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Current Student Loan Rates
Student loans current rates are one of the main factors influencing how much you’ll pay total for student loans. When you need student loans to cover college costs, you’ll want to compare various rates like federal student loans rates — including unsubsidized and direct unsubsidized loans — and private student loans and loans from credit unions and other lenders. Student loan interest rates can vary for undergraduate and graduate students depending on a variety of factors.
How do student loan interest rates work?
Student loan interest rates indicate the amount of interest you’ll pay on a student loan. There are two types of rates: fixed rates, which stay the same over the life of a loan, and variable rates, which may adjust depending on the market rate.
In 2020, rates for federal student loans taken out between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021 dropped to record lows to 2.75% for undergraduate Stafford loans, which is down from 4.53% in the 2019–2020 school year. The rate is the lowest since 2005 when the rate was 2.88%, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Federal student loans have the lowest fixed interest rates among student loans. If you still need money to cover college costs beyond what you’ve received in scholarships, grants and federal student loans, you may consider credit union loans and private loans. Because credit unions are nonprofit organizations, these lenders may be able to offer lower rates than private lenders.
Federal student loans:
- Provided by the federal government.
- Students/parents must fill out the FAFSA to qualify.
- Fixed, low interest rates.
Private student loans:
- Available to bridge costs not covered by federal student loans.
- Provided by private lenders, like banks and online lenders.
- Higher interest rates than federal student loans, typically with both fixed and variable interest rate options.
Average student loan rate
It’s difficult to find the average student loan rate because there are so many private lenders and other types of non-federal lenders that set their own rates. According to the Center for American Progress, 92% of outstanding student loan balances come from federal student loans. So the average student loan rate is close to the rates of federal student loans because they account for the vast majority of student loans.
Federal student loans have fixed interest rates. For borrowers who have to get additional funding through private student loans, fixed interest rates tend to be higher. Variable interest rates from private lenders can also climb. Typically, the better the credit score a borrower has, the better rates they can get from a lender. The worse the credit history, the higher the rates.
Federal vs. private student loan rates
Federal student loan rates are fixed and are often much lower than private loans, as well as much lower than credit cards. For that reason, they should typically be the first consideration when a student needs money to attend college. For students who have additional costs that federal student loans don’t cover, private loans are an option.
Private student loans may offer variable interest rates, which may initially be lower than federal student loan rates. It’s important for borrowers to understand the risk with variable interest rates is that the rate can dramatically increase over time and end up costing much more than a fixed rate that is initially higher but that stays the same over time.
Federal student loan interest rates: 2020-2021
|Loan Type||Borrower Type||Interest Rate||Loan Fee|
|Direct subsidized loans and direct unsubsidized loans||Undergraduate||2.75% fixed||1.059%|
|Direct unsubsidized loans||Graduate or professional||4.3% fixed||1.059%|
|Direct PLUS loans||Parents and graduate or professional students||5.3% fixed||4.236%|
Student loan refinance rates
Refinancing student loans can be a good option when a borrower finds a lender offering lower rates than the ones they’re currently paying. However, refinancing comes with some limitations. If you refinance from a federal loan to a private loan, you won’t be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. You’ll also lose any grace period and other favorable terms you had with your old lender.
If you do want to refinance, look at the credit score terms. That way, you can ensure you only apply for programs you’ll be eligible for and will avoid a hard inquiry into your credit.
Current student loan refinance rates
|Lender||Fixed Interest Rates||Variable Interest Rates|
|SoFi||2.99%–6.88% (with AutoPay)||2.25%–6.43% (with AutoPay)|
*Rates accurate as of February 2021
How to get the best student loan rates
To save the most money with your college education, you’ll want to compare student loans, get the lowest rates possible, eliminate fees and choose terms that work for your financial situation.
Consider federal student loans first
Because federal student loans typically have the best fixed rates overall, if you know you want a fixed-rate student loan, apply for a federal student loan before using a private student loan to cover outstanding costs.
Compare student loans
There are a variety of factors to look for to determine the true cost of student loans. Some lenders will offer cash back programs that offset the interest rates. Others will provide flexible terms, including ones enabling you to pay off more of your loan as your income rises. Consider all types of factors to see how much you’ll truly pay over the life of the loan and to get terms that work for your desired payment schedule.
Apply with a creditworthy student loan cosigner
You may be able to lower your student loan rate with a better credit history. If yours is limited, apply for a loan with a cosigner who has a solid credit background. They’ll be on the hook for the loan with you but can help you lower your rates.
Check rates with multiple lenders
Many student loan providers only perform a soft credit check when you want to see your rates. With this, you’ll be able to see what you qualify for, the fees associated with the loan and, more importantly, what your student loan interest rate will be. Use these tools to help shop and compare multiple lenders.
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