Federal student loans have a fixed interest rate, which means the rate will remain the same for the entire loan term. Private student loans offer fixed or variable interest rates, meaning the rate can either stay the same or change during the loan term.
Borrowers who want stability may prefer a fixed-rate loan, while borrowers who believe they can pay off their loans quickly may save more on interest with a variable-rate loan.
In either case, it’s important to understand the current state of student loan interest rates to ensure you find the most affordable borrowing option.
In this guide:
- Current student loan interest rates for 2023 – 2024
- Current & historic federal student loan interest rates
- How Congress sets federal student loan interest rates
- Current private student loan interest rates
- Current student loan refinancing interest rates
- How to calculate how much interest you will owe
- Difference between variable and fixed rates
- Frequently asked questions about student loan interest rates
Current student loan interest rates for 2023 – 2024
Here are today’s student loan rates for the upcoming school year:
|Rate type||Fixed||Fixed or variable||Fixed or variable|
|Undergraduate||4.99%||0.94% – 12.99%||1.74% – 9.15%|
|Graduate||6.54% or 7.54%||3.99% – 16.75%||1.74% – 9.15%|
|Parent||7.54%||3.99% – 14.91%||1.74% – 9.15%|
|Full breakdown||Full breakdown||Full breakdown|
Find out more about how student loans work.
Current & historic federal student loan interest rates
In the following table, you will find the current and historic interest rates for federal loans. These rates coincide with the academic year the loans were taken out, i.e., fall 2021 to spring 2022. All of these are fixed rates.
|Loan type||2023 – 2024||2022 –2023||2021 –2022||2020 –2021||2019 –2020||2018 –2019||2017 –2018||2016 –2017|
|Subsidized loans (undergrad)||5.50%||4.99%||3.73%||2.75%||4.53%||5.05%||4.45%||3.76%|
|Unsubsidized loans (undergrad)||5.50%||4.99%||3.73%||2.75%||4.53%||5.05%||4.45%||3.76%|
|Unsubsidized loans (grad)||7.05%||6.54%||5.28%||4.30%||6.08%||6.60%||6.00%||5.31%|
|PLUS loans (grad & parent)||8.05%||7.54%||6.28%||5.30%||7.08%||7.60%||7.00%||6.31%|
Federal student loans are issued by the Department of Education, and only students who fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are eligible for these loans. The interest rates on these loans are set once a year and are based on the 10-year Treasury note.
Here’s how interest works for different borrowers:
- Undergraduate students may qualify for Direct Subsidized Loans, which are available for those who have demonstrated financial need. Interest will not accrue on these loans while you are in school and during any deferment periods. Direct Unsubsidized Loans do not have a need-based component, so interest will accrue while you’re in school and during any deferment periods.
- Graduate students may qualify for Direct Unsubsidized Loans or Grad PLUS loans. Direct Unsubsidized Loans have a lower interest rate than Grad PLUS loans. Also, Grad PLUS loans will require a credit check. Interest will accrue on both types of loans while you’re enrolled and during any deferment periods.
- Parents can take out a Parent PLUS loan. To be eligible, you must be the biological or adoptive parent of a dependent undergraduate student and not have an adverse credit history. Unlike other student loans, payments for this loan begin immediately unless you file for deferment. Interest will accrue during all deferment periods.
Current loan origination fees
Federal student loans come with an origination fee deducted from your loan amount before disbursement. This means that the official loan amount will be a bit higher than the funds disbursed to your school.
Here’s an example of how the origination fee works: If you took out a $20,000 subsidized loan, the money disbursed to your school would be $19,788 after deducting the $212 origination fee.
Here are the current and historical origination fees for federal student loans. Note that PLUS loans carry a four-times-greater fee than the other loan types:
|Loan type||2020 –2024||2019 –2020||2018 –2019||2017 – 2018||2016 – 2017||2015 – 2016||2014 – 2015|
|Subsidized loans (undergrad)||1.06%||1.06%||1.06%||1.07%||1.07%||1.07%||1.07%|
|Unsubsidized loans (undergrad)||1.06%||1.06%||1.06%||1.07%||1.07%||1.07%||1.07%|
|Unsubsidized loans (grad)||1.06%||1.06%||1.06%||1.07%||1.07%||1.07%||1.07%|
|PLUS loans (grad & parent)||4.24%||4.24%||4.25%||4.26%||4.28%||4.27%||4.29%|
How Congress sets federal student loan interest rates
Congress passes legislation each year to set interest rates for student loans. The rates apply from July 1 of the first year to June 30 of the second year.
In August 2013, the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act was signed into law, which ties federal student loan interest rates to prevailing market rates.
In their current form, the interest rates for all federal student loans are based on the 10-year Treasury Note auction yield plus a fixed increase.
Current private student loan interest rates
Federal and private student loans have different interest rates. Federal loans often have lower rates because they’re set by the federal government and are not dependent on a borrower’s credit score or income. Private lenders will determine your rate based on your credit score, income (or a cosigner’s), total loan amount, and more.
Rates will also vary depending on whether you’re an undergraduate student, a graduate student, or a parent. Undergraduate students often have the highest interest rates because many have no credit history or income.
Graduate students often get lower rates because they already have a credit history. Parents who have good credit scores and high incomes may qualify for low interest rates when they’re taking out loans on behalf of their children.
Below, you will find private student loan interest rates from several lenders in the industry.
Undergraduate student loan rates
To qualify for an undergraduate private student loan, you generally must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Private lenders will almost always require a cosigner unless the borrower has a good credit score and a stable salary.
Private loans can be used to cover the cost of attendance, including tuition, fees, room and board, and living expenses.
Here are undergraduate student loan rates from several private lenders:
|Lender||Variable (APR)||Fixed (APR)|
|College Ave||0.94% – 12.99%||3.22% – 13.95%|
|Earnest||0.94% – 11.44%||3.24% – 12.78%|
|Sallie Mae||1.87% – 11.97%||3.75% – 12.85%|
|LendKey||2.14% – 11.23%||3.99% – 12.60%|
|Ascent||1.78% – 11.56%||5.17% – 14.96%|
|Citizens Bank||1.86% – 8.47%||3.47% – 9.35%|
To compare your options, check out our picks for the best private student loans.
Find out how to lower your student loan interest rate.
Graduate student loan rates
Graduate private student loans can help you pay for graduate and professional degrees, including medical, law, veterinary, dental, and pharmacy school.
Private lenders are less likely to require a cosigner for graduate students, though adding one may help borrowers qualify for a lower interest rate.
Here are graduate student loan rates from several private lenders:
|Lender||Variable (APR)||Fixed (APR)|
|College Ave||1.99% – 10.97%||3.99% – 11.98%|
|Earnest||1.34% – 11.44%||3.24% – 12.78%|
|LendKey||1.13% – 11.23%||3.50% – 12.60%|
|Ascent||1.79% – 11.12%||5.31% – 14.96%|
|Citizens Bank||2.47% – 7.58%||4.43% – 9.29%|
To compare your options, check out our picks for the best graduate student loans.
Parent student loan rates
Parents who want to pay for their child’s college education can take out a parent student loan, which will be used to cover expenses like tuition, fees, room and board, and more. Parents must have a good credit score and a current source of income to qualify for a parent student loan.
Many lenders do not offer student loans for parents. Instead, parents are able to cosign for a child, so they remain the primary borrower. Here are the two main lenders that offer parent student loans:
|Lender||Variable (APR)||Fixed (APR)|
|College Ave||0.94% – 12.99%||3.24% – 13.98%|
|Citizens Bank||1.97% – 7.06%||3.71% – 9.50%|
To compare your options, check out our picks for the best parent student loans.
Current student loan refinancing interest rates
Refinancing your student loans is a smart option if you can qualify for a lower interest rate, which will help you pay less interest over the life of the loan. Interest rates for student loan refinancing are often lower than rates for private student loans because borrowers become better loan candidates.
Refinancing is only available through private lenders, not the federal government. Federal borrowers who refinance their loans with a private lender will have to give up benefits like income-driven repayment plans, long forbearance options, and student loan forgiveness programs. Another option that helps preserve those benefits is a Direct Consolidation Loan.
Here are the student loan refinance rates from several private lenders:
|Lender||Variable (APR)||Fixed (APR)|
|Earnest||1.74% – 7.99%||2.99% – 7.99%|
|ELFI||1.86% – 6.01%||3.39% – 6.99%|
|Citizens Bank||2.24% – 9.00%||4.29% – 9.50%|
|Splash Financial||1.74% – 9.51%||2.29% – 8.63%|
To compare your options, check out our picks for the best student loan refinance companies.
How to calculate how much interest you will owe
Every month, the interest amount you owe on your loan is recalculated using a daily interest formula based on your total outstanding loan amount:
Interest amount = Outstanding principal balance x Number of days since last payment x Interest rate factor
The interest rate factor is your annual interest rate divided by the number of days in the year. Your loan servicer is responsible for billing you monthly and explaining how your payments are applied to the principal balance.
You can use our student loan payment calculator to see how much your loan will cost in the long run.
>> Read More: How Student Loan Interest Works
Difference between variable and fixed rates
If you are a student or a parent of a student taking out or refinancing a student loan, you should understand the different types of interest rate options that are available.
All federal student loans have fixed rates, which means the rate will not change during the entire loan term.
Private student loans, including refinance loans, may have fixed or variable interest rates. Variable interest rates may change during the loan term, as overall market rates change. This can also result in your monthly payment changing.
Here’s how the interest rate types compare:
|Fixed rates||Variable rates|
|Monthly payments||Same for the life of the loan||May change during the life of the loan|
|Rate change frequency||No change after loan origination||Depends on the lender—rate can change every month, once a quarter or once a year.|
|Student loan types||Federal and private||Only private loans|
Fixed interest rates
The interest rate you pay remains stable over the life of the loan so your monthly payments won’t change until the loan is paid off, forgiven, or refinanced.
You know what your monthly payment will be each month, so it’s easier to budget. Also, if overall rates increase after you take out your loan, it won’t affect you.
The interest rate on a fixed loan might be higher than the introductory rate on a variable loan, so you may pay more money in the short term with a fixed-rate loan.
If you take out a fixed-rate loan when rates are high, those rates are locked in unless you refinance the loan when interest rates drop.
Variable interest rates
Variable rates, which are only offered by private lenders, change over time based on a market rate, such as the LIBOR or the federal funds rate.
The new interest rate applies for the reset period, which can be a month, several months or a year. For example, interest on a variable-rate student loan with a term length of 20 years with an annual reset period would be recalculated every year and would apply for the following 12 months.
Rates might go up or down or remain unchanged depending on economic conditions, the lender’s costs, and prevailing interest rates.
The initial interest rate on a variable loan could be lower. This makes it easier to afford during the first year. In addition, if the base rate remains steady, the overall cost of the student loan over its lifetime might be lower.
Many private student loans with variable rates have annual and lifetime caps on rates, which protects borrowers during times of high inflation.
Predicting your monthly payment amount is harder, which can complicate your budget.
You will pay more with a variable-rate loan if the base rate rises. Caps can help, but some loans have high caps that don’t offer much protection.
>> Read More: Fixed vs. Variable Rate Student Loans
FAQ about student loan interest rates
What is interest?
Interest is a fee you pay to the lender in exchange for receiving a loan, and lenders use interest proceeds to cover the cost of providing the loan. Many lenders offer similar interest rates, but some may charge higher rates because they offer loans to riskier borrowers.
What is a good fixed interest rate for a student loan?
The best fixed interest rate available depends on the borrower’s qualifications and current rates. Both federal and private student loan interest rates depend on overall rates in the market.
However, federal interest rates do not depend on the borrower’s credit score or income, while private interest rates consider those factors. You should compare federal and private rates before taking out a loan to find the best fixed rate.
How does the interest rate affect the total cost of a loan?
The interest rate has a huge impact on both the monthly payment and the total interest paid over the life of the loan. For example, a $50,000 loan with a 4% interest rate and a 10-year term will cost $60,748 in total.
However, if that loan has an 8% interest rate and a 10-year term, the total cost will be $72,797. That’s why it’s crucial to choose the lowest interest rate possible.
How do you find a student loan with the lowest rate?
To find a low interest rate on a student loan, you should compare rates among multiple lenders. You never know which company can offer you a better rate based on your financial profile.
Generally, the shortest repayment term available will result in a lower rate. Lenders may also offer better rates if you have a cosigner. And the lower the loan amount, the lower the interest rate.
Many borrowers have a combination of private and federal loans. If you’re like many students, you may be able to get a low rate with a federal loan, but it may only cover a portion of your tuition. You can then explore private loans—possibly with a higher rate—to cover the rest.