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Student Loans

College Ave vs. Earnest: Student Loan Comparison

Updated Feb 05, 2024   |   10-min read

Whether you need a private student loan or are refinancing your existing student loans, finding the right company is crucial. When you sign up for a student loan, you’re entering into a contract that can last for years or decades. Who you choose to borrow from could make your life easier—or harder.

That’s why comparing lenders is so important. College Ave and Earnest are two popular lenders offering private student loans and student loan refinancing. In this comparison, you’ll find out the differences between the two companies, their benefits and drawbacks, and which is the better option for you.

Click one of the options below to compare the two companies by that product.

College Ave vs. Earnest private student loans: Everything you need to know

4.8
View Rates

4.7
View Rates

Rates (APR) 4.44% – 15.99% 4.43%16.20%
Rates (APR) Rates (APR)
4.44% – 15.99% 4.43%16.20%
Loan amounts $1,000 – 100% of certified costs $1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Loan amounts Loan amounts
$1,000 – 100% of certified costs $1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms 5, 8, 10, or 15 years 5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years
Repayment terms Repayment terms
5, 8, 10, or 15 years 5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years

LenderCollege AveEarnest
Grace period6 months9 months
Extra benefitsBorrowers can enter to win a $1,000 scholarship from College AveSkip one payment once per year
In-school repayment optionsFull principal and interest payments, interest-only payments, $25 fixed payments, and deferred paymentsFull principal and interest payments, interest-only payments, $25 fixed payments, and deferred payments
Cosigner releaseAfter you’ve reached the halfway point of the repayment termNot available
Discounts0.25% interest rate discount for automatic payments  0.25% interest rate discount for automatic payments  
FeesNo origination, application, or prepayment feesNo origination, application, or prepayment fees

College Ave and Earnest both offer similar repayment options, and both include a wide range of terms. This provides borrowers the opportunity to choose the repayment term that best fits their budget and lifestyle.

Neither lender charges origination, application, or prepayment penalties, and both offer a 0.25% interest rate discount if you sign up for autopay.

One of the main differences between the two lenders is that Earnest offers a nine-month grace period, while College Ave only offers a six-month grace period. Earnest also lets borrowers skip one payment a year, while College Ave does not. However, Earnest does not offer a cosigner release program, while College Ave does.

Is a private student loan from College Ave or Earnest more accessible?

When applying for a private student loan, you will have to undergo a credit check and supply income verification. Most undergraduate students will need a cosigner because they won’t fulfill the credit score and income requirements.

College Ave and Earnest have the same minimum income requirement of $35,000. Earnest has a minimum credit score of 650, but College Ave does not share its credit score requirement. One of the key differences between the two lenders is that Earnest requires all borrowers to be full-time students, while College Ave allows part-time students to apply for a loan.

LenderCollege AveEarnest
Minimum credit scoreNot stated650
Minimum income$35,000$35,000
CitizenshipU.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible. International students must have a Social Security number and a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to qualify. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible. International students must have a cosigner who is a US Citizen or permanent resident to qualify.
EnrollmentStudents can be enrolled full-time or part-time, as long as they make satisfactory academic progressOnly full-time students are eligible

Scenarios in which College Ave or Earnest is better than the other for private student loans

If you’re looking for a student loan, you should compare companies carefully and decide what you need from a lender. Read below to figure out which scenarios apply to you so you can choose the best provider for your situation.

Choose College Ave if …Choose Earnest if …
You don’t attend college full-timeYou want a longer grace period
You want cosigner releaseYou want fewer fees
You want payment flexibility

If you don’t plan to attend college full-time: College Ave

Only full-time students are eligible to apply for a loan with Earnest, but part-time students can still get a student loan with College Ave. Many students work to help cover their living expenses and can’t handle a full-time course load, so a loan from College Ave would make more sense for them.

If you want a cosigner release program: College Ave

Earnest does not offer any kind of cosigner release program. If you have a cosigner on an Earnest loan and they later want to be removed from the loan, you would have to refinance the loan with a new lender to remove them.

College Ave lets you remove the cosigner once you’ve reached the halfway point of the repayment term. You may also have to meet certain credit score and income criteria to qualify for cosigner release, which is standard.

If you want a longer grace period: Earnest

Earnest offers a nine-month grace period for borrowers, while College Ave offers a six-month grace period for undergraduate students and a nine-month grace period for graduate students. If you’re an undergraduate student who wants a long grace period, Earnest is a better option.

If you want fewer fees: Earnest

Neither company charges application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties. And Earnest does not charge any late fees either. However, College Ave does charge a late fee. While you can easily avoid late fees by signing up for automatic payments or setting a reminder on your phone, sometimes mistakes happen.

If you want more payment flexibility: Earnest

Earnest lets borrowers skip one payment each year. You can use the money you save to pay other bills or for emergency expenses. By contrast, College Ave does not offer this kind of program.

Which company is our choice between College Ave and Earnest for private student loans?

College Ave is our choice between these two lenders for private student loans. College Ave markets a lower interest rate range, lets borrowers choose their repayment terms, and provides educational resources throughout the application process.

College Ave vs. Earnest student loan refinancing: Everything you need to know

4.2
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4.8
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Rates (APR) 6.99% – 13.99% Start at 5.19% fixed and 5.99% variable
Rates (APR) Rates (APR)
6.99% – 13.99% Start at 5.19% fixed and 5.99% variable
Loan amounts Up to $150,000 for most undergraduate or graduate degrees

Up to $300,000 for medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees
$5,000 – 105% of you student loan amount
Loan amounts Loan amounts
Up to $150,000 for most undergraduate or graduate degrees

Up to $300,000 for medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees
$5,000 – 105% of you student loan amount
Repayment terms 5 – 20 years 5 – 20 years
Repayment terms Repayment terms
5 – 20 years 5 – 20 years

College Ave and Earnest both provide student loan refinancing with long repayment terms, low fees, and autopay discounts. 

However, College Ave only offers a maximum term of 15 years, while Earnest offers a maximum term of 20 years. This can provide more wiggle room for borrowers when it comes to repayment. 

If you owe tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans, having an extra five years to repay them could make a huge difference in your monthly payments.

Is a refinance student loan from College Ave or Earnest more accessible?

When you’re interested in refinancing your student loans, the first step is to see if you qualify. As with taking out the initial student loans, there are certain requirements you must fulfill to refinance your student loans.

Lenders will check your credit score and verify your income. Your credit score shows if you have a history of paying back your loans on time, and your income will prove that you can afford the monthly payment. If you don’t meet the lender’s standards, they may require a cosigner who does have good credit and a steady income. 

College AveEarnest
Min. credit scoreNot disclosed650
Min. income$50,000Not disclosed
Cosigner requirementCan be addedCan be added
CitizenshipU.S. citizen or permanent residentU.S. citizen or permanent resident
Graduation requirementMust have graduatedHave graduated or graduating by the end of the current semester

Scenarios in which College Ave or Earnest is better than the other for student loan refinancing

Not every lender is created equal. And depending on your personal circumstances, there may be one lender that is the clear favorite. Look below for the specific situations when one lender is best.

Choose College Ave if …Choose Earnest if …
You want a custom repayment termYou want payment flexibility
You want lower interest rates
You want a longer repayment term

If you want more payment flexibility: Earnest

If you refinance student loans with Earnest, you can skip one payment each year for free. This is a unique perk that is not available with College Ave. Borrowers can use this extra money to pay other bills or to cover an emergency expense.

Earnest also lets borrowers make payments twice a month instead of once a month. This could make it easier to line up your student loan payments with your paycheck, making budgeting simpler.

If you want lower interest rates: Earnest

Earnest offers lower starting interest rates for student loan refinancing than College Ave.

While a difference of less than a percent may seem small, it could cost you thousands more over the life of the loan. However, since you’re not guaranteed to receive the lowest rate from either lender, it’s still smart to shop around and ensure you’re getting the best deal.

If you want a long repayment term: Earnest

Earnest offers refinancing terms up to 20 years, while the maximum repayment term for College Ave is 15 years. The longer the repayment term, the lower your monthly payment will be. However, spreading the payments out over a greater number of years will also result in owing more interest over the life of the loan.

Borrowers who are looking for the lowest possible monthly payment may appreciate a longer repayment term.

If you want a custom repayment term: College Ave

College Ave lets borrowers pick a repayment term between five and 15 years. You can choose whichever term you want based on the monthly payment, interest rate, and your other financial goals. This customization option is unique to College Ave and not available with Earnest.

Which company is our choice between College Ave and Earnest for student loan refinancing?

When deciding between College Ave and Earnest, we recommend Earnest. They have low interest rates, a wide range of repayment terms, and other unique benefits.

Borrowers who choose Earnest can skip one payment each year for free. This payment flexibility puts Earnest in the lead and makes them our pick for student loan refinancing.

Does College Ave or Earnest have better customer reviews and ratings?

When you take out a student loan, you’re signing up for a long-term relationship with a specific company. And while interest rates, repayment terms, and other perks matter, you should also consider customer reviews which will show you how easy a company is to deal with.

LenderTrustpilot
College Ave2.6 out of 5
Earnest4.7 out of 5

College Ave only has 59 reviews on Trustpilot with an average rating of 2.6 out of 5. About 73% of the reviewers gave it a 5 out of 5 rating.

Some of the complaints say that it’s hard to receive the actual low interest rates that are advertised. Customers who left positive reviews said their application experience was fairly simple and straightforward.

Earnest has a 4.7 out of 5 rating on Trustpilot with more than 5,200 reviews. About 86% of customers gave Earnest a 5 out of 5 rating.

Satisfied customers said their application process was quick and easy. They also praised the customer service team at Earnest, and many said it was easy to get their questions answered. Some of the negative reviews said the website is hard to use and that they received conflicting information from customer service representatives.