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Student Loans

Best Part-Time Student Loans

Part-time enrollment is when a student takes around half of the expected full-time course load. The exact number can vary, but it’s usually six to eight credit hours per semester.

Both federal and some private student loans can be used to cover your education costs. Here are the best part-time student loans, including each lender’s enrollment requirement.

LenderMin. enrollmentOur rating
Department of EducationHalf-timeNot rated
College AveNone5/5
Sallie MaeNone4.8/5

Federal part-time student loans

Federal student loans have fixed interest rates and specific benefits, such as income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness, which private lenders don’t offer.

If you’re going to school part-time, your enrollment must be at least half-time to qualify for Federal Direct Loans. 

You must also meet the Department of Education’s eligibility requirements and complete the FAFSA before the annual deadline. 

Direct Subsidized Loan

With a Direct Subsidized Loan, part-time students can borrow between $3,500 and $5,500 annually based on their year of enrollment. The primary benefit of Direct Subsidized Loans is that they don’t accrue interest while you’re in school. The loans also don’t accrue interest during the six-month grace period after graduation.  

But if you drop below half-time enrollment, the six-month grace period begins, meaning you might need to start repaying your loans sooner than expected. 

Direct Unsubsidized Loan

Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to students at qualifying schools who are enrolled half-time or greater. The loans are similar to Subsidized Loans but with two critical differences: The loan limits are higher, and interest accrues while you’re in school. 

The loan limits are between $5,500 and $20,500 annually, depending on your year in school and your dependent status. Interest starts to accrue on the loan while you’re in school, increasing your debt’s overall cost. But despite the extra cost, these loans are often cheaper than private loans. 

Direct PLUS Loan

Direct PLUS Loans are available to parents of undergraduate students and to graduate and professional students. Borrowers can qualify for up to 100% of their school-certified enrollment costs, minus any other financial aid. Students must maintain at least half-time enrollment in a qualifying school.

There is no financial need requirement to qualify for a Direct PLUS Loan—borrowers only need to meet specific credit requirements when they apply. Students must maintain at least half-time enrollment in a qualifying school.

Private part-time student loans

Private student loans are another option for funding part-time enrollment. The eligibility requirements are different: Lenders consider borrowers’ credit history and income when reviewing applications. If you’re worried about getting approved, consider applying with a cosigner.

Here are the best lenders for private part-time student loans.

College Ave – Best overall

LendEDU rating: 5 out of 5

  • Available to part-time students
  • Select from 4 repayment terms
  • Get a decision in 3 minutes

College Ave is an online student lender that offers loans to undergraduates and graduates enrolled at least part-time. Borrowers can choose from four repayment terms: five, eight, 10, or 15 years. Loan amounts range from $1,000 to 100% of your school-certified costs. With competitive interest rates and flexibility to customize your loan, College Ave ranks as our top-rated lender. 

To qualify for a College Ave student loan, student or parent borrowers must have a Social Security number and meet the credit score requirements. Students must also be enrolled in an eligible school and show evidence of satisfactory academic performance.

Sallie Mae – Best for cosigners

LendEDU rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Borrowers can attend less than half-time
  • Cosigner release after 12 on-time payments
  • Funding for up to 100% of school-certified costs

Sallie Mae is a well-known lender that provides student loans for part-time students, including students attending less than half-time. It offers customized loans for different courses of study, including undergraduate, MBA, and law school programs.

Repayment terms range from five to 15 years. Loans start at $1,000. Sallie Mae also offers loans for study abroad students, online students, and those taking winter or summer classes.

Earnest – Best for large loans

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Borrowers must be enrolled at least half-time
  • Ability to skip one payment per year
  • No origination, late payment, or prepayment fees

Earnest is one of the few lenders that offers specific student loans for part-time students. The lender also has typical loan offerings, including undergraduate, graduate, professional, and parent student loans. Part-time loans can help cover $1,000 up to 100% of your school-certified expenses.

To qualify for a loan from Earnest, you or your cosigner must meet specific credit and income requirements: a FICO score of at least 650 and an annual income of at least $35,000. You can choose from four repayment terms and opt to skip one payment per year if necessary, providing additional flexibility for recent grads with other financial commitments.

SoFi – Best for member benefits

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Must be enrolled at least half-time
  • Access to exclusive member benefits
  • Checking your rate doesn’t affect your credit

SoFi offers private student loans for undergraduates, graduates, and parents. It stands out for its exclusive member benefits, such as financial planning services, networking events, and discounts on additional loans. These benefits provide valuable support beyond financing your education by helping students achieve broader career and financial goals.

To qualify for a loan from SoFi, students must enroll in classes that equate to half-time attendance. Depending on the type of loan, students may need to meet specific criteria regarding their credit score and income.

ELFI – Best student loan advisors

LendEDU rating: 4.5 out of 5

  • Borrowers must attend at least half-time
  • Assigned a student loan advisor for assistance
  • Checking your rate doesn’t affect your credit

ELFI offers student loans that can be used by students enrolled at least half-time. The lender is known for its personalized customer service, providing each borrower with a dedicated loan advisor who helps throughout the application process.

Its loans can cover up to 100% of your certified costs and have no origination, application, or prepayment fees. Borrowers can begin making full or partial payments while in school or defer them until they graduate.

How does enrollment status affect repayment?

Your enrollment status is determined by the number of classes you take each semester. Your enrollment status and the type of student loan you have determine when you need to start repaying your loans. Changes to your enrollment status—for example, dropping to or below half-time enrollment—can trigger the start of your repayment.

Here’s how different enrollment statuses influence your loans. 

Enrollment status What it means
Full-timeDon’t need to make payments
Half-timeDon’t need to make payments
Less than half-timeMust make payments after grace period
Drop outMust make payments after grace period


As long as you remain in school full-time, most lenders won’t require you to start making full principal and interest payments on your student loans. Once you graduate, you will enter a six- to nine-month grace period during which you won’t need to make payments. You’ll start making payments when the grace period ends. 


Students enrolled in an undergraduate, graduate, or professional program at least half-time are typically not required to make payments. But if you drop out or decrease your enrollment to less than half-time, the grace period begins. When the grace period ends, you must start making payments. 

Less than half-time

You will start loan repayment when you have a course load that is less than half-time course load. After the grace period, you will get your first bill and must start repaying your balance. Federal loans have a six-month grace period. Private loan grace periods range from zero to nine months. 

Drop out

When you drop out of school, it triggers student loan repayment and begins with the grace period. After a six-month grace period, you’ll get the first bill for your federal loans. Grace periods from private lenders are similar.

How to apply for part-time student loans

Here are the steps to take when you apply for a student loan while attending school part-time.

  1. Fill out the FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an annual form you must complete before the start of the next academic year. It helps determine the federal aid available when you’re in school at least half-time.
  2. Accept any free aid offered. Before accepting student loans, take advantage of any free funding you can as a part-time student, including scholarships and grants.
  3. Use savings or other sources of income. Consider whether you’ll be working while you’re in school or have any other savings you can use to subsidize the costs. Subtract those funds from the total amount you need to borrow. 
  4. Look into federal loans. Federal student loans tend to offer better loan features and fixed interest rates—possibly lower than private loans, depending on your and your cosigner’s credit history. Take out federal loans before turning to private loan sources.
  5. Cover the difference with private loans. You can use private student loans to cover the remaining costs of your part-time education. Shop for the best rates and terms to get the best deal. 
  6. Consider a cosigner. In some cases, you might need a cosigner for a private loan. But even if you don’t need a cosigner, adding one might help you get a more competitive loan offer with a lower interest rate.
  7. Figure out when repayment will begin. Consult with your school’s financial aid office if you have any questions about your loans, including when repayment begins. Prepare for when you’ll receive your first bill and understand ahead of time how dropping classes could trigger an earlier repayment of your loans.

What does our expert recommend?

Erin Kinkade


My recommendation for part-time students can depend on why you’re a part-time student. Is it due to caring for your children during the hours you aren’t in school? If so, making payments on your loan while going to school may not be an option yet. If you’re working part-time, consider building a line-item into your budget budget to make payments while attending school. Of course, many options and scenarios exist in between the two examples above, so it truly depends on the individual’s circumstances. I also don’t recommend borrowing more than you need, which can lead to unnecessary overspending and, of course, more debt.


Which part-time student loan is the best?

If you’re enrolled at least half-time, consider federal student loans first. If you’re attending school less than half-time or have maxed out your available federal loans, consider a top-rated private lender, such as College Ave, Sallie Mae, or Ascent. 

Are there differences between full-time and part-time student loans?

The difference between full-time and part-time students is that only certain student loans are available to part-time students, which might make it more challenging for part-time students to secure the funding they need. Your enrollment status could also affect when your repayment for that loan begins.

Recap of the best part-time student loans

LenderMin. enrollmentOur rating
Department of EducationHalf-timeNot rated
College AveNone5/5
Sallie MaeNone4.8/5