Many or all companies we feature compensate us. Compensation and editorial
research influence how products appear on a page.
Student Loans

Student Loans for International Students

International students who want to study in the United States will find securing financial aid more difficult than it is for U.S. residents. However, several international student loans are available.

Compare loans for international students

Company
Best for…
Rating (0-5)
Best international-focused lender
4.6
Best for permanent or temporary residents
4.3
Best for U.S. cosigners
5.0
Best for early cosigner release
4.8
Best for no fees
4.7

International student loans with a cosigner

Adding a cosigner to a private student loan can improve your application and lead to lower rates. For this reason, we recommend international students try to add a cosigner to their loan to ensure the best terms.

Here are several lenders that offer private student loans for international students with a cosigner:

Ascent – Best for eligibility

LendEDU rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • Must have a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Eligible borrowers include U.S. citizens and permanent residents, as well as DACA recipients
  • Get 1% cash back upon graduation
  • Checking your rate doesn’t affect your credit

Ascent is a San Diego-based company that began offering private student loans in 2015. The platform extends student loans to DACA recipients, international students, and U.S.-based students seeking funding for undergraduate and graduate degrees. 

International students need a cosigner to get a student loan through Ascent. If the primary borrower is a U.S. citizen or has U.S. permanent resident status, cosigners can be released from the loan after 12 on-time payments.

Loan terms for international students range from five to 15 years, with in-school interest-only repayment available. Students can defer repayment for up to nine months after leaving school.

Here are details about the loan:

Ascent Cosigned Student Loan
Fixed rates (APR)4.78%12.76%
Variable rates (APR)1.64%9.23%
Rate discount0.25% for automatic payments
Loan amount$2,001* to $200,000
Repayment plansInterest-only, $25 fixed, or deferred
Repayment term5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years

* Minimum of $6,001 for borrowers with a Massachusetts permanent address.


College Ave – Best overall

LendEDU rating: 5 out of 5

  • Must have a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Must have a U.S. Social Security number as a borrower
  • You choose your repayment plan and term

College Ave is a Wilmington, Delaware-based lender that offers student loans to undergraduates, graduates, parents, and those seeking career training. International students with a U.S. Social Security number and a U.S. cosigner can get loans through College Ave.

You can use its student loans to pay for undergraduate or graduate studies, master’s degree programs, medical school, dental school, and law school. Loan terms range from five to 15 years and College Ave offers several repayment options, including interest-only, deferred, and flat payments.

Loans can cover up to 100% of the school-approved cost of attendance.

Here are details about the loan:

College Ave Cosigned Loan
Fixed rates (APR)3.49% – 12.99%
Variable rates (APR)1.19% – 11.98%
Rate discount0.25% for automatic payments
Loan amount$1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
Repayment plansFull, interest-only, $25 fixed, or deferred
Repayment term5, 8, 10, or 15 years

Sallie Mae – Best for cosigners

LendEDU rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Must have a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Eligible borrowers include DACA recipients

Sallie Mae is perhaps one of the best-known names among private student loan lenders. The company was originally founded in 1972 as a federal student loan servicer.

Today, Sallie Mae offers private loans for undergraduate and graduate students and financing for career training. International students can borrow from Sallie Mae if they have an approved cosigner.

Sallie Mae allows for deferred, interest-only, or fixed repayment options while in school and after graduation. International students who achieve permanent residency status can apply for cosigner release after making 12 on-time principal and interest payments and meeting credit score requirements.

Here are details about the loan:

Sallie Mae Cosigned Student Loan
Fixed rates (APR)4.25% – 12.59%
Variable rates (APR)1.13% – 11.23%
Rate discount0.25% for automatic payments
Loan amount$1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
Repayment plansInterest-only, $25 fixed, or deferred
Repayment term5 – 15 years

Earnest – Best for no fees

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Must have a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Borrowers must have a U.S. Social Security number
  • No origination, application, prepayment, or late fees
  • Check your rate without affecting your credit

Earnest is a fintech company headquartered in San Francisco that offers student loans, student loan refinancing, credit cards, and personal loans to eligible borrowers. International students who have a cosigner, a U.S. address, and a Social Security number can apply for student loans with Earnest.

The platform is fee-friendly, with no origination fees or prepayment penalties. Earnest offers some of the lowest interest rates available for private student loans for creditworthy borrowers who enroll in automatic payments.

Once borrowers have made at least six consecutive, on-time payments toward their loans they can apply for the skip-a-payment feature. That benefit allows you to skip one payment toward your loans every 12 months.

Here are details about the loan:

Earnest Cosigned Student Loan
Fixed rates (APR)3.24%12.78%
Variable rates (APR)0.94%11.44%
Rate discount0.25% for automatic payments
Loan amount$1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
Repayment plansFull, interest-only, $25 fixed, or deferred
Repayment term5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years

International student loans without a cosigner

If an international student isn’t able to find a creditworthy cosigner who’s a U.S. citizen or doesn’t want to use a cosigner, you can get private student loans without a cosigner. Here’s a company that offers these loans.

MPOWER Financing – Best no-cosigner loan for international students

LendEDU rating: 4.6 out of 5

  • Students don’t need a cosigner to be approved
  • Available to all international and DACA students from 190+ countries
  • Offers free visa support letters and career strategy services

MPOWER Financing is a private lender that offers fixed-rate student loans for international students attending college in the U.S. The company doesn’t require cosigners, credit history, or collateral on its loans. All degrees and majors are supported.

Factors MPOWER considers to determine eligibility include the school the student will be attending, their expected graduation date, their grades, and any internship or work experience in their field. MPOWER also looks at future earnings, so it monitors whether the student is taking on too much debt.

Loans can be repaid online in any currency, and no prepayment penalties apply. MPOWER offers interest-only payments while in school and during the six-month grace period after graduation. On-time payments can help build U.S. credit history.

Here are details about the loan:

MPOWER Financing Student Loan
Fixed rates (APR)13.98%17.08%
Rate discount0.25% for automatic payments
Loan amount$2,001 – $100,000 (lifetime limit)
Repayment plansInterest-only
Repayment term10 years

Who is considered an international student?

According to UNESCO, an international student is any individual who’s enrolled in and attending school outside the borders of their home country. Colleges and universities may be more specific in their definitions. 

At UC Berkeley, for example, an international student is a non-immigrant visitor who comes to the U.S. temporarily to take classes. Under this definition, a non-immigrant is someone who is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. These students typically have F-1 student visas, though schools may also accept students with other visa statuses, such as H4 or L2.

Why is it hard for international students to get student loans?

U.S. citizens have the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) they can fill out to learn about their financial aid resources. International students don’t have that all-in-one approach because they typically aren’t eligible for federal assistance, which includes federal student loans.

International students generally can’t get federal student loans unless they’re eligible noncitizens, or they or their parents have T non-immigrant status. This status is granted to victims of human trafficking. Department of Education rules also disqualify students with Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) status from receiving federal aid.

Private student loans may be an option for international or DACA students, but there’s a catch. Unlike federal loans, qualification for private student loans often hinges on you or your cosigner’s credit score and income. International students who don’t have a U.S. credit history or a cosigner with a U.S. credit history may find it more difficult to get approved.

For those reasons, 73% of international students in the U.S. rely on resources outside the U.S. to finance their education, such as from family members, their home country’s government or universities, or their own personal funds, according to the Institute of International Education.

Additional financial aid options

Consider these funding options too:

  • Scholarships
  • Financial aid from your school
  • School discounts

Scholarships for international students

The internet is a great resource for finding databases that provide lists of scholarships through private, corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations for international students.

We have many resources dedicated to scholarship offerings. Here is our scholarship guide.

Financial aid from educational institutions

Not many educational institutions provide direct aid to international students, but some will. Typically that aid will be based on academic accomplishments, special skills, talents, or abilities.

Colleges that want to attract top talent across the globe will give direct assistance to international students. Check out our study of which colleges give international students the most financial aid to see some of the best options.

When an international student has a particular college in mind, they should contact the school’s admissions department to see what financial aid options are available.

If an international student is already enrolled in a U.S. university, but they need more financial assistance, they should contact the international student advisor or the financial aid office.

School discounts for international students

International students may save money on education expenses by attending a school that offers tuition reductions or other discounts. These discounts can take the form of need-based tuition waivers or reduced housing rates for international students who are required to live on campus.

Reaching out to the school’s financial aid department can be the best way to find out what discounts, if any, might exist for international students. That’s also an opportunity to ask about any scholarships or grants available to incoming students from other countries. 

How to get started taking out an international student loan

Step 1: Estimate costs

International students planning to attend school in the U.S. should first understand the estimated costs. That includes researching education expenses, such as tuition, fees, and books, as well as daily living expenses for different schools and locations. 

Step 2: Weigh financial aid options

The next step is weighing different options for financial aid, including scholarships, grants, and private student loans. Scholarships and grants don’t need to be repaid, so it’s important to explore those avenues first to minimize the amount borrowed. Many scholarships and grants have deadlines to apply. 

Step 3: If taking out student loans, compare lenders

If student loans are necessary to pay for school, take your time to compare lenders. Find out whether a cosigner is required, how much you can borrow, the interest rates, and what fees may apply. If a cosigner is required for an international student loan, it’s better to know that sooner so you have time to find a suitable candidate. 

Securing financial aid as an international student is challenging, but it’s possible. It’s crucial not to wait until the last minute. Here are more specific student loan resources for international students:

FAQ

Can I use international student loans outside the United States?

No, international student loans are not intended for use outside the United States. After the government sends the funds to the educational institution and all applicable tuition and fees are settled, the remaining funds are meant to cover the student’s living expenses and other educational costs during their studies in the U.S.

Do international student loans cost more than traditional student loans?

Yes, international student loans are more expensive than traditional student loans due to higher interest rates, which are often higher than the rates on federal loans available to U.S. citizens. 

Origination fees might also apply, and currency exchange fees or fluctuating exchange rates can further affect the total cost of the loan.

Private student loans can be an option for international students, but unlike federal loans, eligibility for private student loans depends on the credit score and income of the student or their cosigner. This makes it more challenging for international students without a U.S. credit history—or a cosigner with a U.S. credit history—to get approved.

Are there multiple types of international student loans?

Several international student loans are accessible to those planning to study in the United States or other countries. These include foreign government loans, international private loans, institutional loans, and study abroad loans. These loans are tailored to support international students and aim to cover the expenses of studying abroad.

Are students from every country eligible for international student loans?

Each lender has unique policies, so we recommend checking with several student loan companies.

Recap of the best international student loans

Company
Best for…
Rating (0-5)
Best international-focused lender
4.6
Best for permanent or temporary residents
4.3
Best for U.S. cosigners
5.0
Best for early cosigner release
4.8
Best for no fees
4.7