student loan, remember to apply for federal aid. You can start the application process for a federal loan on the FAFSA® website or check your rate for a private student loan with Earnest.

Who is eligible for Earnest private student loans?

Eligible students must be:

  • Attending, or enrolled to attend, full-time at an eligible 4-year Title IV institutions
  • Residing in the District of Columbia or a state that Earnest lends in (all but NV)
  • The age of majority in their state of residence
  • A U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident or have a cosigner who is a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident

View full eligibility details on our Eligibility page.

If you meet all of Earnest’s eligibility criteria, you may be approved for a loan as a solo applicant—but applying with a cosigner who has good credit may increase your chances of approval. Many students see higher interest rates if they apply without a cosigner.

If you are not a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident, you may only apply with a cosigner who is.

If you apply with a cosigner and later would like to do a cosigner release, we regret to inform you that we do not offer this option at this time. However, you can refinance your student loan debt in your own name without a cosigner upon graduation. Refinancing is subject to the following eligibility requirements.

Please keep in mind our eligibility criteria for student loan cosigners:

  • A U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • 3+ years of good credit history
  • A minimum credit score of 650
  • No history of bankruptcy
  • Minimum yearly income of $35,000 (in USD)
  • Both primary and cosigner must live in the District of Columbia or a state that we lend in (all but NV), but they do not need to both live in the same state.
Do I qualify for federal or private student loans?

Federal student loans and private student loans have different borrower qualifications. You must fill out a FAFSA® to find out if you qualify for federal financial aid. You do not need to fill out a FAFSA® for a private student loan. Federal and private student loans may also have different loan terms, grace periods, repayment plans, and monthly payments.

The table below compares eligibility requirements for federal loans vs. Earnest private student loans:

Federal Student Loans

Private Student Loans

Must be a citizen or eligible permanent resident Must be a citizen or eligible permanent resident OR have a cosigner who is
Can live in any state to qualify for financial aid You live in the District of Columbia or a state that we lend in (all but NV)
Must have a high school diploma or equivalent No diploma or GED requirement
Must be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible institution Must be enrolled full-time at an eligible institution
Must submit the FAFSA® for a federal loan Must apply directly with the private lender
No specific age requirement Must be the age of majority (18 in all states except Alabama [19], Mississippi [21], and Nebraska [19])
Must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress for a federal loan No Satisfactory Academic Progress necessary
No credit requirements Must meet credit requirements or have a cosigner who does for a private lender, such as Earnest
Do I need a cosigner?

If you meet all of Earnest’s eligibility criteria, you may be approved for a loan as an independent applicant. However, applying with a cosigner who has good credit may increase the probability of getting approved and may lower the cost of your loan.

If you are not a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident, you may only apply with a cosigner who is.

Please keep in mind our eligibility criteria for cosigners:

  • A U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • 3+ years of good credit history
  • A minimum credit score of 650
  • No history of bankruptcy
  • Minimum yearly income of $35,000 (in USD)
  • Both primary and cosigner must live in the District of Columbia or a state that we lend in (all but NV), but they do not need to both live in the same state
What are the advantages of private student loans vs. federal student loans?

Benefits

Federal student loans offer student loan borrowers certain protections that private student loans may not, such as income-based repayment or student loan forgiveness. Private student loans offer different loan terms and may offer a lower interest rate. Income-based repayment or loan forgiveness programs are benefits of federal student loans, but a private lender may also offer you other perks, such as flexible payment terms or a lower interest rate.

Borrowing limits 

Federal student loans have borrowing limits (similar to limits on credit cards). If the cost of attendance exceeds the federal loan amount, that means you will need to cover the leftover cost. Graduate students may apply for no-cap Direct PLUS loans from the government, but undergraduate students do not have this option.

Cost of attendance

Many students choose to apply for a loan with a private lender to cover their leftover costs. Earnest private student loans, in addition to covering the entire cost of attendance, also have rates that are based on the credit profile of you and/or any cosigner you have. This may mean higher or lower rates than those offered by federal loans, depending on the credit profile.

Grace periods and origination fees

A private student loan may offer a longer deferment period or grace period than a federal student loan. Some private lenders, such as Earnest, don’t charge an origination fee while some federal student loans do.

Auto Pay benefits

With a private lender like Earnest, you get a 0.25% APR reduction when you agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by automatic electronic payment.

Before looking for loans with private financial institutions, such as online lenders, credit unions or banks, explore all of your student loan options with the federal government.

Does Earnest offer flexible repayment options?

First, Earnest offers a deferment period that’s 3 months longer than most lenders. That means you don’t have to make student loan payments up to 9 months after you graduate. However, if you choose to make interest or principal balance payments while still in school, you will not be able to defer your loan payment after graduation. To learn more about Earnest student loan repayment terms, visit the Help Center.

With Earnest, you can choose from four repayment plans to pay off your student loan.

To make in-school payments more manageable, Earnest allows students to make $25 automatic payments while they are in school. Other in-school repayment options include paying for the accrued interest, deferring payment for 9 months after graduation, or making the interest and principal payment on your loan.

Also, Earnest does not have any prepayment penalties, late fees, or origination fees.

What kind of interest rates does Earnest charge?

There are two types of interest rates – fixed interest and variable interest. A fixed rate will not change and tends to be higher. A variable rate loan tends to offer lower interest rates, but that interest can fluctuate, making your payment less predictable. Before taking out a private student loan, make sure to compare interest rates and read the fine print on all of your loan applications.

Earnest offers both fixed and variable interest rates. If the interest rate stays the same throughout your Earnest loan term, you have a fixed interest rate; it will not change. If you have a variable interest rate, it may change over time. After you graduate and begin working, you may want to consider refinancing your loan for lower interest rates. You can learn more about student loan refinancing with Earnest here and about loan products from Earnest partners.

Don’t see your question here? Visit the Help Center.

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