If you’ve exhausted your federal student loan amounts from your financial aid package, but still need funding, private loans seem like a natural next step. Although private student loans help close the financial gap for your education, in many cases, private student loans require a cosigner.
According to data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), 90% of new private student loans required a cosigner. Finding a willing cosigner for your debt may be tough. But there are student loans without a cosigner available. Here’s where to find private student loans without a cosigner.
9 lenders offering the best student loans without cosigner
Private loan lenders are private financial institutions that rely on credit to determine your eligibility. When you’re young and have limited or poor credit, or no credit history at all, it can be tough to get approved. But there are some private student loans without a cosigner requirement. Let’s review the best student loans without a cosigner.
1. Sallie Mae
Sallie Mae, one of the most popular private student loan lenders, also offers private student loans without a cosigner. Once again, you must have good credit to be approved. If you’re going for undergrad, it’s unlikely you have enough history for approval. Graduate students have much better odds of getting approved for student loans with no cosigner.
Ascent is one of the few private student loan companies to offer non-cosigned loans specifically to juniors and seniors in college, as well as grad students. You can borrow up to $20,000 per year for tuition and eligible living expenses. Along with Stafford loans and other financial aid, that could be enough to cover costs for your last year or two of college without needing parental assistance. You can defer loans while in school, and Ascent offers a 1% cash back incentive when you graduate. Ascent also applies a 2% discount on your interest rate for their undergraduate “future income-based loan” product if you sign up for auto-pay.¹
3. Citizens Bank
Citizens Bank offers private student loans without a cosigner to borrowers with good credit (more on that later). There are no application or origination fees. You can also score up to a 0.50% interest rate reduction by signing up for autopay (0.25%) and if you already have an account with them (0.25%). There are 5-, 10- and 15-year repayment term options available.
4. College Ave
College Ave private student loans typically require a cosigner and a minimum credit score, but you can see if you qualify for a private student loan without a cosigner.
Using that link above, you’ll be able to use their pre-qualification tool to see if your credit score is sufficient for a loan on your own. If you’re an international student, College Ave will require a cosigner on your private student loan.
CommonBond now offers loans to graduate students in many cases without a cosigner. Medical, dental, and law school is very expensive. A cosigner might hesitate to commit to a six-figure balance. That’s why Commonbond’s no cosigner private graduate school loan option fills a market need. Commonbond also allows low payments of $100 per month while in residency. Of course, students should prioritize federal student loans for graduate school first.
Discover Bank offers private student loans without a cosigner, but you must have good credit to get approved. If you have limited or no credit history, you’ll need a cosigner. But if you have established credit and it’s in good shape, you can get student loans, no cosigner. There’s an exception for international students, who do need a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen.
Earnest private student loans have no prepayment or origination fees. Earnest tends to offer more generous borrower protections than some other lenders on this list, such as a nine-month grace period (the usual is six months) and the ability to skip one payment a year if needed. Most borrowers who use Earnest need a cosigner. However, highly qualified borrowers with some work history might be able to successfully apply on their own. Earnest will fund 100% of the school certified cost of attendance up to $250,000.
8. Funding U
Funding U offers an undergraduate student loan without a cosigner. As a smaller scale lender, you can borrow up to $10,000 per school year, up to a lifetime maximum of $50,000. You can get pre-qualified quickly in just two minutes. They use info based on your federal loans as well as academic success as part of their lending decision. Funding U is one of the few private lenders that doesn’t require a credit history, making it easy to score a private student loan without a cosigner. Juniors and seniors will have the most luck being approved.
9. Department of Education
If you don’t want to take out a cosigned loan, it’s important to review the options you have with federal student loans through your financial aid package.
We’ve been covering private student loans without a cosigner, but always check out federal student loans first as they don’t require a minimum credit score and interest rates are fixed. When you sign up for automatic payments, you can score an automatic payment discount.
While comparing federal student loans and private student loans, look at:
- Repayment options. How many different repayment plans are offered?
- Repayment terms. How many years do you have to pay back the loans?
- Interest rates. A lower interest rate is better.
- Loan amounts. How much can you borrow each year and aggregate limits during your entire education?
- Automatic payment discount. Private lenders might offer an automatic payment discount, but this varies.
The biggest difference between federal student loans and private student loans is that federal loans don’t require a credit check. Since private student loans are credit-based, they do require a check.
Also, federal student loans have fixed interest rates and private student loans can have fixed or variable interest rates. You also have more repayment options with federal student loans, and in most cases, these loans don’t require a cosigner.
Building credit to get approved
There’s no doubt about it. It seems nearly all private student loan lenders have a caveat — that to be approved for private student loans without a cosigner, you must have good credit. So if you have no credit history and want student loans, no cosigner, you’re likely out of luck. But how can you get credit? And what is good credit anyway?
According to Experian, good credit means a 700 or above FICO credit score. Your credit score is a value that shows your creditworthiness, which helps lenders determine the likelihood you’ll make good on your loans.
Credit is built primarily through your payment history and credit utilization — which makes up 65% of your credit score. Following these actions may boost your credit:
- Pay back your bills and credit cards on time every month.
- Keep balances on your cards low, ideally less than 30% of your overall limit.
- Be mindful of opening too many new accounts, which could have a negative effect on your credit.
You can keep tabs on your credit score using sites like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame. Your bank or credit card may offer you access as well. Paying on time and keeping what you owe low, you can build credit over time. When you have a good credit score, you are eligible for more loans on your own.
Federal vs. private student loans
Federal and private student loans both serve the same purpose — to pay for your education. Though they do the same thing, they’re wildly different. Federal loans come from the government; private loans come from financial institutions.
Most federal loans require no credit check or cosigner while private student loans are credit-based and require a cosigner. Aside from that, there are major differences in the benefits for borrowers.
Federal student loan borrowers can opt for income-driven repayment to make payments more affordable (in some cases $0). On top of that, there is student loan forgiveness available under a variety of programs like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) as well as under the income-driven plans if your balance isn’t paid off at the end of your repayment term. When you take out federal student loans, you have access to various repayment plans. You can have the Standard Repayment Plan or an Income-Driven Plan that suits your needs and more.
Private student loans are limited in the benefits that they offer borrowers and the perks can vary by lender. But there’s definitely no forgiveness or income-based options. So if you want to ditch your debt or make payments more affordable, it can be harder to do with private loans.
Because of this, we recommend maxing out your federal student loan options first before even considering private student loans. Private student loans should be a last resort and something that should be evaluated carefully. If you do need private loans, there are important considerations to make and you want to look at multiple private loan lenders to find a good fit.
What to be aware of with private loans
Ready to apply for a private student loan without a cosigner? First, check your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com to make sure everything is correct. If there is an error, you’ll want to dispute it with the credit bureaus. You should also check your credit score to see where you’re at now. Once you know your credit is in good shape, you can apply.
But before accepting a private student loan without a cosigner, check out:
- Origination fees
- Application fees
- Repayment terms
- Repayment options
- Interest rates
- Minimum loan amount and maximum loan amount
When you get a student loan, all of these things have a big impact on your experience as a borrower. You want to find a lower interest rate, so compare among lenders, so you can save as much money as possible on interest. You also want to be aware of your repayment options so there are no surprises. By doing your due diligence and knowing these aspects of your loans can help you avoid any private student loan mistakes. If you go this route, you want to be prepared to tackle this on your own, so the more research the better.