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Student Loans for Graduate School

Most graduate students will need to borrow loans to help pay for their grad school education. There are two types of loans available for graduate students: federal and private.

Best Private Student Loans for Graduate School

Recommendation
Best for Private Loans for Graduate School
Interest Rates

Variable Rates: 1.13% APR - 11.23% APR1

Fixed Rates: 4.25% APR - 12.59% APR1

Repayment Terms

N/A

Recommendation
Best for Private Loans for Graduate School
Interest Rates

Variable rates as low as: 1.04% APR1

Fixed rates as low as: 3.34% APR1

Repayment Terms

5, 8, 10 or 15 years

Recommendation
Best for Private Loans for Graduate School
Interest Rates

Variable rates as low as: 2.14% APR1

Fixed rates as low as: 3.61% APR1

Repayment Terms

5, 7, 10, 12 and 15 years

Recommendation
Best for Private Loans for Graduate School
Interest Rates

Variable rates as low as: 1.05% APR1

Fixed rates as low as: 3.49% APR1

Repayment Terms

N/A

Recommendation
Best for Private Loans for Graduate School
Interest Rates

Variable as low as: 4.13% APR1

Fixed as low as: 3.99% APR1

Repayment Terms

5, 10 or 15 years

Federal student loans for graduate students are generally part of the financial aid package. And these loans come in two types, Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans and Direct PLUS Loans. Both will require you to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). While Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans tend to have lower interest rates, you may be limited in the amount you can borrow each year and in total. The Direct PLUS Loan is known to have the highest interest rate and origination fee in the federal student loan program; and your only annual limit will be your cost of attendance minus other financial aid received. Because of the high interest rate and fees, many students who need additional student loan funds look at private student loans to see what types of loans and rates are available.

Private Student Loans for Graduate Students

Private student loans are another option to pay for graduate school. These loans offer competitive fixed and variable interest rates based on current market trends, with flexible repayment terms, and a variety of benefits unique to each lender such as an interest rate reduction for enrolling in automatic payments.

student loan interest rates for 2021 

If you do not have a strong credit and employment history, you may require a creditworthy cosigner in order to get approved for a private student loan. We recommend looking for a lender that offers cosigner release. This allows you to release the cosigner from your loan after making a series of on-time payments (typically 24 to 48 payments).

Current private student loan interest rates start at 1.04% .

Easily compare private student loan lenders or enter your school below to find a lender that works with your university.

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Private Student Loans for Graduate or Professional School

Some private student loan lenders will offer loan options specifically designed for your field of study. To learn about options based on your field, check out these articles:

Best Private Student Loans for Graduate School

Recommendation
Best for Private Loans for Graduate School
Interest Rates

Variable Rates: 1.13% APR - 11.23% APR1

Fixed Rates: 4.25% APR - 12.59% APR1

Repayment Terms

N/A

Recommendation
Best for Private Loans for Graduate School
Interest Rates

Variable rates as low as: 1.04% APR1

Fixed rates as low as: 3.34% APR1

Repayment Terms

5, 8, 10 or 15 years

Recommendation
Best for Private Loans for Graduate School
Interest Rates

Variable rates as low as: 2.14% APR1

Fixed rates as low as: 3.61% APR1

Repayment Terms

5, 7, 10, 12 and 15 years

Recommendation
Best for Private Loans for Graduate School
Interest Rates

Variable rates as low as: 1.05% APR1

Fixed rates as low as: 3.49% APR1

Repayment Terms

N/A

Recommendation
Best for Private Loans for Graduate School
Interest Rates

Variable as low as: 4.13% APR1

Fixed as low as: 3.99% APR1

Repayment Terms

5, 10 or 15 years

Federal Student Loans for Graduate School

It’s always wise to consider Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans first as these loans come with a low, fixed rate, generous deferment and forbearance terms, and may qualify for federal loan forgiveness or repayment programs.

Direct PLUS Loans or private student loans can be considered if you need to fill in the funding gaps. Students with excellent credit, however, or those with a creditworthy cosigner, should explore private student loan options and compare terms against the Direct PLUS loan. This is because there are origination fees and interest rates on federal loans for graduate school that may be more expensive than the current rates you will find on private student loans.

Current Private Student Loan Interest Rates Current Grad PLUS Loan Interest Rate
1.04% to 14.50% 4.30%

Loan Fees on Graduate Student Loans

Some loans come with fees such as application and origination fees. Fees can impact how much money you actually receive. It’s important to understand and factor in fees when deciding which grad school student loan is right for you.

Federal Student Loan Fees

Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Grad PLUS Loans both have origination fees. This fee is a percentage of the total amount of the loan. You, as the borrower, are responsible for this fee.

The origination fee for a federal student loan is deducted from the total amount of your loan, meaning you will not receive the total amount borrowed. However, you will be responsible for repaying the entire amount borrowed (including the origination fee). The table below highlights the current loan fees for federal student loans.

  Direct Unsubsidized Loan Grad PLUS Loan
Origination Fee* 1.057% 4.228%

*Origination fees are updated yearly by the federal government on October 1.

Private Student Loan Fees

Most private student loan lenders do not charge application or origination fees. That means the amount you borrow will be the amount disbursed to your school. When comparing private student loan lenders, you should look for other fees that may surface, such as late fees.

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How Loan Fees Affect the Total Loan Cost

Loan fees, such as origination fees, are typically a percentage of the total loan amount, and can affect how much money you actually receive to pay for school. An origination fee is deducted from the amount you’re borrowing before your loan is disbursed, meaning the amount of money you ultimately receive will be the total amount you borrowed minus the origination fee.

Example:

Amount Borrowed Origination Fee Amount Received
$10,000 4% $9,600
$20,000 4% $19,200

Be sure to factor in loan fees when figuring out how much you need to borrow.

Alternatives to Student Loans for Graduate School

Student loans are not the only option when it comes to paying for graduate school. Aside from grants and scholarships, and other forms of gift aid, you can explore financing your education through an income share agreement, or working for the college as a research or teaching assistant.

Income Share Agreements

An income share agreement is essentially a contract that allows you to borrow money to pay for school in exchange for a percentage of your future salary. When you borrow money via an income share agreement, you will not be charged interest. Instead, you commit to paying a percentage of your future salary for a set period of time, typically no more than ten years.

Peer-to-Peer Lending

Peer-to-Peer loans are an option for students struggling to find a creditworthy cosigner. There are two types of peer-to-peer loans: friends and family loans, and stranger-to-stranger loans. Sites that support peer-to-peer lending provide formal documentation for these loans. Your credit score may play a factor in your ability to get a peer-to-peer loan. Another thing to consider with a peer-to-peer loan is the lack of benefits. The interest rate on a peer-to-peer loan can be quite high, and family and friend peer-to-peer loans are unlikely to qualify for the student loan interest deduction. Learn more about peer-to-peer loans.

Tuition Payment Plans

Ask your university if they offer a tuition payment plan. This allows you to make a series of payments toward your tuition, rather than one lump sum all at once. If you are working while in school, this alternative may allow you to avoid student loans altogether. Contact your school’s financial aid office for more information.

Research and Teaching Assistantships

Many colleges offer graduate level research or teaching assistantships. These opportunities may come with a stipend or tuition discount. Not only can an assistantship offset the cost of your education, but it can be a great resume builder for future employment after graduation.

Repayment Options for Private Graduate School Loans

Private student loan lenders provide options to begin making payments immediately, or to make interest-only payments while you’re in-school, or to defer repayment until six months after you graduate.

The repayment terms for a graduate school private student loan will vary by lender. Typically, you can choose from a 5, 10, or 15-year repayment term, with no penalties for paying your loan off early. Most lenders do not offer an income-driven repayment option (like the federal loan program). And student loan forgiveness programs are not offered for private student loans.

Refinance Undergraduate Student Loans

Something to consider when exploring student loans for graduate school is refinancing your undergraduate student loans. If you are someone who is working while going to grad school, and you were planning to make payments on your undergraduate loans anyway, this could help simplify your life. It would allow you to take advantage of today’s lower rates, while reducing your monthly payments. Current private student loan refinancing rates are as low as [INSERT SHARED VARIABLE]. Plus, you can always refinance any new loans you obtain in grad school with a previously refinanced loan, if that is an option you want to explore.

You also have the option of combining private student loans and federal student loans together. However, it’s worth noting that when refinancing federal student loans with a private student loan lender you will lose federal loan benefits, including access to income-based repayment, public service loan forgiveness, and generous deferment and forbearance periods offered by the Direct Loans program.

Could student loan refinancing save you money?

 

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