Private Student Loans

Finally, student loans have evolved

Private student loans look pretty much the same (lame), but we’ve built you something better. Variable rates start at 3.35% APR and fixed rates at 4.69% APR (including 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Check your eligibility in 2 min, with no commitment or effect on your credit.

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 here.

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).

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I am a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident

Both my student and I live in Washington D.C. or a state in which Earnest is licensed to lend—all but AK, CT, HI, IL, NH, NV, TX, VA. (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 per 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
3.35%
( including 0.25% Auto Pay discount )
variable rates
Are rates that fluctuate over time with general market interest rates.
Starting at
4.69%
( including 0.25% Auto Pay discount )
fixed rates
Are rates that stay constant for the entire length of your loan.
Starting at
3.35%
( including 0.25% Auto Pay discount )
variable rates
Are rates that fluctuate over time with general market interest rates.
Starting at
4.69%
( including 0.25% Auto Pay discount )
fixed rates
Are rates that stay constant for the entire length of your loan.

Variable rates not available in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX.

How to apply for Earnest private student loans

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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.

Complete application and choose cosigner

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

Customize your loan options

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

Earnest vs. other lenders

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

Compare Lenders

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

Earnest Horizontal Logo Sallie Mae 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 March 5, 2019

* Feature comparison current as of March 5, 2019

Pick the in-school payment option that fits your budget

  • Deferred Payment: Waiting till the end of your grace period to make payments means the highest total cost (not available in AL, AZ, CA, FL, MA, MD, MI, ND, NY, PA, and WA).
  • 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.

father with daughter

Do you need help financing your education?

Scholarships are a great way to pay for school, since you don’t have to pay them back. That’s why we’ve created a scholarship to award five students with $5,000 who best articulate how their education will enable their dreams.

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 maximize your other sources of financial aid first. It’s recommended to use a 3-step approach to assembling the funds you need:   1) Look for funds you don’t have to pay back, like scholarships, grants and work-study opportunities.  2) Next, fill out a FAFSA® form to apply for federal student loans. Federal student do not require a credit check or cosigner, and offer various protections if you’re struggling with payments. 3) Finally, consider a private student loan to cover any difference between your total cost of attendance and the amount not covered in steps 1 and 2. For more information, visit the Department of Education website.

Before applying for private student loans, it’s best to maximize your other sources of financial aid first. It’s recommended to use a 3-step approach to assembling the funds you need:  

1) Look for funds you don’t have to pay back, like scholarships, grants and work-study opportunities. 

2) Next, fill out a FAFSA® form to apply for federal student loans. Federal student do not require a credit check or cosigner, and offer various protections if you’re struggling with payments.

3) Finally, consider a private student loan to cover any difference between your total cost of attendance and the amount not covered in steps 1 and 2.

For more information, visit the Department of Education website.

What is the most I can borrow with student loans?

Federal loans have various limits, depending on the type of 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 types of students. Direct PLUS loans, which are another type of federal loan available to graduate students only, do not have the same limits—but also have higher rates than regular federal student loans. Private loan limits, on the other hand, vary depending on the cost of attendance at your specific school. A private loan typically can cover up to 100% of the cost of attendance.  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)

Federal loans have various limits, depending on the type of 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 types of students. Direct PLUS loans, which are another type of federal loan available to graduate students only, do not have the same limits—but also have higher rates than regular federal student loans. Private loan limits, on the other hand, vary depending on the cost of attendance at your specific school. A private loan typically can cover up to 100% of the cost of attendance. 

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)

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 Washington D.C. or a state that Earnest lends in (all but AK, CT, DE, HI, IL, KY, NH, NV, OH, TX, VA) • 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.

Eligible students must be:

• Attending, or enrolled to attend, full-time at an eligible 4-year Title IV institutions
• Residing in Washington D.C. or a state that Earnest lends in (all but AK, CT, DE, HI, IL, KY, NH, NV, OH, TX, VA)
• 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.

Do I need a cosigner?

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 increases 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) • Resident of one of the states we lend in (all but AK, CT, DE, HI, IL, KY, NH, NV, OH, TX, VA)

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 increases 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)
• Resident of one of the states we lend in (all but AK, CT, DE, HI, IL, KY, NH, NV, OH, TX, VA)

Do I qualify for student loans?

Federal student loans and private student have different borrower qualifications. The table below compares eligibility requirements for federal loans to 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 Must live in a state in which Earnest is licensed (all but AK, CT, DE, HI, IL, KY, NH, NV, OH, TX, VA) 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® Must apply directly with 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 No Satisfactory Academic Progress necessary No credit requirements Must meet credit requirements or have a cosigner who does

Federal student loans and private student have different borrower qualifications. The table below compares eligibility requirements for federal loans to 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 Must live in a state in which Earnest is licensed (all but AK, CT, DE, HI, IL, KY, NH, NV, OH, TX, VA)
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® Must apply directly with 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 No Satisfactory Academic Progress necessary
No credit requirements Must meet credit requirements or have a cosigner who does

Are private student loans bad?

While federal loans do offer certain borrower protections that private loans do not have, such as income-based repayment or student loan forgiveness, private student loans are not necessarily ‘bad’ or ‘worse.’  Federal student loans have borrowing limits, and often times the cost of attendance exceeds the amount a student can borrow from the government. And while graduate students may apply for no-cap Direct PLUS loans from the government, undergraduate students do not have this option.  In these cases, students turn to private lenders to fill the gap. Private 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. 

While federal loans do offer certain borrower protections that private loans do not have, such as income-based repayment or student loan forgiveness, private student loans are not necessarily ‘bad’ or ‘worse.’ 

Federal student loans have borrowing limits, and often times the cost of attendance exceeds the amount a student can borrow from the government. And while graduate students may apply for no-cap Direct PLUS loans from the government, undergraduate students do not have this option. 

In these cases, students turn to private lenders to fill the gap. Private 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. 

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