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RISLA college loans review

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Low-cost private student loans for Rhode Island residents.

3.64% to 5.64%



Max. Loan Amount


Min. Credit Score


Product NameRISLA College Loan
Minimum Loan Amount$1,500
Max. Loan Amount$150,000
APR3.64% to 5.64%
Interest Rate TypeFixed
Minimum Loan Term10 years
Maximum Loan Term15 years
RequirementsMust be a Rhode Island resident, be enrolled at least half-time, and have at least one month of personal expenses saved. Borrower or cosigner must make at least $40,000 annually, and be employed at least six months with a minimum credit score of 680.

Live or go to school in the Ocean State? This non-profit student loan provider could help you pay your way through your degree. It’s one of the closest things you can get to federal loans: It offers competitive rates, income-based repayment and even offers some forgiveness programs. Read on to find out if this Rhode Island lender can pick up where federal loans leave off.

First, am I eligible?

To qualify for financing from the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA), you or your cosigner must:

  • Be a Rhode Island resident or go to school in Rhode Island
  • Be enrolled at least half-time
  • Have a credit score of at least 680
  • Make at least $40,000 a year
  • Be employed for at least six months
  • Have at least one month of personal expenses saved in a checking account

You don’t need to be a matriculating student, meaning that you don’t need to be pursuing a degree to qualify.

How do RISLA college loans work?

RISLA is a a nonprofit direct lender that offers fixed-rate student loans for both undergraduates, graduate students and parents. Since it’s a nonprofit, RISLA is able to offer rates that compare to what you’d find on federal student loans. It has a smaller range of rates than most private lenders and offers two choices of loan terms: 10 to 15 years , depending on if you start making immediate repayments or if you defer your loan until you leave school.

Applying online is simple and you’ll find out if you’ve been pre-approved almost immediately. Its application is renewable, so you can easily apply for next year’s funding without having to go through the whole process again.

How much do RISLA college loans cost?

RISLA doesn’t charge fees for applying, so the APR and interest rates are the same. Its undergraduate and graduate student loans come with rates ranging from 3.64% to 5.64% with a 0.25% autopay discount. Its parent loans come with a 5.49% interest rate with the autopay discount.

RISLA charges a $10 returned check fee if your payment doesn’t go through. If you’re late, you’ll also have to pay a fee of 6% of the amount due. There are no fees for paying off your loan early, but you must make a minimum monthly repayment of at least $50.

Are there any discounts?

Yes, there are. In fact, discounts are one of its main draws. On top of RISLA’s 0.25% autopay discount, RISLA offers further discounts for qualified nurses and interns.

RISLA Nursing Reward Program

Through this program, qualified borrowers pay 0% interest on their first 48 repayments, lowering the total cost of their loan. To qualify for this program, you must be a licensed registered nurse who works at least 20 hours a week at a healthcare facility in Rhode Island. Your loans must be issued after June 30, 2011.

Loan forgiveness for internships

Students can get up to $2,000 of their loans forgiven if they complete an eligible internship program within a year of graduating. It doesn’t necessarily have to be located in Rhode Island and can be paid or unpaid. However, you’ll need to graduate to be eligible — internships you complete as part of your degree requirements are ineligible.

Rhode Island Educational Loan Repayment Program for Primary Care Providers

Physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants working in Rhode Island can sign up for this repayment program to get up to 50% of their student debt forgiven. Qualifying physicians can get up to $20,000 of debt forgiven each year for up to four years, while nurse practitioners and physician assistants can get up to $40,000 of their student debt wiped clean.

You must work at least 32 hours a week in family medicine, internal medicine or pediatrics to be eligible. This applies to all student debt, not just RISLA.

What are my repayment options?

RISLA offers three standard repayment options: Immediate repayment, deferred repayment and income-based repayment (IBR).

Immediate repayment

Undergraduates, graduate students and parents have the option of starting repayments 15 days after their funds are disbursed. Immediate repayment comes with a shorter loan term of 10 years and tends to have lower rates.

Under the immediate repayment plan, undergraduates pay an estimated $105 a month per $10,000 borrowed. Graduate students pay around $106 and parents around $110 per $10,000. This is the only repayment option for parent loans.

Deferred repayment

Undergraduate and graduate students can also choose to hold off on repayments until six months after they graduate. To qualify for a six-month grace period, you can’t spend more than 72 months in school after taking out your RISLA loan for undergraduates — 36 months for graduates. You can opt to make interest-only payments to keep your loan costs down while you’re still in school.

If you opt for deferred repayments, you’ll have up to 15 years to pay off your loan, but you won’t be able to qualify for the lowest interest rates. Undergraduates can expect to make monthly repayments of between $101 and $112 per $10,000 they borrowed. Graduate students can expect monthly payments of around $103 per $10,000.

Income-based repayment

If you can prove you’re experiencing financial hardship, you might qualify for repayments based on your income. Under this plan, you won’t pay more than 15% of your income after taxes or what you would have paid under the standard repayment plan. And if your loan isn’t paid off in 25 years, RISLA will forgive your debt. The minimum monthly payment also decreases from $50 to $10 under IBR.

Signing up for IBR is cheaper, but it’s more of a hassle. You and your cosigner have to prove you qualify for IBR with documentation each year. You’ll also have to pay taxes on any loan forgiveness you receive.

Top reasons to consider RISLA

  • Highly competitive rates. RISLA offers interest rates that are comparable to what you can find with a federal loan.
  • Income-based repayments. This lender is one of the few private lenders that offers an income-based repayment option and forgives any remaining debt after 25 years.
  • Discounts for internships. You can get up to $2,000 off your student debt forgiven if you enroll in an eligible internship program and apply for the discount within a year of graduating.
  • Perks for nurses. Nurses working in Rhode Island could also qualify to pay 0% interest on the first four years of their loan repayments.
  • Cheap parent loans. RISLA’s parent loans are actually a cheaper alternative to federal Parent PLUS loans, which come with a 7% interest rate.

Why you might want to look elsewhere

  • No variable rates. Variable rates are riskier than fixed rates, but come with the potential for greater savings. Most student loan providers offer variable rates, but RISLA doesn’t.
  • Loans capped at $40,000 per academic year. In other words, RISLA likely won’t be able to cover all of your education expenses if you go to a private school.
  • Only for Rhode Island students or residents. You can’t qualify for this program if you live in another state and don’t attend school in Rhode Island.
  • Limited terms. Most student loans come with loan terms between five and 25 years, but RISLA only offers terms of 10 or 15 years.

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What do customers say about RISLA

Almost only good things. It scores an impressive 9.5 out of 10 rating on Trustpilot, based on over 550 customer reviews. Nearly 90% of customers rank it “Excellent.” Top points of praise: RISLA’s customer service, its rates and how simple it was to apply.

One applicant wished there had been more back and forth with RISLA. Another was upset with how long it took for his son’s loan to be processed — it turns out RISLA isn’t totally digital with every school and paper-based underwriting can seriously slow things down.

It doesn’t have any reviews on its Better Business Bureau (BBB) page, isn’t BBB-accredited but gets an A+ rating from the organization. BBB gives its ratings based on business practices like advertising, transparency and how it handles customer complaints.

What to expect when signing up

Applications for the 2018/2019 academic year are available starting May 1, 2018.

Before you apply, make sure you meet RISLA’s eligibility requirements. Your application might also go faster if you have the following documents on hand:

  • You or your cosigner’s most recent paystub. Your paystub must have been issued within the last 30 days.
  • You or your cosigner’s most recent W-2 form. If you or your cosigner want to count overtime, commission or bonuses as part of your income, you’ll need to provide the two most recent W-2 forms.
  • A recent bank statement. You’ll need to show that you or your cosigner have enough funds to cover one month of your personal expenses. This can all be in a checking account or spread between a checking and savings account.

RISLA might ask for additional documentation, depending on your application and personal finances.

How to apply for a RISLA College Loan

  1. Go to RISLA’s website and hover over College Loans.
  2. Select RISLA College Loans.
  3. On the College Loans page, click Apply Now.
  4. Select Start a New Application and No when it asks you if you borrowed with RISLA for the 2017/2018 academic school year.
  5. Select which type of repayment option you’d like to choose from: Immediate repayment or deferred repayment. If you’re a parent, select RISLA Parent Loan.
  6. Follow the directions to fill out the required fields before hitting Continue.
  7. Review the application disclosure, electronic consent form, privacy policies and terms of use before hitting Continue.
  8. Follow the directions to fill out the remaining fields of the application before submitting it.
  9. Wait while RISLA does a soft credit pull to find out if you prequalify. If you get the green light and choose to accept, RISLA will send you an email listing which documents you need to provide.
  10. Upload and submit your documents.
  11. Wait as RISLA reaches out to your school to verify the amount you need.
  12. Carefully read your loan’s terms and conditions before signing the promissory note. Your school should receive the funds within two weeks.

If you’re applying with a cosigner, you can either have them fill out the application along with you or give them a code to fill out a separate application that RISLA attaches to yours.

Step-by-step application with screenshots

More about RISLA

Not only is RISLA a nonprofit, it’s a semi-public organization, meaning that it works with the state but doesn’t get taxpayer funding. It’s provided Rhode Island students and residents with education loans since 1981.

On top of funding school, RISLA has several resources that could be useful to Rhode Island students and parents, including an internship-matching program through bRIdge.jobs and financial literacy guides.

Bottom line

RISLA student loans are one of the closest things to federal student loans that Rhode Island residents can find. In fact, it might even be a less expensive option if you’re only eligible for Direct PLUS loans. While you might not be able to cover all of your educational costs, it’s definitely worth a look if you’ve maxed out your federal funding.

Check out our student loans guide to learn more about how student loans work and compare private student loan providers.

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