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Average Student Loan Interest Rate

If you’re planning to take out student loans, or you are comparing private and federal student loans, you’re probably curious as to what the “average student loan interest rate” is.

The average student loan interest rate is different for federal student loans and private student loans. Federal student loan rates are fixed and rates are updated once a year, whereas private student loan rates may change at any time, offer fixed and variable rates, and actual rate will be based on a borrower’s credit history.

Average Private Student Loans Interest Rate 2021

For the period of 2019 through 2020, we estimate the average private student loan interest rate to be 7.12%. This estimate is based on the past two years of publicly available data (primarily weighted average borrower interest rates published in investor reports*).

Current variable private loan APR rates are as low as 1.04%. Rates may be very different from one lender to the next, and usually variable rates have a lower starting point than fixed rates. A creditworthy cosigner may help you qualify for a lower rate.

Compare Featured  Private Student Loan Lenders

  • Interest Rates
    • Fixed as low as: 4.25% APR1
    • Variable as low as: 1.13% APR1
  • Interest Rates
    • Fixed as low as: 3.34% APR1
    • Variable as low as: 1.04% APR1
  • Interest Rates
    • Fixed: 4.24% APR - 12.99% APR2
    • Variable: 1.24% APR - 11.99% APR2
  • Interest Rates
    • Fixed as low as: 3.43% APR1
    • Variable as low as: 2.14% APR1
  • Interest Rates
    • Fixed as low as: 3.49% APR1
    • Variable as low as: 1.05% APR1
  • Interest Rates
    • Fixed as low as: 3.99% APR1
    • Variable as low as: 4.13% APR1

*Investor reports reviewed include, Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, Discover, Citizens, PNC, SunTrust/Truist, Nelnet, Sofi, and College Ave

Average Federal Student Loan Interest Rate

Interest rates on federal student loans are fixed and based on degree level and the type of Direct Loan you borrow. Fortunately, in recent years, rates have dropped annually. See the chart below for current rates in effect for the 2020-2021 academic year. You can also check out our companion article on student loan interest rates dating back to the 2014-15 academic year.

Federal Student Loan Interest Rates for the Past 3 Years:

Academic Year Direct Loans (Undergraduate) Direct Loans (Graduate) Direct PLUS Loans (Parents and Graduate/Professional Students)
 2020-21  2.75%  4.3%  5.30%
 2019-20  4.53%  6.08%  7.08%
 2018-19  5.05%  6.6%  7.6%

Student Loan Refinance Interest Rates: An Option to Lower Your Interest Rate

If you feel you’re interest rate is too high and you would like to lower it, you may achieve that through refinancing your student loans. Refinancing is the only way to lower your interest rate. Refinancing allows you to include one or more private and/or federal student loans into one new loan. Your new interest rate will be determined by current market rates and the creditworthiness of you or your cosigner. The stronger your credit history, the lower the interest rate you will be eligible for. Most young borrowers qualify for lower rates when they apply with a creditworthy cosigner.

This differs from how interest works when you consolidate your federal student loans with the Direct Consolidation Loan Program. The federal consolidation loan program is for federal student loans only. When you consolidate your student loans your new interest rate will be the weighted average interest rate for all of the loans you included in your consolidation.

Best Student Loan Refinance Lenders

  • Interest Rates
    • Fixed as low as: 2.99%1
    • Variable as low as: 2.25%1
  • Loan Min/Max
    • Minimum: $10,000
    • Maximum: No Maximum
  • Repayment Terms: 5, 7, 10, 15, 20 years
  • Degree Requirements: Required completion of degree
  • Interest Rates
    • Fixed as low as: 3.34% APR1
    • Variable as low as: 3.24% APR1
  • Loan Min/Max
    • Minimum: $5,000
    • Maximum: $300K
  • Repayment Terms: 5, 10, or 15 years 2
  • Degree Requirements: Must have graduated from a public or private, not-for-profit, degree granting institution.
  • Interest Rates
    • Fixed as low as: 3.25%
    • Variable as low as: 2.72%
  • Loan Min/Max
    • Minimum: $7,500
    • Maximum: $300K
  • Repayment Terms: 5, 8, 12, or 15 years
  • Degree Requirements: Must hold at least a bachelor's degree
  • Interest Rates
    • Fixed as low as: 2.55%1
  • Loan Min/Max
    • Minimum: $5,000
    • Maximum: $300K
  • Repayment Terms: 5-20 years
  • Degree Requirements: None
  • Interest Rates
    • Fixed as low as: 2.99%1
    • Variable as low as: 2.00%1
  • Loan Min/Max
    • Minimum: $5,000
    • Maximum: $225K
  • Repayment Terms: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years
  • Degree Requirements: Required completion of degree
  • Interest Rates
    • Fixed: 3.49% APR - 6.99% APR1
    • Variable: 1.87% APR - 5.87% APR1
  • Loan Min/Max
    • Minimum: $5,000
    • Maximum: $150K2
  • Repayment Terms: 10 or 20 years
  • Degree Requirements: Students with loans from eligible schools may apply.

Compare Student Loan Rates

If you’re borrowing loans to pay for college, it is always a good idea to compare current interest rates in the federal student loan program against private student loans. This is particularly true when it comes to the PLUS Loan program. Whether you are a graduate/professional student, or a parent looking to borrow on behalf of your son or daughter, interest rates for a Direct PLUS Loan are typically higher than other loan types. And they come with an origination fee.

In comparison, private student loans can be highly competitive with lower rates and zero origination fees. Since both loans do require a credit check, if you are eligible for a loan with a lower rate and better terms, it may be worth taking the time to shop around.

student loan interest rates for 2021

How Student Loan Interest Rates Work

When it comes to federal student loans, the current interest rate is set by Congress and is based on the final 10-year Treasury notes auction held in May, with an added percentage.

When it comes to private student loans, historically most lenders have used the one-month or 3-month LIBOR (London Inter-Bank Offered Rate) as the basis for the interest rates they offer. Some lenders may use the Prime Rate, and you may also start to see the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) used. Whichever index your interest rate is tied to, the lender will add a markup on top of it. The amount of the markup will be based on your credit and other factors. Ultimately, this will determine your Annual Percentage Rate (APR).

To get an idea of how student loan interest adds up on your student loans, we’ve got you covered. We go more in depth here.

Historical Student Loan Interest Rates

For a deeper history on student loan interest rates, we recommend checking out this great resource from the Federal Student Aid website. They track rates as far back as 2006. Understanding historical interest rates may be helpful if you have prior outstanding loans that you’ve lost track of, and you need to understand whether refinancing could save you some money today.

Student Loan Calculator

By using a student loan calculator (such as the one on this website), can give you an estimate of your monthly payment. Simply input the type of loan you have, the estimated loan balance, and your interest rate and loan term if you know them (estimate if you need to). And you’ll notice that we included helpful tips on the right-hand side, along with advanced options at the bottom to add more details or loans.


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