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Compare undergraduate student loans

Explore federal and private options, rates, borrowing limits and more.

It used to be you could pay for college by working a summer job. Now sometimes even federal student loans aren’t enough to cover the cost. Luckily, when it comes to student loans and alternatives, undergraduates have the most options out of any other group of students.

What student loans are available to undergraduate students?

Both federal and private student loans are available to undergraduate students. Federal student loans are typically less expensive and have more flexible repayment options than private student loans. This is why financial aid offices and even private lenders tend to encourage students to apply for federal loans first before considering private financing.

Federal student loans for undergraduates

Undergraduate students have more federal loan options available to them than any other type of student. They currently include:

Direct Subsidized Loans

Interest rate2.75%
Maximum lifetime amountUp to $23,000
Repayment terms10 to 25 years

Direct Subsidized Loans are the least expensive student loan out there. They come with the lowest interest rates, plus the government covers the cost of interest that adds up while you’re in school, during your grace period and if you ever defer. However, they have lower annual borrowing limits depending on your year in school.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Interest rate2.75%
Maximum lifetime amountUp to $31,000
Repayment terms10 to 25 years

Direct Unsubsidized Loans for undergraduates work a lot like subsidized loans with two key differences: You can borrow more, and you’re responsible for paying off the interest that adds up while you’re completing your degree and during your grace period. This gets added to your loan balance once you start repayments, making your loan more expensive — you end up paying interest on interest.

For undergrads, the interest rate for subsidized and unsubsidized loans are the same. Typically, students only take out unsubsidized loans after they’ve reached their limit for subsidized loans.

Parent PLUS Loans

Interest rate5.3%
Maximum lifetime amountUp to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
Repayment terms10 to 25 years

Parent PLUS Loans are federal loans parents can take out in their name to pay for their children’s educational expenses. The parent is responsible for paying off the student debt — though they can refinance it into the student’s name.

Unlike with other federal loans, Parent PLUS Loan repayments start right away unless you defer them until six months after the student leaves school. Parents must also meet the Department of Education’s credit requirements or apply with an endorser who does.

Private student loans for undergraduates

Private student loans are designed to cover education expenses where federal loans fall short. Most providers offer funding for undergraduates, though you’ll likely need to bring on a parent or guardian as a cosigner to meet the credit and income requirements.

They’re typically more expensive than federal loans and have less flexible repayment plans and fewer forgiveness, deferment and forbearance options. But you can generally cover all of your school-related costs, including housing and other living expenses.

Compare private student loans

Explore your options by APR, minimum credit score, loan amount and loan term. Select the Get started button to start an application with a specific lender.

Name Product APR Min. Credit Score Loan amount Loan Term
EDvestinU Private Student Loans
4.092% to 8.609% with autopay
$1,000 - $200,000
7 to 20 years
Straightforward student loans for undergraduate and graduate students.
CommonBond Private Student Loans
3.74% to 10.74%
$5,000 - $500,000
5 to 15 years
Finance your college education through this lender with a strong social mission and terms that fit your budget.
Edvisors Private Student Loan Marketplace
Varies by lender
Varies by lender
Varies by lender
Varies by lender
Quickly compare private lenders for your school and apply for the right student loan.
Credible Labs Inc. (Student Loan Platform)
Starting at 0.99% with autopay
Good to excellent credit
Starting at $1,000
5 to 20 years
Get prequalified rates from private lenders offering student loans with no origination or prepayment fees.

Compare up to 4 providers

Parent loans

Some private student lenders also offer parent loans as an alternative to the Parent PLUS Loan. These sometimes have more competitive rates, though repayment terms are often shorter and less flexible — parents generally only have 10 years to pay them back.

To get around this, parents can refinance a private parent loan for a longer term or into their child’s name.

How parent loans work

Can I get a student loan without a cosigner?

It’s possible to get a private student loan without a cosigner as an undergraduate, though your options are limited. These loans are often designed for international students who don’t know a qualified US resident to cosign their loan. They tend to come in smaller amounts with higher rates and shorter terms.

What’s the maximum for undergraduate student loans?

How much you can borrow as an undergraduate depends on several factors. Federal loans come with annual limits depending on the loan type, year you are in school and whether the Department of Education (DoE) considers you a dependent or independent.

Private and parent student loans are typically based on your school’s cost of education, though some have lifetime limits.

Type of loanTypical annual maximum
Direct Subsidized$3,500 to $5,500
Direct Unsubsidized$5,500 to $12,500
Parent PLUSUp to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance.
Private undergraduateUp to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance.
Private parentUp to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance.

What’s the maximum I can borrow for a federal loan?

How much do undergraduate student loans cost?

It depends on the type of student loan. The easiest way to compare the cost of a loan is by looking at its annual percentage rate (APR), which includes both interest and fees. However, the Department of Education typically quotes the interest rate and fees separately.

Type of loanAPR
Direct Subsidized4.99%
Direct Unsubsidized4.99%
Parent PLUS7.16%
Private undergraduateTypically 3% to 18%
Private parentTypically 6% to 13%

Student loan rates, explained

Fixed vs. variable rates on undergraduate loans

Federal student loans for undergraduates come with fixed interest rates that stay the same while you’re repaying your loan. However, private lenders typically also offer variable rates, which can increase or decrease depending on the lending market.

Variable rates are a bit of a gamble — they have the potential to go lower or higher than fixed rates. They also make your monthly repayments less predictable. But if you’re lucky, you could save in interest.

How fixed and variable rates work on student loans

What happens after I take out a student loan?

Typically, full monthly repayments aren’t due until six months after you drop below half time in school, with the exception of parent loans. Private student loan providers often give you the option to make interest-only repayments or small fixed repayments of around $25 while you’re still in school.

Once full repayments start, you have a wide range of repayment plans to choose from with federal loans — including several based on your income or graduated plans that increase over time. Private loans typically only offer one standard repayment plan.

How student loan repayments work

Are there any alternatives to student loans for undergraduates?

There are. In fact, student loans might not be your first choice. These options might help you pay for college at a lower cost:

  • Federal aid. When you fill out the FAFSA, you’re also applying for federal student aid aside from student loans — such as work-study and scholarships. These, you don’t have to repay.
  • Scholarships and grants. Reach out to your school’s financial aid office to see if there’s any additional funding you could qualify for from private organizations. Typically, these are offered to students with a particular academic focus or demographic. You can explore some of your options with our guide to full-tuition scholarships.
  • Income share agreements (ISAs). Some schools and private companies offer to finance your undergraduate degree in exchange for a percentage of your income over a certain number of years. This could help you save if you’re not planning on going into a high-paying field after graduation.

Bottom line

Undergraduate students generally have more options when it comes to student loans than any other type of student. Federal loans are generally less expensive and should be your first choice before turning to private options.

Learn more about how it all works with our guide to student loans.

Frequently asked questions

Can I be denied a federal student loan?

You can. The federal government has several eligibility criteria you must meet to qualify for a student loan. You might be denied if you aren’t a US citizen and don’t have the right visa. You could also be denied if you don’t attend a Title IV school.

Check out our guides to learn more about federal student loan requirements or find student loans for international students.

How much is too much in student loans?

While it depends on the student, generally borrowing more than you need to cover your educational and living expenses might be too much. Remember: You have to repay everything you borrow plus interest.

And while student loans typically come with low rates, they can have terms as long as 25 years — that’s a lot of time for that interest to add up. Refraining from borrowing extra could save you thousands of dollars in the the long run.

How can I get my student loans forgiven?

There are several forgiveness and repayment assistance options for both federal and private student loans. The most popular is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which cancels your loans after you make 120 income-based repayments while working at an eligible public service job.

However, there are other programs for different professions. Read our article on student loan forgiveness to find out what options are available to you.


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