The Best Student Loans of May 2022

College costs are overwhelming for a lot of families. So students turn to student loans to cover them. Most students, following expert recommendations, start with federal student loans, but those aren’t always enough to cover costs.

When federal student loans don’t cut it, you can turn to private student loan lenders to fill in the gap.

Unlike federal student loans, private student loans offer a variety of options for interest rates, loan amounts and terms that could make picking one daunting. So we’ve pulled together a list of some of the best student loans available to make it easier for you to compare and vet your options.

Federal student loans have been in the news a lot lately as the U.S. Education Department has

Keep reading below the table for more details on every lender, plus all the information you need to find the college funding plan that’s right for you and your family.

Interest rates accurate as of late April 2022 and subject to change. Variable rates listed are margins added to a base rate such as LIBOR or SOFR, which could add around 0.30% to 1%.

Best Student Loans at a Glance

Lender Variable APR with Autopay Fixed APR with Autopay Loans for
Credible 0.94% – 11.98% 3.02% – 14.08% Undergrad and grad, refinancing
Earnest Starting at 0.94% Starting at 2.99% Undergrad and grad
College Ave 0.94% – 11.98% 3.24% – 12.99% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing
Sallie Mae 1.13% – 11.23% 3.50% – 12.60% Undergrad, grad and career training
SoFi 1.05% – 11.78% 3.47% –11.16% Undergrad and grad, refinancing
Ascent .47% – 11.31% 4.36% – 12.75% Undergrad, grad, career training and bootcamp
LendKey Starting at 1.57% Starting at 3.99% Undergrad and grad, refinancing
Citizens Bank n/a 3.48% – 10.78% Undergrad and grad, refinancing
PNC Bank Starting at 1.09% Starting at 2.99% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing
Purefy 1.74% – 7.24% 2.43% – 7.94% Refinancing
Sparrow 0.99% – 11.98% 2.99% – 12.99% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing
Student Loan Authority n/a 2.99% – 4.61% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing
Chicago Student Loans n/a 7.53% – 8.85% Undergrad (juniors and seniors)
Funding U n/a 7.49% – 12.99% Undergrad
Discover 1.79% – 11.09% 3.99% – 11.59% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing
Splash Financial 1.74 – 8.27% 1.99% – 8.27% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Credible

Best for Comparing Loan Rates

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Compares rates from top lenders
  • See multiple offers without hard credit check
  • Variable APR as low as 0.94%

Through Credible’s loan marketplace, you can fill out an application to see pre-qualified rates for multiple lenders in one place. Select options that work for you, like deferred or interest-only payments while you’re in school, fixed or variable rates, and loan terms that fit your plan. Once you choose a loan offer, you can finish your application and sign your loan agreement with the lender directly.

Credible

Variable APR

0.94% – 11.98%

Fixed APR

3.02% – 14.08%

Loans for

Undergrad and grad, refinancing

Earnest

Best for Flexible Repayment Options

5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • 9-month grace period
  • Skip one payment/year
  • Pay monthly or every two weeks

Earnest offers an easy-to-use, modern platform to find loans for undergrad, grad school and professional degrees with a nine-month grace period before beginning repayment after school. Loans come with an option to defer one payment every 12 months with no extra fees or interest. Apply online, and get an offer within 72 hours.

Earnest

Variable APR

Starting at 0.94%

Fixed APR

Starting at 2.99%

Loans for

Undergrad and grad, refinancing

College Ave

Best for Affordable In-School Repayment

3.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Variable APR as low as 0.94%
  • Parent and cosigned loans available
  • 4 repayment options

College Ave is a mainstay in student loans and refinancing. Apply for loans to cover undergrad, grad and professional degrees, and career training programs. The online application is quick and easy, and borrowers tout the company’s customer service, so you’ll be on top of your loan from application to repayment. Choose how you repay while you’re in school to save money and fit your budget.

College Ave

Variable APR

0.94% – 11.98%

Fixed APR

3.24% – 12.99%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Sallie Mae

Best for College Financial Planning

2 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Faster applications for returning borrower
  • Scholarships available
  • Credit cards and banking options

Sallie Mae is a private lender and platform for financial products for students. The business no longer originates or services federal loans, as it’s most known for. Apply for private student loans, credit cards and savings accounts designed for students. With Multi-Year Advantage, returning borrowers have fast applications and high approval rates to make it easier to get your money each year.

Sallie Mae

Variable APR

1.13% – 11.23%

Fixed APR

3.50% – 12.60%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training

SoFI

Best for SoFi Banking Clients

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • No fees
  • Unemployment protection
  • Earn rewards to repay loans faster Summary

SoFi is well known for student loan refinancing, and it offers other types of loans including in-school student loans with no hidden fees. As a SoFi member, you get access to perks, including subscriptions to products like Grammarly, Evernote and Coursera, to support your education. With unemployment protection, you get forbearance on loans for up to three-month increments if you lose your job.

SoFi

Variable APR

1.05% – 11.78%

Fixed APR

3.47% –11.16%

Loans for

Undergrad and grad, refinancing

Ascent

Best for Graduated Repayment

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Graduated repayment available
  • Hardship repayment options
  • Bootcamp loans available

Ascent offers student loans and scholarships for your full academic career. Apply online with no application fees to see your prequalified rates without a hard credit check. Use loans to pay for everything from a traditional undergrad or grad program to career training and even career-boosting bootcamps.

Ascent

Variable APR

1.47% – 11.31%

Fixed APR

4.36% – 12.75%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad, career training and bootcamp

LendKey

Best for Loan Reconnaissance

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Work with community banks and CUs
  • Student loans and refinancing options
  • Rates as low as 1.57%

LendKey is a student loan servicer and a platform for finding the best student loan and refinancing options from partner community banks and credit unions. LendKey’s platform streamlines the process, so you get the benefit of working with a community-oriented institution without the headache of multiple application processes.

LendKey

Variable APR

Starting at 1.57%

Fixed APR

Starting at 3.99%

Loans for

Undergrad and grad, refinancing

Citizens Bank

Best for Citizens Bank Customers

3 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Loyalty discounts
  • Cosigner release option
  • Multi-Year Approval

Citizens Bank is an established financial institution with more than 40 years of experience providing student loans and other financial services. With multi year approval, you can get approved for new loans year after year with a faster application and no hard credit check. Citizens Bank customers can get an interest rate discount up to 0.25 percentage points.

Citizens Banks

Variable APR

n/a

Fixed APR

3.48% – 10.78%

Loans for

Undergrad and grad, refinancing

PNC

Best for Undergraduate Loans

2.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Established traditional bank
  • Cosigner release option
  • Student loans and refinancing options

PNC Bank is one of the largest banks in the United States, with nearly 200 years of experience in financial services. Student loans and refinancing are among its vast services. The PNC Solution Loan is designed specifically for undergraduates, to bridge the gap when federal student loans don’t cover all your expenses. It also offers graduate and professional loans.

PNC Bank

Variable APR

Starting at 1.09%

Fixed APR

Starting at 2.99%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Purefy

Best for Refinancing Student Loans

3 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Student and parent loan refinancing
  • Compare multiple lenders
  • No hard credit check

Purefy is for anyone out of school, repaying student loans and looking for ways to save money. Use the platform to compare student loan refinancing options from multiple lenders side-by-side. The platform is free to use, and you can see prequalified rates in minutes. You can refinance private or federal loans through its partner lenders.

Purefy

Variable APR

1.74% – 7.24%

Fixed APR

2.43% – 7.94%

Loans for

Refinancing

Sparrow

Best for Easy Student Loan Repayment

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Compare offers from multiple lenders
  • App to automate loan repayment
  • Manage private and federal loans

Sparrow is a platform for student loans, refinancing and repayment in one place. You can fill out a single application to see prequalified offers from multiple partner lenders for private loans or refinancing. Then use the app to manage and automate repayment of your private and federal student loans in one place.

Sparrow

Variable APR

0.99% – 11.98%

Fixed APR

2.99% – 12.99%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority

Best for Income-Driven Repayment

5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Income-based repayment available
  • Fixed interest rates
  • Less-than-halftime students eligible

RISLA is a nonprofit organization offering student loans and refinancing for borrowers all over the U.S. Its loans have more borrower protections than most private student loans: You have income-driven repayment options, a fixed interest rate and two repayment terms to choose from (10 or 15 years). Limited loan forgiveness is even available for students who complete internships.

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority

Variable APR

n/a

Fixed APR

2.99% – 4.61%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Chicago Student Loans

Best for Equitable Lending

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Merit-based approval and interest rates
  • No cosigner needed
  • Income-based repayment options

Chicago Student Loans by A.M. Money works with limited schools around the Midwest, but if your school is eligible, this is a great option for equitable lending. Approval and interest rates are determined based on your academic achievement, not your credit or income. And income-based repayment plans are available if you can’t afford your monthly payment.

Chicago Student Loans

Variable APR

n/a

Fix APR

7.53% – 8.85%

Loans for

Undergrad (juniors and seniors)

Funding U

Best for Merit-Based Lending

5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Approval by GPA and non-credit factors
  • No cosigner needed
  • More than 1,000 eligible schools

Funding U makes undergraduate loans based on a student’s GPA, not their family’s credit history. It uses a credit check to set interest rates, but also factors in your GPA and year in school — the rate goes down as you progress nearer to graduation! Funding U works with more than 1,460 nonprofit colleges and universities.

Funding U

Variable APR

n/a

Fixed APR

7.49% – 12.99%

Loans for

Undergrad

Discover

Best for Rewards for Good Grades

3.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • No origination or late fees
  • Cash reward for good grades
  • Variable APR as low as 1.79%

In addition to its full suite of financial services, Discover offers student loans for undergrads, grad students and professional degrees with no origination or late fees. You’ll get rewarded for good grades: Get a 1% cash reward for each new loan if you have a GPA of at least 3.0 for the term(s) the loan covers.

Discover

Variable APR

1.79% – 11.09%

Fixed APR

3.99% – 11.59%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Splash Financial

Best for Refinancing Undergrad and Med School Loans

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Compare offers from multiple lenders
  • No origination fees or prepayment penalties
  • Exclusive interest rates from partner lenders

Splash Financial lets you compare in-school student loans and student loan refinancing (and personal loans) from multiple lenders with a simple and quick online application. In addition to its search function, Splash partners with its lenders to offer exclusive interest rates — with fixed rates as low as 1.99% — to help you get the best deal possible.

Splash Financial

Variable APR

1.74 – 8.27%

Fixed APR

1.99% – 8.27%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Types of Student Loans

The first thing you need to know before applying for any student loans is the difference between federal and private student loans. These two types of loans are treated differently and offer significantly different options for repayment and forgiveness down the line, so know what you’re signing up for before you borrow.

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are backed by the U.S. government and make up the vast majority of student loans borrowed every year in the country.

Application: You apply for federal loans along with other types of federal student aid for college through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a form you fill out every year to demonstrate your family’s financial situation. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) approves basic undergraduate loans and grants based on financial need, not creditworthiness, so students can apply for federal financial aid without a cosigner.

Types of loans: The government makes four types of student loans: Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, Direct PLUS for parents or graduate students, and Federal Perkins Loans for students with exceptional financial need. It also awards grants and work study awards based on financial need. PLUS loans are granted based on creditworthiness, but might still be easier to get than some private loans.

Interest rates: Federal student loan interest rates are standard and not based on a borrower’s credit history. Congress sets them each year for loans disbursed that year, and you keep that rate for the life of your loan. For example, the interest rate for 2021 was 3.73% for Direct undergraduate loans, 5.28% for graduate student loans and 6.28% for PLUS loans.

Repayment plans: The required repayment for federal student loans starts six months after leaving school (or going less than half time), and the standard repayment plan splits monthly payments evenly over 10 years. Subsidized loans don’t accrue interest while you’re in school, while unsubsidized loans do.

Federal student loans are originated and serviced by private institutions, but they’re backed by a guarantee from the federal government, so ED sets repayment terms. You can opt into a graduated payment plan or income-driven repayment, both which would extend your time to repay and could give you a more affordable monthly payment (as little as $0).

Only federal loans are eligible for forgiveness under programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness and for national forbearance periods like we’ve seen during the pandemic. The pause on loan payback has been extended six times since the start of the pandemic.

Refinancing options: Even though you receive one lump payment (if you get a refund) each semester, you might have multiple student loans to your name. You can combine them with a Direct Consolidation Loan, a student loan consolidation option creates one balance and one monthly payment, and sets the interest rate at the average of all the loans. This isn’t a money-saving step, but could make repayment simpler.

You can also refinance federal student loans using a private refinancing option, which could save you money if you have strong credit and can keep up with payments. This would pay off your federal loan balances and replace them with a private loan. It removes the repayment and forgiveness options that come with federal loans.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are consumer loans made by private banks, credit unions and financial institutions. They’re treated differently from other types of private loans, but don’t come with as much flexibility as federal loans.

Application: You apply for private student loans directly with the lender or servicer providing the loan. Lenders approve loans based on creditworthiness, just like other credit products, so you have to have a strong credit history or apply with a creditworthy cosigner to be approved. Most (but not all) lenders include an option to release the cosigner after a few years of steady payments.

Types of loans: Private student loan lenders typically offer student loans for undergraduate students, graduate students and professional degrees. Some also offer loans for career training or alternative education like bootcamps. The loans all offer the same basic terms, but interest rates and loan amounts usually vary based on the degree covered.

Interest rates: Private student loan interest rates are set based on creditworthiness and can range from less than 1% to 12% or more depending on the prime rate. Fixed rates are set when you take out a loan and stay the same for the life of the loan, while variable interest rates fluctuate up and down when the Fed adjusts the prime rate.

Repayment plans: Private lenders don’t offer the same amount of protection in repayment as the federal government, but they usually offer a variety of repayment options so you can choose a plan that helps you save money without being overwhelmed by payments. You usually get to choose whether to pay off interest and/or principal while in school, or defer all payments until six months or more after school.

Many private lenders offer forbearance options of a few months at a time, so you can pause payments due to financial hardship without defaulting on your loan. They don’t, however, offer income-driven repayment, so your monthly payment is unaffected by your ability to pay it.

Private student loans aren’t eligible for forgiveness under federal plans, but you might be able to discharge them in bankruptcy under limited circumstances.

Refinancing options: If your financial situation improves, you can apply to refinance your student loans with the same or a different private lender. This pays off your existing loans and replaces them with a new loan with better terms, like a lower interest rate or lower monthly payments.

Should You Take out a Federal or Private Student Loan?

Nearly every expert will tell you to use private student loans as your last resort to pay for school. First exhaust free funding, like grants, scholarships and work study. Then take on federal student loans. Then, if your costs aren’t covered, take out private student loans to fill the gap.

That’s because private loans are the riskiest of all those options.

Federal student loans may be subsidized to save on interest, and they come with flexible repayment plans that offer relief when your income is low. And they’re eligible for forgiveness for student loan borrowers who qualify. Most private loans don’t have those options.

However, private student loans could come with significantly lower interest rates than federal student loans if you have good credit. Federal loans come with standard rates between 3% and 7% and don’t reward good credit (or punish bad credit).

After exhausting free funding, the most ideal route is to borrow a subsidized federal loan — which won’t accrue interest while you’re in school — then consider refinancing once the repayment period starts, you’ve built a strong credit history and feel confident in your ability to make monthly payments for the term of the new loan.

Even most private student loan lenders encourage borrowers to look into federal funding before taking out a private loan while you’re in school. They’re generally designed to fill gaps for students who aren’t eligible for enough in federal student loans to cover their costs to attend college.

Student Loan Costs to Consider

When you evaluate private student loan offers, you’ll probably focus on the interest rate, because that has a significant impact on the long-term cost of the loan. But there are other costs to consider.

Before accepting any loan offer or signing the agreement, make sure you know how much you’ll pay (if anything) in these common costs:

  • APR: Annual percentage rate is commonly called the interest rate (though they’re a little different). It’s usually the most prominently advertised feature of student loans. Student loan interest rates tend to fall between 3% and 11% and can be fixed or variable — the latter means they’ll change with the prime rate. A higher credit score can get you a lower interest rate and vice versa.
  • Origination fee: Some lenders charge a fee to receive your loan, though that’s less common with student loans than other types of loans. Origination fees are usually around 2% or 3% of the loan amount. They come out of the amount disbursed to the school, so you likely won’t notice them unless you’re very particular about math.
  • Late fee: Most loan agreements come with a fee for late payments, usually a percentage of the payment due. Many student loan lenders are doing away with late fees and building in options for flexible repayment, so shop around to compare your options!

What Is a Cosigner?

A cosigner is someone who shares the responsibility of a loan with the borrower. If you — the borrower — can’t qualify for a loan on your own because of bad credit or no credit, you could apply with a cosigner with good credit to qualify.

You receive the funds, but you both bear responsibility for repaying the loan, and repayment or default impacts both credit scores.

Cosigners are common for private student loans, because many people entering college are young and have almost no credit history. You can cosign with a parent, guardian or other creditworthy person, who basically guarantees the loan in case you don’t repay.

Student loans often come with an option for cosigner release, so the cosigner doesn’t have to stay tied to the loan for years after the student’s left school and gone off on their own. Cosigners can usually be released after around 12 to 36 months of on-time payments, with proof of the borrower’s income.

Who Can Take out a Private Student Loan?

Any student can usually apply for a student loan from a private lender, but creditworthiness determines whether you’ll be approved.

Lenders generally have basic requirements for student loans, as well, including:

  • You must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting institution.
  • You must be the age of majority in your state (usually 18 or 19).
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or resident.

Some lenders make exceptions for these, though. For example, Ascent offers a Bootcamp Loan, which wouldn’t come with the enrollment requirement. Some lenders also make loans for international students who aren’t U.S. residents.

How to Get a Private Student Loan

Follow these steps to apply for a private student loan.

  • Weigh your options. Before turning to private loans, fill out a FAFSA to see your options for federal financial aid. This doesn’t commit you to taking out a federal loan, and it has no affect on your credit score; it just gives you all the information you need to make a decision. If federal aid won’t cover your costs, look into private loans.
  • Find a cosigner. If you don’t have strong credit, get a cosigner on board before you apply. Use a site like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma to check your credit score and history for free to see where you stand.
  • Get pre-qualified. Lenders let you fill out a little information about yourself — usually all online — and run a soft credit check to give you an idea of the interest rate and loan terms you could qualify for. That lets you compare offers before submitting to a hard credit inquiry that impacts your score. Marketplaces like Credible and LendKey let you see and compare several pre-qualified offers with one application.
  • Choose a lender. Choose the loan offer that looks like the best fit for you, and finish your application with the lender. You can usually do this part all online, too. The lender will run a hard credit check and might need more information from you, like proof of income. You could get a decision as soon as the same day or after a few days, depending on the lender’s process.
  • Accept your loan. Once approved, you can review and sign your loan agreement — remember to note any fees! — and accept your funds. Lenders send student loan funds directly to your school to pay for tuition and fees, and the school will send you a refund for any extra amount.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Student Loans

We’ve rounded up the answers to some of the most common questions about where to get the best private student loans.

What Type of Loan is the Best Value to Students?

Which student loan options are best for you depends on your family’s financial situation. Private student loans can be an optimal option financially, because of potentially low interest rates and short repayment terms. But they’re only available to students with good credit or creditworthy cosigners. Federal student loans are available based on financial need and come with a host of repayment and forgiveness options that could protect low-income borrowers in the long run.

What Type of Student Loan Has the Lowest Interest Rate?

Private student loans can have interest rates as low as 1% but might be as high as 12% or more, depending on your credit. Federal loan rates are set by Congress for all borrowers and fall around 3% to 5% for undergraduate loans. If you (or your cosigner) have good credit, a private student loan could get you the lowest interest rate.

What is the Biggest Student Loan You Can Get?

The size of your student loan depends on what kind of loan you take out. For private student loans, it’s determined by your credit and the term of the loan you want. Some private lenders set caps on student loan amounts, and some will lend up to your full cost of attendance. For federal loans, your loan amount is determined based on your cost of attendance and expected family contribution. If you demonstrate financial need, your federal loan might go beyond tuition, and you could receive a refund to help cover living expenses. Undergrads can borrow a max of between $5,500 and $12,500 each academic year, and grad students can borrow up to $20,500. 

Contributor Dana Miranda is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® who has written about work and money for publications including Forbes, The New York Times, CNBC, Insider, NextAdvisor and Inc. Magazine.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Dear Penny: Should My Husband Refuse to Pay $600 for His Mom’s Cremation?

Dear Penny,
Dear Frustrated,
Paying 0 may seem like a lot when you’ve just gotten out of debt. But I’d hate to see that 0 move the family further away from fulfilling the spirit of your mother-in-law’s final wishes.
He should focus on the fact that he doesn’t have 0 to spend immediately — but that he’s not refusing to pay. He’s looking for solutions for an expense that was relatively unexpected.
It may also make sense to use a credit card to pay off the 0. I get why you’d hesitate to do so, having just gotten out of debt. But the death of a parent counts as an emergency. If you make it a one-time purchase and pay it off quickly, you don’t have to worry about slipping back into debt.
-Frustrated at Funeral Costs
Fast forward to two weeks later, and we received an invoice for one-third of the cost of the cremation, which comes to around 0. The crematorium holds the ashes until the bill is paid. My husband is a little frustrated at this. He has two brothers, one who lives in the same town as his parents and the other who lives within driving distance of his parents. Neither spent a fraction of what my husband spent to get there.
Your husband should also mention the costs of travel. If he and his brothers aren’t close, they probably don’t know that money has been a struggle lately. In that case, it’s reasonable that they would have assumed that each brother could afford to pay a third, even though your husband had to pay airfare.

My 72-year-old mother-in-law passed away last month. She had cancer, and, sadly, it took her very quickly. Before she died, she had made her wishes known to my father-in-law as to what she wanted after death, which was no funeral, just cremation, and for the family to go and have a meal together.
It sounds like your mother-in-law was extremely reasonable about her final wishes. She didn’t request an elaborate ceremony and burial. She asked for a simple cremation and for the family to have a meal together. It sounds like she, too, wanted to bring the family closer after her death.
We don’t know what to do. We don’t have the money immediately to pay. We can save, but it will take a couple of months. We finally paid off all of our credit cards through a consolidation loan so we don’t want to use credit. In the meantime, my father-in-law awaits my mother-in-law’s ashes, and it’s causing a rift in relationships. The brothers aren’t extremely close already, but my husband was hoping his mum’s passing might help bridge the gap.


Related Posts
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But I don’t think your husband should refuse outright to pay the 0, especially since he’s hoping his mother’s death might help to heal the family rift. Yes, he will have paid more than his brothers to fulfill his mother’s final wishes when you factor in travel. But that’s what happens when you live thousands of miles away from family. I’m guessing his brothers have supported your in-laws in ways that haven’t been possible for your husband given the physical distance.
You’re no longer paying off your debt, so you should have some extra room in your budget. I’m guessing you can save up that money quickly.
If you truly can’t afford 0, your husband should tell his brothers what you told me: “We don’t have the money immediately to pay. We can save, but it will take a couple of months.”
Money is tight for us so we could only arrange for my husband to go. He had enough frequent flyer miles to help bring down the costs a little for us, but there are still fees and taxes involved with those tickets. The ticket cost around 0. My brother-in-law offered to pick him up from the airport and take him back because he gets free diesel in his company van. My husband took 0 with him to cover meals and his share of the funeral meal. While he was there, he took out his dad and then his dad, brother and his family.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPe[email protected].
Ready to stop worrying about money?

The problem is that my in-laws live in Britain, where my husband is from. His whole family still lives there. My husband has lived in the U.S. for 27 years. My one brother-in-law and his wife arranged everything for my father-in-law.

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Can we tell them it will take a few months to save? Or can we tell them we just can’t afford it?

What is a Pell Grant – And How Do You Apply?

Students unable to finish studies due to the closing of their school or who received the Borrower Defense Loan Discharge may also be eligible.
Robert Bruce is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder. 
As of the 2021-22 school year, the minimum Pell Grant award a student can receive is 0 per year (July 1 to June 30) and the maximum is ,495. Your EFC number will determine where you fall in that range.

What Is a Pell Grant?

The takeaway: Always fill out a FAFSA! You never know what you could be eligible for.
Students with a parent who died in the line of duty – as a military veteran or public service officer – may also be eligible if they are under 24 and enrolled at least part-time in a college or career school.
To qualify for a Pell Grant, you need to have a minimum GPA (2.0)  and demonstrate exceptional financial need.
A Pell Grant is a form of federal student financial aid that, unlike a loan, doesn’t need to be repaid. The U.S. Department of Education awards federal Pell Grants to low-income students who qualify. The grants cover tuition, room and board, and other educational fees and expenses.

Who Is Eligible for a Pell Grant?

College students who struggle to afford tuition and other expenses have an avenue to help pay for their education that doesn’t involve federal loans: the federal Pell Grant.

  • Demonstrate “exceptional financial need” on the FAFSA application.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.
  • Have yet to receive a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.
  • Maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0. Note: Individual institutions may have different GPA requirements.

Pell Grant funds are available at 6,000 educational institutions in the country. To be eligible, you must:
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
The numbers say that more than 2 million students would have been eligible for the Pell Grant in the 2015-2016 school year, but they didn’t fill out a FAFSA. Further, 1.2 million would’ve qualified for the maximum Pell Grant amount.
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The Pell Grant is a need-based program that, unlike federal student loans, never has to be repaid. With total student loan debt in the U.S. reaching nearly .75 trillion in 2022 affecting more than 43 million borrowers, this federal grant is an attractive alternative for students who qualify.

How Much Money Can I Receive From a Pell Grant?

Is the Pell Grant the same as the FAFSA?
A federal Pell Grants is just that – a grant. It’s not a loan so you don’t need to pay it back – with a few caveats.  If you withdraw from courses, change your enrollment status, or fail to meet GPA requirements after having received your award, you may have to pay it back. That could also have tax implications, so it’s not a good idea all around.  Federal student aid administrators also factor in your school’s cost of attendance and your enrollment status.
How many times can I receive a Pell Grant?
If you fit in those categories, here’s what you need to know.

Incarcerated individuals may be eligible for aid through the Second Chance Pell experiment – created in 2015 by the Obama administration to provide “education opportunities for thousands of justice-involved individuals who have previously been unable to access federal need-based financial aid.” The program expanded in the 2022-23 school year to include 200 colleges and universities now offering their prison education programs with support from the Pell Grant program.

How Do I Apply for a Pell Grant?

Individual grant amounts depend on a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), an index number that determines eligibility for federal student aid. The number originates from the financial information provided when you complete the FAFSA.
Graduate students aren’t eligible for the Pell Grant, though some students working on a post-baccalaureate teacher certification may qualify.
You can also apply for the “year-round Pell Grant” if you attend summer school. In this situation, you would be eligible for the same award amount you received in the fall and spring. So if your annual award amount is ,000, and you’ll receive ,000 in the fall, ,000 in the spring – then you would be eligible for an additional ,000 if you attend summer school.

Other FAQs About Pell Grants

The application process is simple enough. To apply for a Pell Grant, students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA). From there, financial aid administrators will determine whether the student is eligible and, if so, set the Pell Grant award amount.
Also, you’ll need to reapply for the grant using the FAFSA every academic year, meaning your Pell Grant aid can change annually based on your current financial situation.
Created in 1972, it is named after U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island and is the largest education grant program offered by the federal government.
Grant recipients risk losing eligibility if they withdraw from courses, change enrollment status, or fail to meet their college or university’s GPA requirements.
Like other federal student aid options, to apply for a Pell Grant students need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
Colleges and universities disburse the award funds into the student’s account balance and are reimbursed by the federal government. The timing of the disbursement varies by institution – some may make monthly payments while others might distribute all of the funds before classes begin.

Do you have to pay back a Pell Grant? <!–

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No. The FAFSA is simply a form you fill out when applying for federal student aid programs – everything from federal student loans, work-study and grants, including the Pell Grant. 

Great Lakes Student Loan Services Review 2022: Pros & Cons

Repayment options on private loans depend almost entirely on the lender — and remember, Great Lakes is not the lender, they only collect. That said, if you’re having trouble making your payments or otherwise need to alter the terms of your student loan payments or want to try to get a lower interest rate, it’s worth contacting your lender.
Are Student Loans Forgiven After 20 Years?
You can use a debit card to make your loan payments, but not a credit card. It’s also possible to set up auto-pay so that you don’t have to worry about remembering to make payments (you might even be able to shave a little off your interest rate by doing so).
Loan servicing can be a confusing topic. Put simply, the lender funds your loan and then hands it off to a loan servicer, which then handles the repayment and day-to-day administrative tasks involved. It’s somewhat analogous to a billing service.

How Do Great Lakes Student Loans Work?

We’ve answered some of the most common questions about Great Lakes Education Loan Services.
IBR plans are intended for people with high debt-to-income ratios. These plans always offer payments that are lower than the standard 10-year repayment terms. However, they can be more than with PAYE and REPAYE — between 10 and 15 percent of your discretionary income.
Beyond federal loans, Great Lakes partners with 6,000 schools and over 1,000 private lenders around the country to service non-federal loans. The company also has a philanthropic arm that offers scholarships, grants and advising services to students.

It’s worth noting that if your income is high, your payment can end up higher than with the Standard Repayment Plan. However, if your paychecks are on the lower side, you can end up saving significantly. Finally, any remaining loan balance is forgiven after 20 to 25 years of repayment (although you may be liable for paying income tax on the forgiven amount).

  • Check or money order, paid through good old-fashioned snail mail.
  • Over the phone, either using an automated system or by speaking directly to a real human being.
  • Online at the Great Lakes website.
  • Using the Great Lakes mobile app, available for iOS and Android.


Cons

What Repayment Options Does Great Lakes Offer?

Penny Hoarder contributor Dave Schafer has been writing professionally for nearly a decade, covering topics ranging from personal finance to software and consumer tech.

Private Student Loans

Are Great Lakes Loans Private or Federal?
Great Lakes is a nonprofit organization that handles over 0 billion in student loans. That makes it one of the largest loan servicers in the country. And as one of the few companies contracted by the government to service federal student loans, it handles up to 40% of all outstanding federal loans.

Federal Student Loans

Neither. Since Great Lakes doesn’t provide the loan, it also doesn’t impact the private or federal status of any loans you’re paying through it. 
Technically, private lenders don’t need to offer any special terms for anyone, regardless of financial status. That said, some will allow repayment terms similar to the federal options, so it never hurts to ask.

Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)

The tradeoff for that protection is the fact that you’ll ultimately pay more on the loan. Lower monthly payments mean loans take longer to pay off with the PAYE program, which in turn means more interest accrued over the life of the loan, even with a low-interest rate.
Your monthly payments on ICR plans can end up being above the Standard Repayment Plan rate. As a tradeoff, the outstanding balance is forgiven after 25 years.

Pay As You Earn (PAYE)

To find out if you’re on one of these plans, your best bet is to contact your loan servicer — if you’re reading this, that’s likely Great Lakes.
IBR payments can change from year to year based on family size and income. The goal of this program is to help keep monthly payments manageable, with the caveat that you can end up paying more interest over the life of the loan (because of the lower payments). Any outstanding balance is forgiven after 20-25 years of repayment.

Income-Based Repayment (IBR)

The Standard Repayment Plan for federal student loans is fixed payments over a 10-year term. If that doesn’t work with your circumstances, there are several types of federal student aid available, including income-based student loan repayment options:
If you’re not sure who your loan servicer is, you can contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243 to find out. You can also look up your information in the National Student Loan Data System.

Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

Choosing one of these options can be a significant help in making your payments and ensuring that you remain in good standing.
How Do I Know If I Have a Great Lakes Loan?
We’ve rounded up the pros and cons of Great Lakes. Though you don’t get to pick a loan servicer, it’s good to know as much about them as possible, including your payment options.

Great Lakes Review: The Pros and Cons

In practice, that means you deal with Great Lakes (and make your payments to it) but the loan itself is through another provider. You apply through that provider and then pay Great Lakes. Yes, it can be a little confusing, which is why some people are (understandably) skeptical when they receive paperwork from the company in the mail.


Pros

  • Federal repayment options: Since Great Lakes is a federal student loan servicer, you’ll have access to all the standard federal options, such as income-based student loan repayment and the REPA
  • Lots of payment methods available: Great Lakes customers can pay using a variety of methods, including check, money order, debit card, and automated withdrawal.
  • Long track record: Great Lakes has been in business for a long time and is a loan servicer specifically selected by the federal government as a provider.
Are Great Lakes Loans Bad?

  • Lawsuit: Great Lakes was one of the companies in a class-action lawsuit alleging that it mishandled CARES pandemic relief funds. This won’t necessarily impact your student loan repayment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Great Lakes Educational Loan Services

Great Lakes student loans can be repaid in a variety of ways, depending on your individual needs and whether you have a federal student loan or a private student loan. Let’s break it down:

This means that the loan you’re paying through Great Lakes could be either private or federal, but that status is determined by the financial institution that provided the loan in the first place.
Some federal loans may have the remaining balance forgiven after a repayment period of 20 to 25 years. It’s important to note that this only applies to loans on one of the income-based repayment plans (REPAYE, PAYE, IBR, and ICR) mentioned above. You still have to make loan payments for those 20 years, as well — you can’t just ignore the loan and have it be forgiven in a couple of decades. 
Yes, Great Lakes is legit. It’s one of the largest federal loan servicers in the country, and the federal government trusts it enough to contract it to service its student loan programs. Although getting unexpected mail from a company claiming you owe money might be jarring, in this case, it’s normal.
Great Lakes Educational Loan Services is a student loan servicer that handles both private and federal student loans. A loan servicer doesn’t lend the money. Instead, these organizations handle the administrative aspects of the loan for the lender.
The Income-Contingent Repayment plan is designed to help you repay your loans faster over time, as your income increases. As such, it has higher monthly payments — the lower of either 20% of discretionary income or the income-adjusted amount you would pay for a fixed loan term of 12 years.
If you’re repaying a federal loan through Great Lakes, you have a lot more freedom. That’s because you’ll get access to the full spectrum of federal repayment options.
How Do I Get Rid of a Great Lakes Loan?
You can’t choose your student loan servicer. This is handled by the lender. That means that if you’re unhappy with your servicer, your options are somewhat limited — you can’t just switch to a different provider.
You pay it off! Once your student loans are paid off (or you reach the 25-year forgiveness point for certain federal loans), you’ll be all done with Great Lakes. Until then, the only other way to get rid of them is to consolidate your debt, which may see your student loan handed off from Great Lakes to a different servicer.
Not at all. Great Lakes doesn’t provide loans — it only services federal student loans or loans provided by private organizations. If you’ve ever taken out a student loan, there’s a pretty good chance it ended up in the hands of Great Lakes to collect payment.
However, if you consolidate your loans (such as with a direct consolidation loan) or refinance your debt, you’ll typically get a new provider, so that can be an option. Just note that with the latter you’ll lose any federal repayment benefits, such as the income-based repayment plans discussed in the next section.
The PAYE program is similar to REPAYE but aimed at people with high debt relative to their income. It offers the same terms (10% of discretionary income and forgiveness after 20-25 years), but with PAYE, your monthly payment will never go above what it would be with the Standard Repayment Plan.
Is Great Lakes Loans Legit?

Speaking of repayment, if your loan is serviced through Great Lakes, that means you’ll be making your monthly payment to them. You have several payment methods at your disposal:
The REPAYE program offers the potential for lower monthly payments and loan forgiveness. With this program, your payments are based on your monthly income — 10% of your discretionary income, specifically. Payments are recalculated annually based on family size and total income.

GreenSky Loans Review 2022

It’s always worth shopping around to see what rates you can get from other lenders. While most personal loans are specifically for home improvement projects, you can simply apply the loan to your project. Many online lenders also allow you to pre-qualify so that you can check their rates ahead of time without affecting your credit score, making it easy to compare different offerings.
Just remember that both types of loans have a origination fee that is charged with your first monthly payment.
It is a different way to get a home improvement loan than you may be used to. This article will explain the differences, plus pros and cons, to let you know if this lender is right for you.

What Is GreenSky Loans?

Even though GreenSky has this offer for those with bad credit, the better your score the better your offer from GreenSky.  If you’re looking to improve your score, check out these ways to improve your score this year.
Minimum credit score
If you’re looking at a smaller project, a credit card might cover your home improvement expenses. Many cards offer 0% interest during a promotional period much like GreenSky, but unlike GreenSky, you’re not penalized with retroactive interest if you don’t pay off your loan from the promotional period. Make sure to read the fine print if you go this route because many credit cards have high APRs after the promotional period.
Is GreenSky Trustworthy?

How to Apply for a GreenSky Home Improvement Loan

GreenSky offers a Reduced Rate Loan with competitive rates and long repayment periods. A GreenSky Reduced Rate Loan is a good loan option if you know you’ll need longer than a few months to pay off your loan.
Goldman Sachs acquired GreenSky, LLC in 2021. While Goldman Sachs owns GreenSky, the actual financing of GreenSky’s loans goes through many different federally insured banks throughout the country.
With competitive rates and long repayment periods, a GreenSky Reduced Rate Loan might be a good option if you know you can’t pay off your loan quickly.  
Loan amounts

How Does a GreenSky Loan Work?

If you’re not working with a GreenSky Pro or simply want to look at other options to cover your home improvement costs, check out some alternatives below or read our best ways to finance your home improvements.
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Interest rate ranges

Types of GreenSky Loans

One small downside we’ve found with GreenSky is because everything is run through the contractor, GreenSky’s website is not marketed for the average consumer. All the information is directed at contractors, making some consumer information difficult to find. Luckly, we dove into the fine print and FAQs and found the most important information you need before you sign up for a GreenSky Loan.
Ready to stop worrying about money?

GreenSky Deferred-Interest Loans

CFPB believes that GreenSky was at least aware of the problem and did not take the proper actions against it. CFPB is requiring GreenSky to refund or cancel 9 million in loans, pay a .5 million civil penalty, and create new procedures to avoid it happening in the future.

More Information About GeenSky Reduced-Rate Loans
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  • Deferred interest
  • Higher interest than other options

Get the Penny Hoarder Daily

  • Up to 12-year repayment period
  • APR 0% to 11.99%

Best for Longer Repayment Periods

Pros
None disclosed
Key Features
GreenSky Loans itself is not a lender, but instead works as a go-between connecting you, the homeowner, and federally insured banks to find the best financing option for your project.
We’d love more information on the GreenSky website itself, but these rates are competitive and we like that the GreenSky Pro should walk you through all your options including the specifics on your monthly payment before you officially sign for the loan. 
Even if you are initially denied, GreenSky will automatically send you an alternate offer called an Instant Counteroffer (ICO). This is a nice feature for those with less than perfect credit as it doesn’t require another hard credit pull that might hurt your credit score.