12 Best Graduate Students Loans to Apply For

graduate student loans

College is a great way to invest in your future, but it can be expensive in the short term. Though cost depends on the program, a Master’s degree costs an average of around $66,000. Other graduate programs, such as law school and medical school, usually cost more.

With cost in mind, graduate school can be a scary investment. That’s why graduate student loans are available to help you. Graduate school is expensive, but there are plenty of loans to offset the costs until you can pay them back.

Need money for grad school, but not sure where to look? Our guide outlines the 12 best graduate student loans for you. Click here now.

1. Federal Unsubsidized Loans

Federal unsubsidized loans are a popular option for graduate students. They are federal loans with low fixed interest rates compared to private lenders. Fixed interest rates are convenient because the rate is fixed for the life of the loan.

Interest rates can change from year to year, but the current interest rate for 2021-2022 graduate students is 5.58%. The fixed interest rate makes it easy to calculate the cost of your loans in the future, and the current rate is low for a fixed interest rate.

As a graduate student, you can borrow up to $20,500 per year and $138,500 for your total postsecondary period of education. However, your school decides the amount you can borrow. You apply through FAFSA to determine your loan eligibility and maximum loan amount.

Loan requirements:

  • Must be enrolled at least half-time
  • Apply through FAFSA
  • Attend a school that participates in the Direct Loan Program
  • Have US citizenship or meet the additional federal financial aid requirements for non-citizens

These loans offer flexible repayment options. You have the option to pay during school, but you need to start making payments six months after your graduation. There are several time-based and income-based repayment plans, as well as loan forgiveness opportunities.

Cover tuition costs with federal unsubsidized loans before you consider private loans. The government offers special repayment options and forgiveness programs that aren’t available from private lenders. 

2. Federal Grad PLUS Loan

The federal grad PLUS loan is another loan offered by the federal government. This loan is specifically for graduate students. Similar to federal unsubsidized loans, these loans are part of the Direct Loan Program.

This is another fixed interest rate loan, but the current rate for the 2021-2022 school year is 6.28%. Though this interest rate runs a little high, the amount available for borrowers is very flexible. You can borrow for the total cost of attendance after applying your other financial aid.

If you accept this loan, there is an origination fee equal to around 4.22% of your loan. Fees may be different depending on the year.

Loan requirements:

  • Be enrolled at least half-time as a graduate student
  • Have an acceptable credit score
  • Attend a school that participates in the Direct Loan Program
  • Apply through the loan PLUS online application
  • Have US citizenship or meet the additional federal financial aid requirements for non-citizens

You will have to start making loan payments six months after graduation. Similar to the federal unsubsidized loans, there are several ways to repay the grad PLUS loan.

3. Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae loans are private lender loans. Compared to federal loans, private lenders like Sallie Mae tend to be more expensive but more flexible.

Before you decide to take on private loans, make sure you have explored federal aid, scholarships, and grants. Once you complete FAFSA, you can see your eligibility for financial aid options.

Within Sallie Mae’s graduate loans, they also offer program-specific loans for MBAs, medical school, dental school, law school, and more. According to their website, you can borrow from $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance after financial aid.

Sallie Mae offers both fixed and variable interest rates. The rates vary greatly for both depending on your credit. The fixed rates range from 4.75%-12.11%, while the variable rates range from 2.12%-11.64%.

Loan requirements:

  • Must be a US citizen/permanent resident or non-citizen with a US citizen/permanent resident cosigner
  • Pass a credit check through you or your cosigner
  • Attend a degree-awarding graduate program

For repayment, Sallie Mae has a few options. You get a six-month grace period like the federal loans listed above. Sallie Mae also offers 48 months of deferment for internships and fellowships.

You can make early payments or wait until your regular payment deadlines. They offer repayment terms of 10 or 15 years.

4. College Ave

College Ave is another popular private lender. They offer a general graduate loan and program-specific loans. You can borrow from $1,000 up to 100% of your attendance cost per year, but there may be a limit depending on your degree and credit.

You have the option to choose between fixed and variable interest rates. The rates vary widely depending on your credit. The fixed interest rates range from 4.49%-11.98%, while variable interest rates range from 1.99%-10.97%.

Loan requirements:

  • Must be a US citizen/permanent resident or have a qualified cosigner
  • Be enrolled in a degree program at an eligible institution
  • May need a cosigner based on credit and finances

College Ave has a few repayment options for their graduate loans. Like Sallie Mae, you can pay early with no penalty. College Ave gives you the option to select different repayment goals, so you can repay the loan after 5, 8, 10, or 15 years.

5. Ascent

Ascent is a private lender with five graduate loan options: medical school, law school, dental school, MBA, and general. Each graduate loan has varying rates, conditions, and repayment options, so we will be focusing on the general graduate loan. For the general graduate loan, you can borrow up to 100% of your attendance cost.

You have the option to choose between fixed and variable interest rates. The current fixed interest rates range from 3.21%-12.99%, while the variable interest rates range from 1.51%-10.83%.

Loan requirements:

  • Enrolled at least half-time in a degree program at an eligible institution
  • Must be a US citizen/permanent resident or have Deferred Action for DACA status OR have a US citizen/permanent resident cosigner with good credit

Ascent offers a nine-month grace period after graduation for borrowers. You can choose between two repayment terms: 7 years and 15 years.

6. SoFi

SoFi is a private lender that offers a general graduate student loan. This loan is unique because it is available for graduate-degree programs and graduate-certification programs. You have to borrow a minimum of $5,000 for this loan.

They offer variable and fixed interest rates. The current fixed interest rates range from 4.13%-10.90%, while variable interest rates are 1.05%-11.29%.

Loan requirements:

  • Must be a US citizen/permanent resident/eligible visa holder, or have a US citizen/permanent resident cosigner with good credit
  • Borrower or cosigner must have sufficient income
  • Be enrolled at least half-time for a graduation degree or certificate at an eligible institution

SoFi has four repayment terms available: 5, 7, 10, and 15 years.

7. Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank is a private lender that offers graduate student loans. This lender will determine how much you can qualify for, but the maximum borrowing amount with Citizens Bank is $150,000.

You can choose between fixed and variable interest rates. The fixed interest rates range from 4.64%-10.95%, while variable interest rates range from 1.89%-10.41%.

Loan requirements:

  • Must be a US citizen/permanent resident or have a US citizen/permanent resident cosigner with good credit
  • Be enrolled at least half-time at a degree-granting eligible institution
  • Have no prior loan defaults

Citizens Bank’s repayment terms range from 5 to 15 years.

8. Earnest

Earnest offers private student loans. You should borrow at least $1,000 for this loan.

Earnest has some of the lowest minimum interest rates on this list. You can choose between variable and fixed interest loans. The website doesn’t list the full range, but the interest rates start at 0.99% for variable rates and 2.99% for fixed rates.

Loan requirements:

  • Be enrolled full-time at a 4-year Title IV institution
  • Live in any state but Nevada
  • Be a US citizen/permanent resident or have a US citizen/permanent resident cosigner

Earnest lets you wait nine months after graduation before your first payment. You can pay early without penalty or wait until the first due payment. The repayment terms are between 5 and 20 years.

9. EDvestinU

EDvestinU is a nonprofit higher education lender that offers graduate student loans. The minimum loan amount is $1,000 per year and the maximum total amount is $200,000. Unlike most of the loans on this list, you can be a graduate student in a non-degree program.

You can choose between fixed and variable interest rates. The interest rates are determined by credit and repayment period. The fixed interest rates range from around 3%-8%, while variable interest rates range from around 2.18%-6.28%.

Loan requirements:

  • Must be a US citizen/permanent resident or have a US citizen/permanent resident cosigner with acceptable credit
  • Be enrolled at least half-time at a Title IV, degree-granting institution
  • Borrower or cosigner must have a minimum individual annual gross income of $30,000

Like many loans on this list, you can pay during school or after graduation.

10. MEFA

MEFA is a private lender that offers graduate student loans. You can borrow a minimum of $1,500 up to the total cost of attendance minus financial aid.
This lender only uses fixed interest rates. The current fixed interest rates range from 4.5%-5.6%.

Loan requirements:

  • Be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting graduate program
  • Attend an eligible non-profit school
  • Must be a US citizen or permanent resident

MEFA has the standard six-month grace period after graduation for loan repayment. You can pay during school or wait until your first payment is due. You have to pay off your loan within 15 years.

11. Discover

Discover is a private lender that offers graduate and postgraduate loans. You can borrow a minimum of $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance after financial aid. In addition to the loan, Discover has a unique program that financially rewards borrowers for a good GPA.

Discover gives you the choice between fixed and variable interest rates. Their current fixed interest rates range from 3.99%-12.59%, while their variable interest rates range from 1.87%-11.87%.

Loan requirements:

  • Be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting graduate program at an eligible school
  • Be a US citizen/permanent resident or have a US citizen/permanent resident cosigner
  • Pass a credit check

Once you are finished with school, you have a nine-month grace period. You will have a maximum of 20 years to repay your loan.

12. Education Loan Finance

Education Loan Finance is a private lender that offers MBA, law, healthcare, and general graduate school loans. You can borrow a minimum of $1,000 up to the cost of attendance.

This lender offers variable and fixed interest rates. While the full range is not listed, the minimum variable interest rate is 1.20%, while the minimum fixed interest rate is 3.20%.

Loan requirements:

  • Be enrolled at least half-time in a Master’s or Doctoral degree program
  • Borrowers and cosigners must be a US citizen/permanent resident
  • Borrower or cosigner must have a credit score of 680 or higher

There is a six-month grace period after you graduate, and then you will have to make payments toward your loans. There is no penalty for paying during school, but it is not required. You can choose loan repayment periods from 5 to 15 years.

Graduate Student Loans

We’ve curated this list to help you pay for college and finance your future. There are several things to consider when you decide on a loan. Compare eligibility criteria, interest rates, and borrow amount to determine the best graduate students loans for you.

Loans aren’t free money, but they can give you a head start. From federal to private, be smart but ambitious with your finances. Use these graduate student loans to pursue your academic and professional goals.

Do you have more questions about college and grad school loans? Visit our blog for more information about college life and tuition tips.

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