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Student Loans

Union Federal Student Loan Review

  • Four in-school repayment options: immediate, interest-only, flat, or deferred repayment
  • Choose a repayment term of seven, 10, or 15 years with fixed or variable rates  
  • Prequalify with no credit impact
  • Autopay and on-time payment discounts and no fees

The Union Federal private student loan, which is a product of Cognition Financial, is made by Citizens Bank. It’s available to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in an eligible four-year higher education institution in a degree-granting program.  

What sets the Union Federal student loan apart from other private student loans is the customizable experience it offers. Borrowers can choose from several repayment options, term lengths, and fixed or variable rates. However, a cosigner is typically required.

Still, for students and families seeking private student loans, the Union Federal private student loan is worth considering. 

In this review:

How do Union Federal student loans work?

To apply for a Union Federal private student loan, most students will need a creditworthy cosigner, such as a parent, guardian, or grandparent. Applicants can prequalify online to view fixed and variable rates and terms before applying, with no impact to credit scores.

Applicants can select one of four in-school repayment plans while applying. Once approved, the school must certify the loan amount to ensure that it matches the cost of tuition, fees, books, and other education-related expenses. Union Federal then disburses funds to the school.

You must reapply annually, but your approval rate may be higher. Undergraduate borrowers in 2020 had an 86% approval rate when when they applied with a cosigner for a subsequent loan in 2021.   

Cosigners may be released after 36 on-time principal and interest payments if the student meets credit criteria. Following a six-month grace period after graduating or dropping below half time, students enter repayment based on seven, 10, or 15-year terms established during approval.

Rates, terms, and fees

Union Federal offers competitive rates, flexible terms, and benefits, including unemployment deferment. Its most unique attribute is the fact that it charges no fees—including late payment fees. 

By understanding how rates, terms, and fees contribute to your loan pricing, you can make an informed decision when comparing private student loan lenders. Here are the details of Union Federal private loans:

Fixed rates (APR)3.65%12.46% with autopay
Variable rates (APR)6.14%14.59% with autopay
Rate discounts0.25% interest rate reduction for autopay

0.25% interest rate reduction with 36 consecutive on-time payments
Loan amounts$1,000 minimum loan amount

$99,999 annual loan maximum

$180,000 aggregate student loan limit (total amount of student loan debt allowable, including all private and federal student loans)
In-school repayment plansImmediate repayment, interest-only, $25 flat payment, or full deferment options available
Repayment terms7, 10, or 15 years
Grace period6 months
Repayment assistanceDeferment and forbearance in case of unemployment or natural disaster, in 2-month increments, for a maximum period of 12 months 
Cosigner releaseAvailable after 36 on-time principal-plus-interest payments and if borrower meets credit criteria
FeesNo application, origination, missed or late, or prepayment fees
Unique featuresChoice of several options to customize loan

Loans include natural disaster and unemployment protection

What are the eligibility requirements?

Undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at an eligible four-year institution may apply for a Union Federal private student loan. 

Cosigners are recommended. Three of four approved applicants for a Union Federal student loan have a cosigner. Applications are four times more likely to be approved with a cosigner.

Here are the details of the loan’s eligibility requirements:

Eligibility requirementDetails
U.S. citizen or permanent residentU.S. citizens or permanent residents are eligible. 

DACA and international students can also apply with an eligible cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
State of residenceAll 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands
Minimum ageStudents must be the legal age of majority or at least 17 years of age with a cosigner who is the legal age of majority in the cosigner’s state of residence. Every state’s legal age of majority is 18 years except Alabama (19), Nebraska (19, only for wards of the state), and Puerto Rico (21).
Enrolled schoolEnrolled at U.S.-based, Title IV-eligible, public or private not-for-profit schools offering bachelor’s degree programs or higher
Enrollment statusFull- or half-time, but only the immediate repayment option is available for students enrolled less than half-time
Credit scoreNot disclosed
IncomeNot disclosed

How does repayment work?

Union Federal offers four in-school repayment plans, allowing borrowers to choose a plan that fits their needs and budget. 

Here is a breakdown of the Union Federal loan in-school repayment plans:  

Repayment optionHow it worksProsCons
Immediate repaymentPrincipal-plus-interest payments begin 30 – 60 days after final loan disbursement, resulting in full payments while in school.Lowest cost option overallHighest payments while in school
Interest onlyOnly pay the monthly interest charges while in school. Principal and interest payments begin 6 months after graduation or dropping below half-time status.Reduces overall loan costModerate payments while in school
Flat paymentPay a flat $25 per month while enrolled in school. All accrued, unpaid interest is capitalized (added to the loan balance) at the time of repayment. This option is available for loans of $5,000 or more.Low payments while in schoolMinimal reduction of overall loan cost
Full defermentDefer all principal and interest charges while in school at least half-time. Interest accrues during deferment and is capitalized (added to the loan balance) at the time of repayment.No payments while in schoolNo reduction of overall loan cost

Certain plans and terms depend on enrollment and debt-to-income ratio and may not be available to everyone. Union Federal loans do not have prepayment penalties. 

After graduating or dropping below half time, principal and interest payments begin after a six-month grace period for seven, 10, or 15-years, matching the term you selected in your application. The 15-year term is only available for loan amounts of $5,000 or higher. 

Note that making interest-only or flat interest payments won’t reduce the principal balance of your loan, it will just reduce the amount you pay in interest. Here is how monthly payments might look based on 14 months of making interest-only payments in school, a six-month grace period before entering repayment, and no autopay discount.

TermLoan amountAPRMonthly principal + interest paymentTotal loan cost
7 years$10,0007.69%$154.32$12,986.56
10 years$10,0007.69%$118.73$14,247.60
15 years$10,0007.69%$91.08$16,394.40

How can Union Federal improve its private student loan?

Union Federal private student loans offer competitive rates and flexible terms, but the lender could make improvements to expand eligibility and benefits. These include:

  • Expand term lengths beyond seven, 10, or 15 years. College Ave offers four options—five, eight, 10, or 15 years. Earnest offers five—five, seven, 10, 12, or 15 years. More choices allow borrowers to choose payment amounts that work best for them. The availability of a five-year option also saves on interest and reduces the overall cost of their loan.
  • Shorten cosigner release period. Sallie Mae’s undergrad loan offers cosigner release after 12 on-time payments. This can be beneficial for the cosigner to be released of your debt and for borrowers to gain more financial independence.
  • Broaden loan options based on eligibility. Most Union Federal student loan borrowers require a cosigner for approval, limiting availability to students who don’t have access to an eligible cosigner. Lenders, such as Ascent, offer cosigned and non-cosigned options.
  • Lengthen its grace period. The Union Federal six-month grace period is standard with many competitors, but Earnest grants a nine-month postgraduation grace period, giving borrowers more time to get finances in order before full repayment begins.

These enhancements could allow Union Federal student loans to benefit more student borrowers and reach customers it doesn’t yet. Compare lenders based on your situation to choose the best private student loan lender for you.

How have Union Federal private student loans evolved over the years?

Over the years, Union Federal private student loans have expanded availability and loan amounts, and consolidated options. Changes include:

  • Higher loan amounts. Looking at the website as early as 2011, Union Federal offered student loans with a maximum amount of $65,000. Its maximum per year is now $99,999.  
  • Product consolidation. By 2012, it offered separate undergraduate and graduate loan products. Union Federal student loans now serve both student types under one product to simplify eligibility.  

How do Union Federal private student loans compare to other lenders?

We compared Union Federal to loans from many of the best private student loan lenders, such as College Ave, Earnest, and Sallie Mae based on several factors. Here’s how they measure up:  

Union FederalCollege AveEarnestSallie Mae
Our rating4.1 stars5 stars4.7 stars4.8 stars
Best forNo designationBest overall Best for no feesBest for cosigners
Rates (APR)3.65%12.46% with autopay4.44% – 15.32%4.4516.204.50% – 16.20%
Annual loan amount$1,000 – $99,999 $1,000 – cost of attendance $1,000 – 100% of school-certified cost of attendance $1,000 – 100% of school-certified cost of attendance 
Repayment terms7, 10, or 15 years5, 8, 10, or 15 years5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years5 – 15 years
Grace period6 months6 months9 months6 months
View RatesView RatesView RatesView Rates

Comparison of undergraduate student loans.

When comparing loan products, we recommend focusing on what matters most for your goals and needs. 

While Union Federal student loans provide choice and flexibility, College Ave is known for an easy application and loan process. Earnest offers no fees and other borrower protections. Sallie Mae specializes in cosigned loans with paths to independence for borrowers and cosigners.

Are Union Federal student loans funded by a reputable lender?

Union Federal private student loans are a product of Cognition Financial and made by Citizens Bank. Citizens Bank is the lender for the loans.

Limited data exists to determine the reputability of Union Federal. As of June 2023, no reviews specific to Union Federal or Cognition Financial are on major platforms such as Trustpilot, Google, or the business rating site Better Business Bureau.

Citizens Bank is accredited by the Better Business Bureau with a B+ rating, showing a reasonable commitment to resolving customer concerns. 

The lack of reviews specific to the Union Federal student loan product means prospective borrowers must conduct their own thorough research before making a decision.

Does Union Federal have a customer service team?

Potential borrowers can connect with Union Federal student loan specialists at Cognition Financial with questions related to new loan applications, approvals, and disbursement of funds. 

Current borrowers can also contact Cognition Financial about managing payments, billing statements, repayment plans, forbearance requests, and other account maintenance issues. 

Use the following methods to reach out about Union Federal private student loans:

  • Email [email protected]  
  • Call 866–513–8445 (9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern)
  • Mail Cognition Financial, 200 Clarendon Street, 3rd Floor Boston, MA 02116
  • Use the live chat feature on (9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern)

How to apply for a Union Federal private student loan

Applying for a Union Federal private student loan is straightforward. Either the student or cosigner can begin the application and invite the other to apply, enabling you to save time. It also offers prequalification to see potential rates and terms before a hard credit check. 

To apply for a Union Federal student loan, follow these steps:

1. Gather necessary documentation

Having this checklist of items handy before you begin will expedite the application process:

  • Personal information (name, Social Security number, and date of birth)
  • Address (mailing and permanent addresses)
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • School information (name of school, cost of attendance, grade level, and expected graduation date)
  • Loan amount needed and when
  • Income information for the cosigner or student (if the loan is cosigned, income is only needed for the cosigner; income is required for a student applying on their own)

2. Click “apply now” or “qualify in minutes” 

You can apply on Union Federal’s website. Applying and submitting all necessary documentation electronically will expedite the approval and disbursement process.

3. Provide your school and loan information

This includes degree type, your and your cosigner’s state of residence, and the location of your school. When you select your school’s state, a list of eligible schools will populate, and you can select the one you’re attending. 

You will also need to input information such as your enrollment level, year in school, major, academic period, expected graduation date, cost of attendance, estimated financial aid, and requested loan amount.  

Screenshot of Union Federal private student loan application

4. Supply personal information for the student and cosigner

Input your name, citizenship, U.S. Social Security number, date of birth, address, phone number, and email address. On the next screen, you’ll fill in similar information for the cosigner.

Within minutes, your loan decision will appear on the screen. If you are approved, terms and rates will be shown.

Screenshot of Union Federal private student loan application

5. Proceed with the full application

If the terms and rates presented meet your expectations, you can proceed with completing a full application for a Federal Union student loan. To do this, you and your cosigner will need to complete a few additional steps:

  • Review and acknowledge the Application and Solicitation Disclosure, which is presented electronically in the application. 
  • Complete and electronically sign the Applicant Self-Certification form providing cost of attendance and expected financial assistance information. It’s available in the online application. You can also obtain it from your school’s financial aid office.
  • Submit all required documentation. 

Upon completion of these steps, Union Federal will conduct a hard pull of your and your cosigner’s credit.

6. Wait for your school to certify your loan amount

This confirms the loan amount you requested is what’s required to fund your education. It can take time for schools to certify loan amounts, especially around the start of a semester. Check with your school’s financial aid office for the timeline.   

7. Review and accept your finalized loan offer

The information should detail the approved amount, rates, fees, and repayment terms. Your loan funds are sent to your school shortly after.

Remember you must apply for a new loan each academic year you need funding. The Returning Borrower Advantage expedites the process when you apply in subsequent years.

The process to apply for a Union Federal student loan is straightforward, but several steps are involved. Apply early, and submit all required documents electronically for the quickest processing of your student loan. 

What if I’m denied a private student loan from Union Federal?

If denied a Union Federal private student loan, you have options, but it’s best to understand the reasons behind the denial first. 

All lenders are required to notify you in writing with the specific rationale for denial, which may be problems with your credit—for example, a high debt-to-income ratio, little or no credit history, or recently missed payments. 

You may reapply after taking action to improve your application, such as:

  • Provide additional records to verify information. For example, tax records or bank statements can confirm income or debts.
  • Add a cosigner. This can improve your chance of approval if you didn’t apply with one the first time.
  • Pay down high balances or reduce monthly debts. This improves your debt-to-income ratio. A few months of on-time payments can also improve your credit.
  • Explore alternate student loan providers. Some private student loan lenders, such as Funding U and Edly, base approval on future income or academic achievement rather than credit score.

Union Federal FAQ

Are Union Federal student loans private or federal student loans?  

Union Federal offers private student loans, not federal. Private loans typically require a credit check and possibly a cosigner. Interest rates may be higher than federal loans.

Does applying for a Union Federal student loan hurt my credit? 

You can prequalify for a Union Federal student loan without affecting your credit. The lender only conducts a “soft pull” of your credit at that time. 

A “hard inquiry” of your credit is conducted when you apply for a Union Federal student loan. This can lower your score by a few points, but responsible repayment will build it back up over time.

Is a cosigner required for a Union Federal student loan?   

Not always, but it may help you qualify and get a better rate and higher amount. Students or cosigners can begin the Union Federal student loan application, which is convenient. But cosigners are obligated to repay if a borrower can’t, so choose your cosigner carefully. 

Are cosigners allowed to be released from Union Federal student loans?  

Yes, after the borrower meets 36 on-time principal and interest payments and other credit requirements, cosigners can be released from Union Federal student loans. 

What can Union Federal student loans be used for?   

Union Federal student loan funds can be used for approved college costs at an accredited school, including tuition, fees, books, and other expenses. Your school verifies your loan amount doesn’t exceed the expected cost of these items. 

How long does it take to receive funds for a Union Federal student loan?  

Timing of your loan disbursal depends on completing the application steps and obtaining school certification of approved amounts. Applying close to the start of a semester or school year can delay your disbursement. We recommend you apply early to avoid delays.

Can Union Federal student loans be forgiven?

No. Private student loans are ineligible for federal student loan forgiveness or discharge programs. Union Federal offers forbearance in short increments due to unemployment or natural disaster.

Recap of our Union Federal student loans review

Student LoanOur Rating
Union Federal private student loan4.1/5View Rates