When paying for college, it’s always best to use scholarships, grants, and federal student loans before private student loans. But with the cost of college increasing, these are rarely enough to cover all of the expenses that come along with getting a degree.
If you need a private student loan, you should always be sure to shop around to find the best lender. To make things easier, we researched and analyzed 29 data points for over 20 lenders to find the nine best private student loans for 2019.
In this Guide:
Best Private Student Loans for 2019
We took our research and put together reviews for each of the companies that made our list of the best private student loans. Select a lender below to jump to their review.
1) Sallie Mae
4.07% – 12.78%
5 – 15 years
$1,000 – 100% of school-certified cost of attendance
Sallie Mae student loans are a great choice for borrowers because they provide flexibility, low rates, and a variety of different repayment plans. Students can take out private loans to cover costs of almost every level of education, from undergrad to graduate to professional programs. Loans can be repaid over a period of 5 to 15 years and there are also multiple in-school repayment options.
Here are some key details of Sallie Mae’s student loans:
- Sallie Mae’s undergraduate student loans were rated a perfect 5/5 on our scoring scale.
- Available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students as well as parents and those in residencies.
- Variable rate APRs for undergrads range from 4.25% to 11.35%.
- Fixed rate APRs for undergrads range from 5.49% to 11.85%.
- Borrowers who enroll in automatic payments receive a 0.25% interest rate discount.
- Borrowers can take between 5 and 15 years to repay their loan.
- Students can borrow up between $1,000 and the school-certified cost of attendance minus any other aid received.
- Sallie Mae charges no origination fee and no prepayment penalties.
- In-school repayment options include interest-only payments, $25 monthly payments, or fully deferring payments until after graduation.
- Sallie Mae allows a cosigner release as long as the primary borrower meets certain requirements, including making 12 on-time payments.
- Sallie Mae loans provide death and disability loan forgiveness, so borrowers and cosigners don’t have to worry about repayment if tragedy strikes.
- Lengthy deferment periods during internships and residency periods for professional students make it easier to complete your training without worrying about making loan payments.
- Cosigners will appreciate that Sallie Mae loans have the shortest cosigner release qualification periods in the student loan industry.
- There’s no option to get preapproved for a Sallie Mae loan without a credit check.
- No option to receive in-person support.
2) College Ave
4.07% – 12.78%
5, 8, 10, or 15 years
$1,000 – 100% of school-certified cost of attendance
College Ave Student Loans offers loans to students at different education levels and provides a choice of variable or fixed rate loans. There’s a discount for autopay and borrowers can choose from a large range of repayment plans. With loan amounts between $1,000 and the school-certified cost of attendance, almost every qualified student can find a College Ave student loan that meets their needs.
Here are some key details of College Ave’s student loans:
- College Ave’s undergraduate loans received a rating of 4.92/5.
- College Ave provides undergraduate loans, graduate student loans, parent loans, and career loans.
- Variable rate APRs for undergrads range from 4.07% to 11.32%.
- Fixed rates APRs for undergrads range from 5.29% to 12.78%.
- Making automated payments from your bank account scores you a 0.25% interest rate reduction.
- Borrowers have a choice of paying back loans over 5, 8, 10, or 15 years.
- Loan amounts range from $1,000 up to the school-certified cost of attendance minus any other financial aid.
- There are no prepayment penalties or origination fees for College Ave student loans.
- In-school repayment options include full deferment, flat $25 payments, interest-only payments, and full principal and interest payments.
- Cosigner release is available after 24 months of making consecutive interest and principal payments on time.
- College Ave offers Success Rewards for career loans. This cash-back program provides $150 as a statement credit to the loan principal upon completing a degree.
- You can pre-qualify for College Ave student loans, so your credit score won’t be affected when you check your rates.
- You can’t apply for College Ave loans over the phone.
- The cosigner release period is twice as long as Sallie Mae’s requirement.
4.24% – 14.15%
5, 10, or 15 years
$2,000 – $200k Aggregate
Ascent is a great option for borrowers who don’t have a cosigner but still need a private student loan. Borrowers also benefit from flexibility in their loan repayment plans and a choice of fixed-rate or variable-rate loans. There are some downsides to Ascent, though, including potentially higher rates if you don’t have a cosigner or good credit.
Here are some key details of Ascent’s student loans:
- Ascent’s undergraduate loans received a rating of 4.65.
- Ascent offers two loan types: Ascent Tuition (which is for students with cosigners) and Ascent Independent (which allows eligible juniors, seniors, and graduate students to qualify on their own based on earning potential, satisfactory academic progress, and credit history).
- Variable-rate Tuition Loans have an APR between 4.24% and 13.24% while Ascent Independent Loans have variable rate APRs between 5.88% and 13.16%.
- Fixed-rate Tuition Loans have APRs between 5.07% and 14.15% while Ascent Independent Loans have fixed APRs from 6.69% to 13.45%.
- Borrowers can qualify for a 0.25% discount for making automatic payments from a checking or savings account.
- Borrowers can choose repayment terms of 5, 10, or 15 years with an Ascent Tuition Loan and 10 or 15 years with an Ascent Independent Loan.
- Ascent allows loans between $2,000 and the school-certified cost of attendance, but the maximum aggregate total of Ascent Independent and Ascent Tuition Loans is $200,000.
- There are no prepayment penalties or fees for paying off your loan early and there are no origination fees.
- While in school, you have a choice of interest-only payments, $25 payments, or deferring repayment until after you graduate.
- Cosigner release is available after 24 consecutive on-time full payments that cover both the loan principal and interest.
- Borrowers who meet certain criteria can get up to a 1% cash reward after graduation.
- If you refer a friend to Ascent, you can earn a $100 gift card for each referral, up to six friends.
- Ascent aims to help students qualify without a cosigner by considering potential future earnings and the degree program you’re participating in, among other factors.
- Ascent provides loan forgiveness in cases of death or disability.
- Cosigner release isn’t an option until 24 payments have been made, which is double Sallie Mae’s requirement.
- The minimum loan amount of $2,000 is higher than some other lenders.
- Rates can be higher than competitors for some Ascent loans.
4.25% – 12.00%2
7, 10, or 15 years3
$1,001 – $150k total for Undergraduates7
SunTrust offers several different loans for undergraduates, graduate students, and business school students. Borrowers benefit from a choice of repayment plans as well as multiple options for in-school payments, including deferment or interest-only payments. A 2% premium discount with proof of graduation1 also helps borrowers save on repayment.
Here are some key details of SunTrust’s student loans:
- Our rating for SunTrust’s undergraduate student loans is 4.55/5.
- SunTrust provides Custom Choice Student Loans and Union Federal® Private Student Loans for both undergraduate and graduate students. There are also Graduate Business School Loans available.
- Variable rates range from 4.249% APR to 11.300% APR2 for the Custom Choice Loan® and from 4.249% APR to 13.250% APR2 for the Union Federal Private Student Loan.
- Fixed rates range from 5.251% APR to 12.000% APR2 for the Custom Choice Loan and from 5.251% APR to 13.950% APR2 for the Union Federal Private Student Loan.
- There’s a 0.25% interest rate reduction for consistent on-time payments10 on the Union Federal Private Student Loan, as well as up to a 0.50% discount for autopay5 on all SunTrust private student loans.
- For the Union Federal Private Student Loan and Custom Choice Loan, borrowers have the option to repay loans over 7, 10, or 15 years.3 A Graduate Business School Loan can be repaid over 7 or 10 years.3
- Students in most states can borrow between $1,000 and $150,000 for the Custom Choice Loan or Union Federal Private Student Loan.7 Students can borrow up to $175,000 for the Graduate Business School Loan.7
- There are no fees to apply, no origination fees, and no prepayment penalties.
- While in school, payments can be deferred or students can make full payments, $25 monthly payments, or interest-only payments.4
- Cosigner release is available for loans after 36 on-time principal and interest payments are made.8
- SunTrust loans reward borrowers with either a 1% principal reduction (for Graduate Business School Loans) or a 2% principal reduction (for Custom Choice Loans) after graduation.1
- SunTrust loans are available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents and the Union Federal Private Student Loan is also available to international students.9
- APRs are competitive, especially with discounts for autopay5 and on-time payments.10
- Cosigner release isn’t available until after 36 on-time principal and interest payments, while many competitors allow cosigner release after 12 or 24 months.8
- Loan limits are lower than many competitors.
5) Citizens Bank
4.47% – 12.34%
5, 10, or 15 years
Up to $90,000 for undergraduate student loans
Citizens Bank provides loans for undergraduates, healthcare professionals, MBA students, and grad students. Parents can also take out a Citizens Bank student loan to pay for their children’s education. Discounts are available for having a student checking account with Citizens Bank, as well as for autopay, which can make loans cheaper. There are, however, borrowing limits and a long period of required payments before cosigner release is possible.
Here are some key details of Citizen Bank’s student loans:
- Citizens Bank received a 4.31/5 rating.
- Citizens Bank offers student loans for undergraduates, graduate and professional students, and parents. Healthcare professionals also have options.
- Loan rates vary based on loan types and whether you choose a loan with immediate or deferred payment.
- Variable-rate undergrad loans have APRs ranging from 4.47% to 12.34%.
- Fixed-rate loans for undergrads have APRs ranging from 5.25% to 12.09%.
- Students can earn a 0.50% discount on rates for autopay and for opening a student checking account with Citizens Bank.
- Borrowers can choose repayment terms of 5, 10, or 15 years.
- Citizens Bank allows loans as low as $1,000 for all types. Maximum loan limits are $100,000 for undergrads and $110,000 for graduate students.
- There are no loan application fees, origination fees, disbursement fees, or prepayment penalties.
- Borrowers can make interest-only payments or full payments while in school or can defer payments until after graduation. Deferred loans may have higher interest rates.
- Cosigner release is available after 36 consecutive on-time principal and interest payments.
- Borrowers can get discounts on interest for opening a student bank account with Citizens Bank.
- Citizens Bank is the only student loan lender that provides multi-year loan approval as an option. This means you may be able to get funding secured for all of your years of schooling without having to apply again later.
- Interest rates are competitive, especially if you begin making payments immediately on your loan instead of deferring payments while in school.
- Cosigner release isn’t available until 36 consecutive full payments are made, which is longer than many competitors.
- Citizens Bank has lower loan limits than many competitors offer.
- You’ll pay a higher interest rate for deferred payments while in school if you borrow from Citizens Bank.
5.15% – 11.79%
Up to 15 years
Up to $40,000 a year (undergraduate)
Whether you are an undergraduate, graduate student, or professional student, there’s a PNC student loan available to help you fund your education. Borrowers with PNC loans benefit from a 0.50% discount for autopay, which is a bigger discount than what some competitors offer. There are also flexible repayment options when it comes to both in-school payments and repayment after graduation. On the downside, cosigner release isn’t available until after 48 monthly payments, which is a much longer cosigner release period than most competitors offer.
Here are some key details of PNC’s student loans:
- We rated PNC’s undergraduate student loan a 4.29/5.
- PNC provides undergraduate, graduate loans, and professional loans.
- Variable-rate loans have rates between 5.15% APR and 11.30% APR.
- Fixed-rate loan rates range between 5.61% APR and 11.79% APR.
- Borrowers benefit from a 0.50% discount on interest rates for making automatic payments.
- Borrowers can take up to 15 years to repay student loans from PNC bank.
- Graduate students can borrow up to $65,000 annually, but the maximum aggregate limit for educational debt including all federal and private loans is $225,000. Undergrads can borrow up to $40,000 annually, although the aggregate limit for all educational debt is the same.
- There are no application fees, no origination fees, and no prepayment penalties.
- Students can choose to defer payments while in school or to begin making full payments or interest-only payments right away after taking out a PNC loan.
- Cosigner release is available after 48 consecutive on-time monthly payments of both principal and interest.
- Would-be borrowers can apply for loans up to 60 days after the school term ends and can receive a preliminary decision on their application within minutes of applying for a loan.
- Remaining loan balances are forgiven if a borrower passes away.
- Interest rates are competitive for both undergraduate and graduate students.
- The maximum loan limits are lower than some competitors’ loans.
- Cosigner release is not available until after 48 consecutive full payments are made, which is a much longer time period than many competitors require.
4.24% – 13.49%
Up to 15 years
$1,000 – 100% of school-certified cost of attendance
Discover student loans are available for undergrads, grad students, as well as professional students. You can also get loans for completing additional training or certification requirements, such as residency or Bar exam prep loans. Discover student loans have long repayment timelines but interest rates may be higher than loans offered by competitors. Cosigner release also isn’t possible, but on the bright side, discounts are available for borrowers with good grades.
Here are some key details of Discover’s student loans:
- Discover student loans earned a rating of 4.24/5.
- Discover provides undergraduate and graduate student loans, as well as MBA loans, health professional loans, law loans, residency loans, and Bar exam prep loans.
- Rates vary by loan type and whether you choose deferred loan payments, interest-only payments, or fixed monthly payments while in school.
- Undergrad loans with variable rate APRs range from 4.24% to 12.24%.
- Undergrad loans with fixed rate APRs range from 5.99% to 13.49%.
- Borrowers receive a 0.25% interest rate deduction for enrolling in automatic payments.
- Repayment terms for Discover’s student loans are up to 15 years for undergrads and up to 20 years for graduate students.
- The minimum loan amount is $1,000, and students can borrow up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance, although aggregate loan limits apply.
- Discover charges no fees, including origination fees, prepayment penalties, or application fees.
- In-school repayment options include fully deferring payments, paying $25 monthly, paying interest only, or making full principal and interest payments.
- Cosigner release is not available for private student loans issued after 2/1/2012.
- Borrowers who earn a 3.0 GPA or better will receive a 1% cash reward on each new student loan they take out, as long as the reward is redeemed within the limited redemption period.
- You can apply online for Discover student loans in 15 minutes or less and get a timely answer after you finish the application process.
- There are no fees charged for Discover student loans.
- Cosigner release isn’t available if your loan was issued by Discover after 2012.
- Interest rates are higher than on many competitor loan offers.
- You can’t choose a repayment term like most other lenders, though there is no penalty for paying off loans early.
8) Wells Fargo
4.10% – 11.26%
0 – 7 years
$1,000 – $120,000
Wells Fargo student loans provide educational loans to undergrads, grad students, professional students, and parents. Borrowers can repay loans over 15 or 20 years and can qualify for interest rate discounts if they have other Wells Fargo student loans or if they have a checking account with Wells Fargo. Cosigner release is also possible after 24 consecutive on-time payments.
Here are some key details of Wells Fargo’s student loans:
- Wells Fargo’s undergrad loans received a rating score of 4.17/5.
- Wells Fargo provides undergraduate loans, parent loans, loans for graduate students, and career and community college loans.
- Undergraduate student loans with variable interest rates have APRs ranging from 5.04% to 10.92% APR.
- Undergraduate student loans have fixed rates ranging from 5.94% APR to 11.26% APR.
- Borrowers can get a 0.25% interest rate reduction if they have a previous Wells Fargo student loan or if they have a consumer checking account that qualifies for the discount. Enrolling in automatic payments also results in an additional 0.25% interest rate reduction.
- Wells Fargo loans can be repaid over a period of 15 or 20 years.
- Students are eligible to borrow a minimum of $1,000 and a maximum equal to the average cost of attendance. However, aggregate loan limits apply. For undergrads, the lifetime loan limit for all educational debt is $120,000.
- There are no application or origination fees for Wells Fargo student loans, and there is no prepayment penalty if you pay off your loan early.
- Students can defer loan payments while in school or can choose to make interest-only or full payments.
- Cosigner release is possible with Wells Fargo student loans after 24 consecutive scheduled payments are made in full and on time.
- Discounts are available to borrowers who have prior loans with Wells Fargo or who have a Wells Fargo checking account.
- College students have flexibility when it comes to repayment terms and in-school payment options.
- Wells Fargo doesn’t charge any fees for its student loans.
- The cosigner release is longer than with Sallie Mae but is shorter than some other competitors.
- Wells Fargo has lower aggregate borrowing limits than some competitors.
- Wells Fargo offers competitive rates but they aren’t the lowest rates among the best private student loan lenders.
4.65% – 7.22%
$2,000 to $160,000
LendKey works differently than most of our other best student loan lenders. With LendKey, you get matched to loans from partner community banks and credit unions. LendKey services the loans you take out but loans aren’t available in all states. Borrowers have a choice of repayment terms and cosigner release is also possible after 24 consecutive on-time payments.
Here are some key details of LendKey’s student loans:
- We gave LendKey undergrad loans a 4.14/5 rating.
- LendKey offers undergraduate student loans only.
- Variable APRs range from 4.65% to 6.54%.
- Fixed APRs range from 6.08% to 7.22%.
- Borrowers are eligible for a 0.25% interest rate reduction for enrolling in automatic payments.
- LendKey’s student loans come with a repayment term of 10 years.
- You can borrow from $2,000 up to the school-certified cost of attendance. There’s an aggregate loan limit of $160,000 for educational debt.
- LendKey charges no prepayment penalties, no application fees, and no origination fees.
- Payments can be deferred while in school or you can make loan interest payments or flat $25 payments while in school.
- Cosigner release is available after 24 months of full payments are made on time.
- LendKey connects you with credit unions and community banks that often have lower interest rates than other lenders do.
- There are no fees charged by LendKey, including no origination fees, application fees, or prepayment penalties.
- Shopping around for interest rates isn’t possible without applying for a loan through LendKey.
How We Chose the Best Private Student Loan Companies
LendEDU has rated and reviewed private student loan lenders since 2014. These ratings are completed by our Editorial team and are not influenced by compensation in any way.
In order to find the best student loans for this article, four members of our team collectively spent over 50 hours analyzing 29 data points for over 20 different lenders.
Data points considered were broken into five categories: Product, App & Eligibility, Repayment, Benefits & Discounts, and Customer Service. Each overall category and each data point within each category was weighted based on its importance to borrowers. You can see the breakouts and weightings below:
- Product (40%): Interest Rates (30%), Term Lengths (35%), Loan Amounts (25%), Fees (10%)
- App & Eligibility (20%): Soft Credit Pre-Approval (30%), State Availability (30%), Types of Schools Eligible (40%)
- Repayment (20%): In-School Repayment (40%), Forbearance (15%), Deferment (15%), Cosigner Release (30%)
- Benefits & Discounts (10%): Benefits (50%), Discounts (50%)
- Customer Service (10%): Ways of Contact (40%), Better Business Bureau Rating (30%), Trustpilot Rating (30%)
To learn more about how these ratings work, you can visit our Ratings Methodology page.
Author: Christy Rakoczy
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