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Student Loans

California Student Loans

Updated Jun 28, 2023   |   5-min read

Whether you’re getting ready to go to college or are already attending, it’s important to consider your options for funding your tuition. Student loans are one option, but before applying for these loans, make sure you have considered all available grants and scholarships as these are free money and do not need to be repaid.

Once you have considered all your grant and scholarship options, you can consider student loans offered in California. These loans can come from the federal and state level, as well as through private lenders.

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Getting Student Loans for College in California

First things first, all students should apply for federally provided student aid. To do so, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Through one simple online application, college students gain access to a wide variety of student aid options. The application is required for state-based student aid as well.

During the application, students should be ready to provide a little bit of information about themselves, their school, and their financial need. You’ll need to supply personal information including name, address, citizenship, and more. You’ll also need to indicate which school you are planning to attend, and expected tuition costs.

Once the application has been completed, students can see their options for federal loans, as well as the gap they need to fill through other options like private loans.

Federal Student Loans in California

If you’re considering taking out student loans, the first place to start is through the federal government. Federal loans offer benefits that are not available through private lenders. Some of these benefits include:

  • Low, fixed rates. With no credit check required, the government offers the same fixed rate to each borrower that receives their loan within the same set period.
  • Repayment options: If a borrower runs into hardship, they can take advantage of deferment or forbearance. Additionally, there are a number of income-driven repayment plans designed to help make repayment easier.
  • Loan forgiveness. Those that are eligible can take advantage of a number of student loan forgiveness programs. If your loan is forgiven, you will no longer be required to repay some or all of your remaining loan.

Types of Federal Loans

Here are some federal student loans for California residents.

  • Direct Subsidized Loans: These loans are available to undergraduates with financial need and do not require a credit check. Interest on these loans will be paid by the Department of Education while you’re in school, for six months after you leave school, and during deferment. Your school will determine the amount you can borrow.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students regardless of financial need. You will be responsible for paying the interest on this loan during all periods. Your school will determine the amount you can borrow.
  • PLUS Loans: There are two types of PLUS loans available, the Parent PLUS and the Grad PLUS loan. The Parent PLUS loan is for parents of dependent undergraduate students. The Grad PLUS loan is for graduate and professional students. To be eligible, you must not have an adverse credit history.

Private Student Loans in California

Due to borrowing limits set on federal student loans, many borrowers need private loans to help bridge the gap in funding.

Most private lenders rely on your credit to determine eligibility. Since most students don’t have an established credit history, a cosigner is usually needed. A creditworthy cosigner can help improve an application and allow the borrower to be approved for a loan.

Here are private lenders offering student loans in California.

College Ave

  • Rates (APR): 4.44% – 15.99%
  • Loan Amounts: $1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Repayment Terms: 5, 8, 10, or 15 years

College Ave is our top-rated lender offering private student loans to undergraduates, graduates, and parents. Here is some information about the undergraduate student loan.

  • Variables rates: 1.49% – 11.98%
  • Fixed rates: 4.39% – 12.99%
  • Rate reduction: 0.25% automatic payment discount
  • Fees: Late payment fee of 5% of the unpaid amount or $25, whichever is less
  • Cosigner release: After 24 on-time payments
  • In-school repayment: Full principal & interest, interest-only, flat $25, or deferred payment
  • Grace period: 6 months, but can apply for up to 6 more months


  • Rates (APR): 4.43% – 16.20%
  • Loan Amounts: $1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Repayment Terms: 5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years

Earnest offers student loans to undergraduates and graduates. You can check your eligibility in 2 minutes, with no commitment or effect on your credit. Once repayment has started, borrowers can skip one payment per year.

  • Variables rates: 2.74%11.44%
  • Fixed rates: 4.39%12.78%
  • Rate reduction: 0.25% automatic payment discount
  • Fees: None
  • Cosigner release: Not available unless you refinance with the company
  • In-school repayment: Principal & interest, interest-only, fixed $25, or deferred payment
  • Grace period: 9 months


  • Rates (APR): 9.46% – 15.88%
  • Loan Amounts: $2,001 – $200,000
  • Repayment Terms: 5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years

The information above is for the Ascent Non-Cosigned Loans.

Ascent is a lender offering cosigned and non-cosigned student loans for undergraduates and graduates. If you don’t have a cosigner to add to your loan, Ascent can be a good option since their Non-Cosigned Loans are designed for borrowers like you. Borrowers can earn a 1% cash back reward upon graduation. You can check your prequalified rates online without affecting your credit score.

  • Variable rates: 3.17%13.92%
  • Fixed rates: 3.98%14.92%
  • Rate reduction: 0.25% automatic payment discount
  • Fees: None
  • Cosigner release: After 12 on-time payments
  • In-school repayment: Interest-only, $25 flat, or deferred payment
  • Grace period: 9 months

To compare other options, check out our guide to the best private student loans or learn more about state student loans.