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Best Part-Time Student Loans Of February 2024

Part-time students have somewhat limited options when it comes to student loans. You need to be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for a federal direct loan. Many private lenders also require that student borrowers go to school half-time or full-time.

CNBC Select analyzed more than a dozen private student loan providers based on enrollment requirements, repayment terms and extra benefits to determine the best options for part-time students. (See our methodology for more information on how we made this list.)

Best part-time student loans

Best for flexible terms

College Ave

  • Eligible borrowers

    Undergraduate and graduate students, parents

  • Loan amounts

    $1,000 minimum; maximum up to cost of attendance

  • Loan terms

  • Loan types

  • Borrower protections

    Deferment, forbearance and grace period options available

  • Co-signer required?

    Only for international students

  • Offer student loan refinancing?

Pros

  • High loan amount
  • Flexible repayment terms
  • Variable and fixed rates, so you can choose
  • Borrowers have hardship protections
  • No co-signer required for U.S. students
  • Offers co-signer release
  • No origination, application or prepayment fees
  • 0.25% interest rate discount for autopay
  • Offers student loan refinancing
  • Accepts in-school payments

Cons

  • Non-cosigned loans tend to charge higher interest rates
  • Co-signer release can’t be made until half of repayment term has passed

Who’s this for? College Ave is an excellent choice for part-time students seeking flexible terms and affordable rates. You can borrow up to the full cost of attendance.

Standout benefits: College Ave charges no origination, application or prepayment fees. Plus, you get plenty of flexibility with your loan. You can choose a loan term that works best for you and a fixed or variable rate. There’s also a 0.25% rate discount if you sign up for autopay.

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Best for low interest rates

Sallie Mae Student Loan

  • Eligible borrowers

    Undergraduate and graduate students, borrowers seeking career training

  • Loan amounts

    $1,000 minimum; maximum up to cost of attendance

  • Loan terms

    Range from 10 to 15 years

  • Loan types

  • Borrower protections

    Deferment and forbearance options available

  • Co-signer required?

  • Offer student loan refinancing?

Pros

  • High loan amount
  • Variable and fixed rates, so you can choose
  • Borrowers have hardship protections
  • No co-signer required
  • Offers co-signer release
  • No origination, application or prepayment fees
  • 0.25% interest rate discount for autopay
  • Accepts in-school payments

Cons

  • Non-cosigned loans tend to charge higher interest rates
  • Doesn’t offer student loan refinancing

Who’s this for? Sallie Mae stands out for offering part-time students, including those enrolled less than half-time, studying abroad and online students, competitive interest rates and flexible repayment terms.

Standout benefits: Sallie Mae student loans come with no origination, application or prepayment fees. Borrowers can take advantage of a 0.25% autopay rate discount and opt to start repaying their loans while still in school.

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Best for half-time students

Earnest

  • Eligible borrowers

    Undergraduate and graduate students, parents, half-time students, international and DACA students

  • Loan amounts

    $1,000 minimum (or up to state); maximum up to cost of attendance

  • Loan terms

  • Loan types

  • Borrower protections

  • Co-signer required?

  • Offer student loan refinancing?

Pros

  • Applicants with fair credit can qualify
  • High loan amount
  • Variable and fixed rates, so you can choose
  • Borrowers have hardship protections
  • No co-signer required
  • No origination or prepayment fees
  • 0.25% interest rate discount for autopay
  • Allows qualified borrowers to skip one payment every 12 months and make it up later
  • Offers student loan refinancing
  • Accepts in-school payments

Cons

  • Non-cosigned loans tend to charge higher interest rates
  • No co-signer release option available
  • Variable rates not available everywhere

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 5.19% APR to 9.99% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 5.72% APR to 9.99% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. The maximum rate for your loan is 9.99% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95%. Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account.

Who’s this for? Earnest provides highly competitive student loan terms that you can customize to tailor your loan to your financial needs. However, you need to be enrolled at least half-time to qualify.

Standout benefits: Earnest offers student loans with no origination or prepayment fees. You can also qualify for a 0.25% interest rate discount if you set up autopay. The lender provides a 100% rate match guarantee, meaning it will match any rate you get from a different lender

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Best for repayment term options

Ascent® Funding

  • Eligible borrowers

    Qualifying undergraduate juniors and seniors, graduate students

  • Loan amounts

    Up to $200,000 for undergraduate and $400,000 for graduate loans

  • Loan terms

  • Loan types

  • Borrower protections

    Deferment and forbearance options available

  • Co-signer required?

  • Offer student loan refinancing?

Pros

  • Considers borrowers with no credit
  • High loan amount
  • Variable and fixed rates, so you can choose
  • Borrowers have hardship protections
  • No co-signer required
  • Offers co-signer release
  • No origination, application or prepayment fees
  • Up to 1% interest rate discount for autopay
  • 1% cash back rewards
  • Accepts in-school payments

Cons

  • Non-cosigned loans tend to charge higher interest rates
  • Doesn’t offer student loan refinancing

Who’s this for? Ascent offers six repayment terms — more than any other lender on our list — making it a great option for those looking to customize their repayment term options.

Standout benefits: Ascent charges no origination, application or prepayment fees. Applicants approved for a Non-Cosigned Outcomes-Based Loan can also get a 1% autopay discount, while all credit-based loans are eligible for a 0.25% autopay discount. If you enroll in autopay, you may also qualify for the lender’s 1% Cash Back Reward program when you graduate.

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More on our top part-time student loans

College Ave

College Ave is a fintech lender that offers customizable private student loans for undergraduate and graduate students through Firstrust Bank, First Citizens Community Bank or M.Y. Safra Bank.

Part-time student loan eligibility

The lender offers part-time student loans to students attending an eligible degree-granting school.

Loan amounts

Up to 100% of the cost of attendance

Loan terms

5, 8, 10 or 15 years

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Sallie Mae

Once a government entity servicing federal student loans, all Sallie Mae loans taken out now are private. It offers loans for undergraduate and graduate degree programs, as well as for professional training.

Part-time student loan eligibility

The lender offers part-time student loans, including those for students attending less than half-time, online or abroad. Students who aren’t U.S. citizens or permanent residents can also be eligible.

Loan amounts

Up to 100% of the cost of attendance

Loan terms

10, 15 years

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Earnest

Earnest is a fintech lender providing personal loans and student loans for undergraduate and graduate students through Earnest Operations, One American Bank or Finwise Bank.

Part-time student loan eligibility

You need to be enrolled at least half-time to qualify for a student loan with Earnest.

Loan amounts

Up to 100% of the cost of attendance

Loan terms

5, 7, 10, 12 and 15 years

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Ascent

Ascent is a private online lender that offers student loans for undergraduate and graduate students. To qualify as a half-time student, you’ll likely need a cosigner for your loan.

Part-time student loan eligibility

You may qualify for Ascent’s Cosigned Credit-Based Loan if you’re enrolled at least half-time at an eligible institution. Alternatively, if you’re enrolled half-time in a degree-seeking program and within 9 months of graduation, you may qualify for the Non-Cosigned Outcomes-Based Loan — an option for students with no credit history.

Loan amounts

Up to $200,000 for undergraduate loans and $400,000 for graduate loans

Loan terms

5, 7, 10, 12, 15 and 20 years

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FAQs

Can I get a federal student loan as a part-time student?

You need to be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for a federal direct student loan.

Can I get a student loan without being full-time?

You might be eligible for federal student loans if you’re enrolled at least half-time and private loans from some lenders if you’re enrolled less than half-time.

What is considered half-time for student loans?

Generally, you’re considered a half-time student if you’re registered for at least six credits per semester — or two to three classes.

Can I defer my student loans if I’m a part-time student?

You can apply for deferment if you have federal student loans. Not all private student loan lenders offer deferment, and terms may vary.

Bottom line

If you’re a part-time student, it’s wise to compare lenders and pay attention to eligibility terms when shopping for a student loan — especially if you’re enrolled less than half-time and don’t qualify for a federal loan. Once you identify a few lenders you may qualify with, compare their rates and terms to find the best offer for you.

Why trust CNBC Select?

At CNBC Select, our mission is to provide our readers with high-quality service journalism and comprehensive consumer advice so they can make informed decisions with their money. Every student loan review is based on rigorous reporting by our team of expert writers and editors with extensive knowledge of student loan products. While CNBC Select earns a commission from affiliate partners on many offers and links, we create all our content without input from our commercial team or any outside third parties, and we pride ourselves on our journalistic standards and ethics. See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best part-time student loans.

Our methodology

To determine which private student loans are the best for borrowers, CNBC Select analyzed and compared private student loan funding from national banks, credit unions and online lenders. We narrowed down our ranking by only considering those that offer part-time student loans with competitive rates and terms.

While the companies we chose in this article consistently rank as having some of the market’s lower interest rates, we also compared each company on the following features:

  • Broad availability: All of the companies on our list offer undergraduate and graduate private student loans, and they all offer variable and fixed interest rates to choose from
  • Flexible loan terms: Each company provides a variety of financing options that borrowers can customize based on their monthly budget and how long they need to pay back their student loan. Each company also allows borrowers to start repaying their student loans while still in school, ultimately saving them money
  • No origination or signup fee: None of the companies on our list charge borrowers an upfront “origination fee” for taking out their loan
  • No early payoff penalties: The companies on our list do not charge borrowers prepayment penalties for paying off loans early
  • Streamlined application process: We made sure companies offered a fast online application process
  • Autopay discounts: All of the companies listed offer an autopay interest rate discount
  • Private student loan protections: Each company on our list offers some type of financial hardship protection for borrowers
  • Loan sizes: The above companies offer private student loans in an array of sizes, all the way up to the cost of college attendance. Each company advertises its respective loan sizes, and completing a preapproval process can give borrowers an idea of what their interest rate and monthly payment would be
  • Credit requirements/eligibility: We took into consideration the minimum credit scores and income levels required if this information was available
  • Customer support: Every company on our list provides customer service available via telephone, email or secure online messaging. We also opted for lenders with an online resource hub or advice center to help borrowers educate themselves about student loans in general

Note that the rates and fee structures for private student loans are not guaranteed forever; they are subject to change without notice and they often fluctuate per the Fed rate. Choosing a fixed-rate APR will guarantee that one’s interest rate and monthly payment will remain consistent throughout the entire term of the loan.

A borrower’s interest rate depends on their credit score, income, debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, savings, payment history and overall financial health. To take out private student loans, lenders will conduct a hard credit inquiry and request a full application, which could require proof of income, identity verification, proof of address and more.

Catch up on CNBC Select’s in-depth coverage of credit cardsbanking and money, and follow us on TikTokFacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.



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