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Student Loans Student Loan Repayment

Refinance Graduate Student Loans: A Comprehensive Guide

Graduate student loan borrowers, especially those with degrees in medicine, law, or business, often face more debt than undergraduates. The delay in earning substantial income can make tackling the debt more difficult.

Refinancing graduate student loans can alleviate this burden by offering lower interest rates, flexible repayment terms, and consolidation options. This comprehensive guide provides insights into lenders, the refinancing process, and unique considerations for graduate student loan borrowers.

6 top lenders for refinancing graduate student loans

Graduate student loan borrowers have distinct needs that require thoughtful consideration. With these unique circumstances in mind, we’ve researched some of the top lenders offering graduate student loan refinancing.

Here’s an overview of our recommendations:

SoFi: Best online lender

Our rating: 4.9 of 5 stars

  • Access to career coaching, networking, and referral benefits.
  • Rate savings of 0.125% on additional SoFi loans and an autopay discount of 0.25%.
  • Unemployment protection and no fees.

SoFi stands out as our top-rated online refinancing lender, particularly for graduate student loans, including specialized MBA, law, and medical school loans. The focus on borrower benefits makes it an appealing choice for those in various professional fields.

Refinancing with SoFi also provides protection and opportunities. Unemployment protection allows you to pause loan payments for up to 12 months if you lose your job through no fault of your own. 

Complimentary career coaching helps borrowers in resume review, interview skills, and job leads to enable successful student debt repayment. Additional benefits, including rate discounts for autopay and multiple SoFi loans, make it a competitive option, all with no fees attached.

  • Variable rates (APR): 4.74% – 8.99%
  • Fixed rates (APR): 5.29% – 9.19%
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 – total outstanding loan balance
  • Loan terms: 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Minimum income: Not disclosed, but must provide proof of employment or an offer for a job starting within 90 days or less
  • Autopay discount: 0.25% rate discount with autopay, 0.125% discount for multiple SoFi loans

Credible: Best marketplace

Our rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

  • Prequalify without affecting your credit.
  • Get personalized rate quotes from up to 9 lenders at once.
  • Free online comparison tool helps you select the best lender.

Credible stands out as a convenient marketplace to research student loan refinancing lenders, especially for those looking to refinance graduate student loans. The platform allows you to prequalify with multiple lenders, using a soft credit check that doesn’t affect your credit score.

The process with Credible is straightforward. Once you prequalify, you get personalized rate quotes from up to nine lenders at the same time. The online tool then helps you compare each lender’s rates and terms in one place, guiding you to the lender that suits your needs best for the full application process. 

It’s a useful solution for those seeking to refinance federal and private graduate student loans, and the service is free.

  • Rates, terms, and eligibility requirements vary by lender. Credible does not underwrite or service loan products.

Earnest: Best skip-a-payment benefit

Our rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

  • Option to skip one payment per year without penalty.
  • Customizable loan terms from 5 – 20 years, allowing you to adjust the term down to the day.
  • Rate-match guarantee: Earnest will match a lower rate and include a $100 bonus.

Earnest stands out with its flexibility and customization for those looking to refinance graduate student loans. It’s unique among private lenders in allowing one skipped payment per year without penalty. 

It also provides an exceptional level of control over loan terms by allowing you to select a loan term anywhere between five and 20 years, adjusting it down to the exact day to find the perfect monthly payment. Automatic biweekly payments further help you pay off your loan faster. 

  • Variable rates (APR): Starting at 5.32%
  • Fixed rates (APR): Starting at 4.96%
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 – $500,000
  • Loan terms: 5 – 20 years
  • Minimum credit score: 650 (cosigner allowed, but no cosigner release)
  • Minimum income: Not stated, but steady employment is required
  • Autopay discount: 0.25%

ELFI: Best for personalized support

Our rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

  • Assigns each applicant a dedicated Student Loan Advisor to walk you through the process.
  • Customer reviews praise the personalized support of the Student Loan Advisor.
  • More stringent credit and income criteria than other lenders.

ELFI sets itself apart with a focus on personalized support for those aiming to refinance graduate student loans. It assigns every applicant a dedicated Student Loan Advisor, providing guidance through the process and prompt answers to any questions.

ELFI’s reputation is reinforced by its impressive rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot, based on over 2,100 reviews. Customers highlight the seamless application and loan servicing process, often crediting the assigned loan advisor for their exceptional support. 

However, potential borrowers should be aware of ELFI’s more stringent credit and income criteria compared to other lenders.

  • Variable rates (APR): 5.28%9.95%
  • Fixed rates (APR): Starting at 5.08%
  • Loan amounts: From $10,000
  • Loan terms: 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years
  • Minimum credit score: 680 and at least 36 months of credit history
  • Minimum income: $35,000
  • Autopay discount: Reflected in rate

RISLA: Best for hardship protections

Powered by Credible

Our rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

  • Allows for immediate refinance or in-school refinance with deferred payments.
  • Offers hardship protections, including income-based repayment, surpassing most lenders.
  • Lower loan maximum of $250,000 may limit options for some borrowers.

RISLA presents unique benefits and some restrictions for graduate student loan borrowers seeking refinancing. Particularly noteworthy is RISLA’s income-based repayment (IBR) plan, offering flexibility for those facing financial hardships. The IBR plan extends the repayment term to 25 years, and the lender forgives any remaining balance after this period.

However, this provision is meant to be temporary, and payments revert to standard once the hardship condition is resolved. Other protections include military benefits, coverage for permanent disability or death, and payment forbearance.

RISLA also offers two refinancing products: in-school or immediate refinancing. The in-school refinancing allows deferred payments until graduation and a six-month grace period. The lower loan maximum might restrict options for borrowers with substantial debt.

  • Fixed rates (APR): 5.74%8.24%
  • Variable rates (APR): N/A
  • Loan amounts: $7,500 per year – $250,000 (varying by degree level and discipline)
  • Loan terms: Immediate refinancing offers 5, 10, and 15-year terms. In-school refinancing has a 15-year term with payments starting six months after leaving school.
  • Minimum credit score: Not disclosed
  • Minimum income: $40,000
  • Autopay discount: 0.25%

Nelnet Bank: Best for term lengths

Powered by Credible

Our rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars

  • Choose from six repayment terms, offering more options than most refinancing lenders.
  • Refinancing maximums are tailored to the type of graduate degree, reaching up to $500,000.
  • Requires a higher minimum credit score threshold than other lenders, possibly limiting accessibility for some borrowers.

Nelnet Bank has carved a niche for itself with a generous array of term lengths, providing six choices for borrowers. While many top lenders stop at four or five options, Nelnet’s expansive selection is conducive to crafting a repayment plan that aligns with individual financial circumstances and goals.

You can opt for five, seven, 10, 15, 20, or 25-year terms, granting you control over monthly payments and total interest costs. However, the higher minimum credit score required might deter some potential applicants.

  • Variable rates (APR): 7.35%14.25%
  • Fixed rates (APR): 5.34%10.79%
  • Loan amounts (depending on degree type):
    • Graduate or doctorate degree: $175,000
    • MBA or graduate law degree: $175,000
    • Graduate health professions degree: $500,000
  • Loan terms: Five, seven, 10, 15, 20, or 25 years
  • Minimum credit score: Mid-600 FICO score
  • Minimum income: None specified
  • Autopay discount: 0.25%

Our expert’s take

Josh St. Laurent


The most common mistake people make when refinancing graduate student loans is not shopping around for preferable rates or companies they enjoy working with. Often, people seek out a friend or get a referral (which is a great start), but not getting at least three quotes is a mistake that can cost you in the long run.

What to look for in a graduate student loan refinancing lender

Refinancing graduate student loans requires careful consideration of various factors tailored to your situation. Here’s what to look for when assessing refinancing lenders:

  • Interest rates: Choosing between fixed and variable interest rates is crucial. Fixed rates offer stability, while variable rates may start lower but fluctuate. A significant goal in refinancing is to secure a lower rate, making the monthly payments more manageable.
  • Loan amounts: As a graduate student, you might carry a higher debt burden. Look for a lender that will refinance larger amounts to align with your needs.
  • Loan terms: Some lenders offer longer loan terms, allowing more time to repay the debt. While this can make payments more manageable, it might increase the overall cost. Consider the balance between monthly payments and total loan cost.
  • Specialty refinancing: Unique needs call for specialized products. Some lenders cater to specific borrowers, such as medical residents or dentists, providing options to reduce payments during residency.

Our expert’s tip

Josh St. Laurent


Make a short list of some of the most important criteria for you using this article as a guide.  Translate this criteria into one or two pointed interview questions when you’re shopping lenders.  Trust your intuition when you’re talking to lenders. If something doesn’t feel right or if they’re overly pushy, move on.

Can you refinance Grad PLUS loans?

Refinancing federal graduate loans, such as Grad PLUS loans, is possible. As long as you meet the lender’s criteria, most will allow you to refinance Grad PLUS loans into a private student loan. 

However, weigh the following before taking this step:

  • You’ll lose federal protections: When you convert federal loans into private loans through refinancing, you forfeit borrower protections unique to federal loans. This includes access to loan forgiveness programs and income-based repayment plans.
  • You need stable income: Only pursue refinancing federal loans into private loans if you have a reliable income and feel certain you won’t need federal benefits.
  • Consider alternatives to refinancing: If you’re uncertain about the decision to refinance federal graduate loans, federal student loan consolidation may be a more prudent alternative. Student loan consolidation allows you to merge multiple federal loans into one, with an interest rate that is the weighted average of all of the loans you’e consolidated. It’s similar to refinancing, but you may not achieve the same level of savings in interest. 

While refinancing Grad PLUS loans is an option, it requires examining your personal financial stability and long-term needs. Losing federal benefits may not be suitable for every borrower, and exploring other paths, including federal consolidation, could be more fitting.

How to refinance graduate school student loans

Refinancing graduate school student loans can provide financial benefits and flexibility, but it requires a careful approach. Knowing the process and considering your unique situation as a graduate student borrower ensures that refinancing aligns with your financial goals. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide.

An image showing the steps involved in the student loan refinance process

By following these steps and focusing on the unique elements of graduate school student loans, you can tailor your refinancing experience and even save a significant amount over the life of your loan.


What are the benefits of refinancing graduate student loans? 

Refinancing can lead to a lower interest rate, allowing you to save money over the life of your loan. It also lets you consolidate loans into one payment and tailor the loan term to fit your financial goals.

Will refinancing hurt my credit score? 

Prequalifying with lenders using a soft credit pull won’t hurt your credit score. A hard credit inquiry during the application process may lower your score by a few points, but responsibly managing the new loan can raise your credit score over time.

What factors determine my refinancing rate? 

Your interest rate depends on factors such as your credit score, income, debt-to-income ratio, and the lender’s terms. It’s wise to compare offers from different lenders to find the best rate for your graduate student loan refinancing.

Can I refinance my loans more than once? 

Yes, you can refinance graduate student loans multiple times if it benefits your financial situation. Consider changes in interest rates and potential costs to determine whether multiple refinances are advantageous.

What happens if I have trouble repaying my refinanced loan? 

Some lenders offer forbearance or other temporary hardship options. Always communicate with your lender if you experience difficulty repaying, and understand the lender’s policies before refinancing.

Should I consolidate or refinance my graduate student loans? 

Consolidation combines federal loans into one, possibly with a lower payment, but not necessarily a lower interest rate. Refinancing can consolidate federal and private loans with the potential for a lower interest rate but may involve losing federal protections.

Do I need a cosigner to refinance my graduate student loans?

A cosigner is not always required. However, one might improve your chances if you have a lower credit score. Each lender has different criteria, so it’s wise to explore your options and understand each lender’s requirements.