- Comes with membership to Candidly, a student loan management and repayment platform.
- Earn $200 statement credit for linking your College Finance loan to Candidly.
- Candidly benefits include cashback rewards applied to your loan and autopay features.
- Choose from four in-school payment options and four repayment terms.
- Available to undergrads, graduate students, and professionals, usually with a cosigner.
College Finance is a website founded in 2020 to help students and families make informed choices about paying for college. It provides educational resources to minimize the cost of borrowing and a marketplace to compare private student loans, student loan refinancing options, and student credit cards.
In 2022, College Finance was acquired by Candidly, an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven student loan management and repayment platform, and began offering a branded student loan product powered by our top-rated student loan lender, College Ave.
A unique benefit of the College Finance student loan is that it comes with a free membership to Candidly. Candidly creates custom repayment and savings strategies to accelerate payoff of your student loans while optimizing savings.
In this review:
- How does College Finance work?
- Rates, terms, and fees
- What are the eligibility requirements?
- How does repayment work?
- How can the College Finance private student loan be improved?
- How have College Finance private student loans evolved over the years?
- How do College Finance private student loans compare to other lenders?
- Is College Finance a reputable lender?
- Does College Finance have a customer service team?
- How to apply for a College Finance private student loan
- What if I’m denied a private student loan from College Finance?
- College Finance FAQ
How does College Finance work?
It’s common for student loan lenders to partner with companies to offer loans with unique benefits. In this case, “powered by College Ave” means College Ave partners with College Finance to offer a College Ave loan with College Finance branding and Candidly benefits.
These Candidly benefits include:
- A student loan dashboard to manage all your student loans—including private and federal loans
- Game-like repayment and autopay features to make extra payments easy
- $200 statement credit when you link your College Finance loan to your Candidly account
- The ability apply cash-back rewards from merchants to your student loan
- A “round-up” feature that applies your change on purchases to your loan repayment
- The ability to invite friends and family to contribute to the loan repayment
- A lender marketplace to compare lenders, loans, and refinancing options
- A library of financial education resources tailored to your needs
Aside from these Candidly perks, a College Finance loan works much like one from College Ave:
- It’s available to most students—from undergraduates to graduate and doctoral students to continuing education students.
- Approval is based on creditworthiness, making a cosigner necessary for many student borrowers.
- Borrowers and cosigners apply jointly online using a co-branded College Finance/College Ave application.
- Loan amounts of $1,000 to 100% of college costs are available, based on other aid and school certification.
- Funds are disbursed to your school. You must apply annually for a new College Finance student loan.
Rates, terms, and fees
An APR range is published for the College Finance loan, but it otherwise shares the same details as College Ave loans. Borrowers can choose between fixed or variable rates and various repayment options and terms. The real differentiator is the Candidly membership, which helps optimize repayment.
Here is a breakdown of the College Finance loan terms and rates potential borrowers should know:
|Fixed rates (APR)||4.44% – 15.99%|
|Variable rates (APR)||5.09% – 15.99%|
|Rate discounts||0.25% for automatic payments|
|Loan amounts||$1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance|
|In-school repayment plans||Full, interest-only, flat $25, or deferred|
|Repayment terms||5, 8, 10, or 15 years|
|Grace period||6 months|
|Repayment assistance||Not disclosed|
|Cosigner release||Once half of the original repayment term has elapsed|
When the borrower has documented annual income is at least twice the balance of outstanding loan
After the borrower passes a credit review
|Fees||Late payment fee|
|Unique features||Provides access to Candidly, a leading student loan management and paydown provider|
$200 statement credit when you open a Candidly account and link this loan
Earn cash back rewards from merchants that are applied directly to the student loan
Invite friends and family to contribute to the loan repayment
Leverage autopay features and “round up” to apply change on purchases to your loan payment
What are the eligibility requirements?
The College Finance student loan is available to undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students, as well as those pursuing continuing education or career certificates.
Whereas College Ave offers separate private student loans for undergraduate, graduate, MBA, health professions, and law students, the College Finance loan is branded as one loan product through which you receive a Candidly membership.
As with College Ave’s other student loans, most borrowers will likely need a creditworthy cosigner to qualify, and one is recommended if you have limited credit history.
Here is a breakdown of the eligibility requirements.
|U.S. citizen or permanent resident||U.S. citizen or permanent resident at an accredited institution|
International students with a U.S. Social Security number and a qualified cosigner
|State of residence||All 50 states|
|Minimum age||At least 16 years old|
|School||Accredited Title IV school in the U.S.|
Eligible schools are listed in the application
Must meet the satisfactory academic guidelines of their school
|Enrollment status||No requirements|
|Credit score||No minimum for students applying with an eligible cosigner|
Mid-600s for cosigners
How does repayment work?
When you take out a College Finance loan, you can choose from the same repayment options as College Ave. Candidly offers extra resources to pay off your loan faster.
Four different in-school repayment options are available, and as with all student loan repayment plans, your choice affects your overall loan cost.
The reason for this is because interest begins to accrue as soon as the loan is disbursed. When your repayment period begins, any unpaid interest is capitalized—or added to your loan’s principal balance. Interest is then calculated based on this larger principal balance, boosting the loan cost.
Here’s an overview of the four in-school repayment strategies offered with the College Finance student loan through College Ave, and how they impact loan cost:
- Full in-school payments: This involves immediate full interest and principal payments. Although this option reduces your overall loan cost, it does require more substantial payments while you’re still in school.
- Interest-only payments: This strategy involves making payments that only cover the interest during your time in school. It’s a useful way to manage costs during your studies without substantially adding to your total debt.
- $25 a month: This option lets you make a small, consistent payment each month to tackle the accruing interest. This low-payment strategy is easier to handle while you’re studying, but it does mean you’ll pay more in the long run.
- Deferred payments: With this option, you avoid making payments while you’re still in school, but this will result in a higher overall loan cost due to the accrued interest over the life of the loan.
You’ll also choose one of four repayment terms when you apply for your loan: five, eight, 10, or 15 years. Shorter terms mean higher monthly payments but paying less interest, while longer terms mean lower monthly payments but more interest overall.
You’ll make in-school payments (if any) while enrolled at least half time and for six months after you graduate. After six months, you’ll make full payments for the rest of your repayment term or until your loan is paid off.
College Ave offers a useful online calculator to understand your monthly payments and overall loan costs under different repayment scenarios. Using that, we’ve calculated the monthly payments and overall cost of a $10,000 loan using each of the four in-school repayment options.
This loan was taken out by a college sophomore, with a fixed interest rate of 11.23% and a 10-year repayment term.
|In-school monthly payments (42 months)||Post-school monthly payments||Total interest||Total cost|
|Principal + interest||$135.57||$135.57 (78 months)||$6,268.22||$16,268.22|
|Interest only||$90.88||$137.21 (120 months)||$10,282.29||$20,282.29|
|$25 flat payment||$25||$176.19 (120 months)||$12,192.48||$22,192.48|
|Deferred||$0||$193.76 (120 months)||$13,251.43||$23,251.43|
Notice how in-school payments lower your interest and overall loan costs. Additionally, making principal-plus-interest payments while in school allows you to pay off your loan in 78 months vs. the 120 months it takes with the other three payment options.
If expediting repayment of your loan is particularly important to you, the College Finance loan is an attractive option because the Candidly membership can help in the repayment of your College Finance loan through several features:
This feature allows you to link a spending account (such as checking account) to your loan on Candidly, and round up your purchases to the nearest dollar. Candidly tracks the rounded-up amounts and, at the end of the month, debits the total from your spending account to your primary loan account.
For example, if you buy a latte for $4.50, Candidly will automatically round up $.50 and add that to your monthly total. At the end of the month, it transfers that total amount from your spending account to your loan account.
The screenshot below illustrates an example of how the Round Up feature works and the impact it can have on your student loan repayment.
Candidly partners with more than 450 brands of merchants, including Walmart, Petco, Ace Hardware, and Doordash, that allow you to earn up to 30% cashback when you shop. The cash is then applied to your loan repayment.
This feature requires downloading a free Chrome extension and logging in using your Candidly credentials. You can then choose from eligible retailers and see available cashback offers.
Once you’ve made a purchase, you receive an email that the cashback is pending in your account. Candidly sends the total amount of cashback earned at the end of the month to your servicer as an extra payment. On average, Candidly says this can pay $4,900 and take 23 months off of a loan.
Setting up one-time and recurring extra payments to your student loan is made easy using this feature. You simply connect your loan account to a payment account, set an amount, and the payments are automatically applied on schedule.
By creating an account on Candidly’s The Village, family members and friends can enroll in Round Up to contribute their rounded-up change to the repayment of your student loan.
Using The Village feature, family members and friends can also leverage the Auto Crush feature to make one-time extra payments to a borrower’s loan account.
Overall, a College Finance loan offers competitive repayment options for student loans, but access to Candidly’s features to pay off your debt more effectively is what makes this product stand out.
How can the College Finance private student loan be improved?
While the Candidly membership is a valuable and unique benefit of the College Finance loan, there are improvements that could be made. To better position its private student loan as a competitive option, College Finance could improve the transparency and broaden eligibility of its product.
Specifically, College Finance might:
- Publish full details on the loan and its terms. It’s quite unclear how College Ave and College Finance offerings differ, which is confusing for potential borrowers. Lenders such as Union Federal and College Ave itself outline all loan specifics on their websites, making it easy to understand the loan you’re considering.
- Shorten the cosigner release. Sallie Mae, for example, allows cosigners to be released from loans after 12 on-time payments. College Finance loans require you to pay half the repayment term before release is an option. Cosigner release can be beneficial for cosigners to reduce risk and for borrowers seeking financial independence.
- Offer a non-cosigner loan option. Ascent, for example, offers cosigned and non-cosigned student loans, basing approval on factors beyond creditworthiness. Matching these offerings would make College Finance’s student loan more attractive and accessible to students with limited credit and no access to a cosigner.
With enhanced terms, transparency, and options to qualify without a cosigner, the College Finance student loan could become a competitive choice for students and families. Overall, it should prioritize providing the full details prospective borrowers need to make an informed decision.
How have College Finance private student loans evolved over the years?
College Finance launched as a website providing resources to help students and families make informed college financing choices. The loan itself has changed little since it’s so new. College Finance, the company, however, has evolved:
- In 2020, CollegeFinance.com was founded as a resource site and multi-lender marketplace for student loans.
- In June 2022, FutureFuel.io acquired College Finance and rebranded as Candidly, offering education financial wellness tools to student loan borrowers.
- The acquisition enabled College Finance to provide a private student loan powered by College Ave, with the added benefits of Candidly.
By expanding offerings over time, College Finance helps students and families navigate the arduous task of managing college expenses.
How do College Finance private student loans compare to other lenders?
Here is how the offerings stack up.
|College Finance||Sallie Mae||PNC||Citizens Bank|
|Our rating||Not not rated||4.7 out of 5 stars||3.8 out of 5 stars||3.8 out of 5 stars|
|Best for||No designation for College Finance||Best for cosigners||No designation||No designation|
|APR ranges||4.44% – 15.99% fixed|
5.09% – 15.99% variable
4.50% – 14.83% fixed
5.99% – 16.33% variable
|4.49% – 11.49% fixed|
5.34% – 11.79% variable
|4.43% – 11.94% fixed|
6.03% – 13.25% variable
|Loan amount||$1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance||Up to 100% of school-certified costs||$50,000 annual loan maximum for undergrad|
$65,000 for graduate degree
$225,000 maximum aggregated educational debt (including federal and private student loans)
|$1,000 – $350,000 for a graduate degree|
|Repayment terms||5, 8, 10, or 15 years||10 – 15 years||5 , 10, or 15 years||5, 10, or 15 years|
|Grace period||6 months||6 months||6 months||6 months|
|View rates||View rates||View rates||View rates|
In comparing the College Finance loan to other student loan companies, Sallie Mae, PNC, and Citizens Bank offer comparable rates and terms. You’ll get more repayment term options with the College Finance loan and a shorter cosigner release with Sallie Mae.
Overall, the College Finance student loan is competitive, but be sure to compare exact rates and options to determine the best private student loan lender for your needs.
Is College Finance a reputable lender?
Remember, College Finance is not the lender of its student loan—College Ave provides it.
So while College Finance has no customer reviews on trusted review platforms, including Trustpilot, Better Business Bureau, and Google, it’s helpful for borrowers considering this loan to understand what customers say about College Ave’s reputation.
Here is how College Ave rates:
|Source||Customer rating||Number of reviews|
|Trustpilot||3.3 out of 5||73|
|3.0 out of 5||67|
|Better Business Bureau||2.5 out of 5||32|
Collected on June 14, 2023
While many positive reviews on Trustpilot and Google note an easy application process, others highlight issues contacting customer support and difficulty repaying or affording loans. However, most customers on Trustpilot gave the highest rating, and College Ave holds an A+ rating on the BBB site.
While no lender is perfect, available data indicates College Ave operates legitimately while aiming to serve a critical need. College Finance’s partnership provides access to a vetted, regulated lender, signaling a credible option if the terms are right for the borrower.
By being informed before applying, borrowers can feel confident turning to College Finance and College Ave to finance their education, so long as they understand both the benefits and responsibilities such a loan entails.
Does College Finance have a customer service team?
College Finance partners with College Ave to service its student loans, so College Ave’s customer support team handles all communication. Headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, College Ave services its loans internally and provides assistance from application through repayment.
Whether applying for a student loan or managing payments, potential borrowers should contact College Ave customer service for help during the hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday. The team is available via:
- Email using a prefilled inquiry form.
- Application questions: 844-422-7502
- Servicing or repayment: 844-803-0736
- Text: 726-227-2275
- Mail: College Ave Student Loans, c/o University Accounting Services, P.O. BOX 5863, Carol Stream, IL 60197-5863
Overall, College Ave can inform prospective students exploring their options and guide borrowers throughout the life of their student loan.
Contacting the College Ave customer support team is the best way to get questions answered or issues resolved regarding College Finance’s student loan product.
How to apply for a College Finance private student loan
College Finance’s online application process is similar to most major competitors, and in that way, it’s straightforward. The simple website and quick credit decisions provide efficient financing. Here is a breakdown of the process:
1. Search your school
Type in your school on College Finance’s homepage, and click “View Loans.”
2. Find College Finance in the search results
If the College Finance student loan appears in the results, it’s an option for you. Click “Get my Rate” to access the application.
3. Select if you’re the borrower or cosigner
The application for the College Finance student loan is the same as a College Ave loan application. The opening screen lets you choose whether you are a student borrower or a cosigner. Either person can start the application and then send a link for the other person to complete their portion.
4. Input your information
Once you’ve selected your role in the process, it will take you to the appropriate application. You’ll notice this application is co-branded with College Finance and College Ave, but it still matches the application process of College Ave loans.
Have information you’ll need during the application ready, including contact details, date of birth, Social Security number, income, school, costs, graduation date, and loan amount.
5. Receive general terms
Once you and your cosigner have completed your application information, you will receive a loan decision and general terms. College Ave provides a decision in three minutes. If the general terms presented work for you, submit your full application to complete the process.
6. Your school certifies your loan amount and disburses funds
Once you’re approved, your school certifies your loan, verifying enrollment and that your loan amount doesn’t exceed the maximum cost of attendance for the period requested. The time this takes can vary based on the school.
Fund disbursement dates are scheduled within about two days of the school certifying your loan, and you get an email with those dates and details. College Ave sends funds to your school based on its schedule. A loan can cover any term, from a single semester to the full academic year.
Overall, College Finance and College Ave make applying for and getting a student loan efficient, following a process that is largely standardized across lenders. Still, be sure to give your school ample time to certify and schedule your funds. Applying at least 30 days before any payment deadlines is key to avoiding issues, regardless of the straightforward application.
In addition, borrowing for the year upfront saves time with one application and locks in your rate with no interest until the funds are disbursed. You will need to apply for a new College Finance loan each academic year.
What if I’m denied a private student loan from College Finance?
If denied a College Finance student loan, stay optimistic. You have options. College Ave, the lender of these loans, is required to provide an adverse action notice explaining the denial reason. The explanation can help you identify your next steps.
Consider the following potential solutions to possible reasons for denial:
- Insufficient credit or income: Ask if a cosigner with better credit could qualify you, or apply with alternative lenders such as Funding U, Ascent, or Edly. They consider major employment and education factors beyond just credit score. Improving your own score before reapplying can also help.
- Cost of attendance exceeded: Reduce your loan amount.
- Inaccurate information: Double-check your application, and reapply with the correct details. Approval is often possible with amendments.
Because membership to the Candidly platform is a key draw to the College Finance loan, also consider you might be able to get Candidly membership benefits in other ways. Candidly partners with various employers and financial groups—check with any institutions you’re affiliated with to see whether a partnership exists.
Don’t lose hope. With the right plan, you can find affordable funding for your education. Review the adverse notice, and then consider alternatives to match your situation. Reapply to College Finance if amendments or a new cosigner would change the outcome.
College Finance FAQ
Does College Finance offer private or federal student loans?
College Finance offers private student loans only, not federal student loans. Its loans are powered by private loan lender College Ave.
Does applying with College Finance hurt my credit?
When you apply for a College Finance student loan, College Ave will conduct a credit check, which can lower your credit score a few points.
As long as you make on-time payments once you’re approved and in repayment, applying for a student loan likely won’t damage your credit in the long run.
Does College Finance require a cosigner?
While a cosigner is not always required, one may be requested or recommended to meet eligibility criteria on larger loans or for those with little or no credit history. The cosigner’s positive credit can help offset risk and increase the chance of approval and better terms.
Does College Finance allow cosigners to be released?
Cosigners on College Finance student loans may request release after the primary borrower demonstrates a positive repayment history and meets credit and income requirements, and half the repayment term length has passed.
What can College Finance student loans be used for?
College Finance loans can be used to fund the costs of college attendance as certified by your school. This includes tuition, room and board, books, and other education-related expenses.
The funds are paid to your school, not to borrowers or cosigners. College Finance student loans cannot be used for anything beyond certified institutional expenses.
How long does it take to receive funds from College Finance?
The time from approval to receiving funds from College Finance can vary depending on factors including time of year, school requirements, and volume.
The entire process—from application to disbursement—requires certifying enrollment with your school, scheduling of disbursement dates, and the lender issuing funds. Starting early and following up can help minimize delays.
Can College Finance student loans be forgiven?
College Finance private student loans do not offer the forgiveness programs that federal student loans provide or income-based repayment. You must repay the loans in full according to the terms of your promissory note.