20 Best Law Schools for Avoiding Six-Figure Student Debt

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If you’re considering a career in law, you’re probably looking at the most affordable law schools to minimize student debt  and you should be.

A new Student Loan Hero study found that by the time law school students graduate, they owe an average of $111,752 in student loans.

The question of whether law school is worth it comes down to your ability to minimize student debt and land a high salary after graduation. By choosing to attend one of the cheapest law schools, you can afford to repay your loans without living on a shoestring budget.

For this study, Student Loan Hero surveyed 116 programs to find the 20 cheapest law schools that give graduates a leg up on repaying law school loans. Find out if your top choice ranks among the most affordable law schools.

Study: Attending the cheapest law schools helps graduates tackle student debt repayment

To rank these law schools, we looked at the cheapest law schools and compared tuition costs, indebtedness, and post-graduation employment rates and salaries.

That gave us a list of cheap law schools where graduates leave with excellent career prospects and a healthy ratio of lower student debt to higher income.

For instance, according to our survey, a typical law school student faces annual tuition costs of $36,096 and an average of $111,752 in student debt.

Although the average law school employment rate is 87.1%, a typical law school graduate earns a starting salary of $73,710. That means for every $100 borrowed for law school, they will earn only $66 in the first year.

How does that compare to our rankings of the cheapest law schools? Here’s what graduates of the 20 most affordable law schools can expect on average:

  • Annual law school tuition: $25,421
  • Student loan balance at graduation: $83,195
  • Post-law school starting salary: $78,569
  • Employment rates: 90.7%
  • Debt-to-income ratio: .94

Compare the 20 most affordable law schools to the 20 least affordable law schools, and the differences are staggering. Students and graduates of the worst law schools for avoiding student debt can expect to face the following on average:

  • Annual law school tuition: $43,935
  • Student loan balance at graduation: $144,189
  • Post-law school starting salary: $63,810
  • Employment rates: 77.7%
  • Debt-to-income ratio: .44

Law school graduates who don’t attend cheap law schools might face greater difficulties finding a high-paying job and repaying their six-figure debt.

Top 20 most affordable law schools in the U.S.

It’s no wonder the phrase “choose wisely” comes to mind when deciding which law school to attend. After all, choosing your program from among the cheapest law schools could mean the difference between a student loan balance of $144,000 upon graduation and law school debt that’s half that amount.

It’s also central to the pay you can expect to receive. Remember: Your income will directly affect how much student loan debt you can afford to repay and whether you can take advantage of options such as refinancing law school loans.

So before you make your final decision, consider the following 20 most affordable law schools. Perhaps a few of your top choices already rank among the best law schools for avoiding six-figure debt.

1. Brigham Young University (Clark)

  • Annual tuition: $12,310 (for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $58,113
  • Average starting salary: $75,872

Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School is a bargain for students who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with tuition costs of $12,310 annually. Nonmembers pay $24,620 per year.

This low cost allows around 31% of students to avoid law school debt altogether. Meanwhile, those who do borrow can expect smaller balances now and higher incomes at graduation by earning 1.31 times more than they owe on average.

2. Georgia State University (GSU)

  • Annual tuition: $16,858 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $64,384
  • Average starting salary: $83,427

Georgia State University College of Law’s tuition for in-state students beats the average by more than $19,000 per year, making it easier to limit student debt. That adds up to $47,368 less in debt at graduation than the $111,752 average.

GSU graduates’ law school debt is also more easily paid off, as starting salaries are about $9,700 greater than the average. However, out-of-state tuition is significantly higher at $36,456 annually, making this school less of a deal for out-of-state residents.

3. Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey

  • Annual tuition: $27,269 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $56,173
  • Average starting salary: $64,604

Graduates of Rutgers Law School have the lowest student loan balance on this list. They have about half the average debt for law school grads in this study.

What’s more, the typical Rutgers Law School graduate’s debt is $8,431 less than their starting salary, even with the school’s below-average starting pay.

4. University of Iowa

  • Annual tuition: $24,930 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $74,128
  • Average starting salary: $74,903

University of Iowa College of Law’s average debt level is the eighth-lowest, coming in at about $37,600 less than the average in this study. That’s matched with a salary on par with the overall average for law school grads.

When you add up those factors, you’ll find that University of Iowa alumni will find it easier than most to repay law school debt.

5. University of Houston

  • Annual tuition: $30,401 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $97,246
  • Average starting salary: $102,153

Large starting salaries over six figures help University of Houston Law Center grads repay their student loans.

With starting salaries that are about $28,450 more than the average and law school debt around $14,500 less than the average, student loans are easier to manage for these alumni.

Further, more than a third (35%) of graduates leave University of Houston Law Center with no student loans at all.

6. University of Texas at Austin

  • Annual tuition: $33,995 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $103,417
  • Average starting salary: $105,647

Next up is another Texas law school. The University of Texas School of Law is in the top 10 with starting salaries over $100,000.

In fact, this law school’s high starting salary makes it easier for alumni to afford the average six-figure law school debt. What’s more, U.S. News & World Report ranks Texas Law as No. 1 for having the highest ratio of starting salaries compared to annual tuition costs.

However, this is the last law school on the list for which starting salaries beat typical law school debt.

7. University of Arizona (Rogers)

  • Annual tuition: $25,525 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $84,601
  • Average starting salary: $76,664

The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law has the lowest rate of student debt of any law school in the top 20.

Just 62% of graduates leave with law school loans. They also owe around $27,150 less in law school debt while earning slightly above-average starting salaries.

8. University of Nebraska — Lincoln

  • Annual tuition: $15,036 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $62,888
  • Average starting salary: $58,614

In-state residents will benefit the most from Nebraska College of Law’s low tuition. It’s no surprise this law school carries the third-lowest average student loan balance.

However, out-of-state students, beware: You’ll pay more than twice as much at $34,192 a year.

9. University of Wisconsin — Madison (UW-Madison)

  • Annual tuition: $21,450 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $77,555
  • Average starting salary: $72,089

Below-average tuition helps law school students at the University of Wisconsin in Madison keep student loan balances low.

In fact, University of Wisconsin Law School alumni owe about $34,200 less than the average law school graduate. Repaying this debt while earning near-average starting salaries puts these graduates ahead of the curve on law school debt.

10. University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill

  • Annual tuition: $23,551 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $95,365
  • Average starting salary: $88,781

UNC School of Law can be a smart choice to kick-start a law career.

Grads earn above-average starting salaries and have higher employment rates. Plus, UNC School of Law alumni earn high salaries compared to their student loan debt, making it easier to quickly pay it off.

11. University of North Dakota (UND)

  • Annual tuition: $11,434 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $66,917
  • Average starting salary: $55,470

University of North Dakota has the lowest annual tuition among the 20 cheapest law schools on this list. Even out-of-state students pay about average tuition at $25,423 per year.

That gives University of North Dakota School of Law graduates the sixth-lowest student law school debt in this study.

However, while law school debt is easier to avoid at UND, grads should expect lower starting salaries and an employment rate of just 46%.

12. Louisiana State University — Baton Rouge (Hebert)

  • Annual tuition: $22,520 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $83,919
  • Average starting salary: $71,065

LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center graduates can earn a JD with nearly $28,000 less in law school debt than the average. They also pay lower tuition rates in school and earn starting salaries on par with the average law school graduate.

If that’s not enough to pique your interest, graduates also enjoy higher employment rates at 93.7%.

13. George Mason University

  • Annual tuition: $25,351 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $118,056
  • Average starting salary: $83,669

Graduates of the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University are among the least likely to have student debt at all, with just 63% borrowing for law school.

Even though the average student loan balance for alumni is about $6,300 higher than the average in this survey, George Mason University ranks among the most affordable law schools.

Additionally, a high employment rate of 96.7% means graduates will easily find a job. Plus, they outearn the average law school graduate’s starting salary by about $10,000.

14. Ohio State University (Moritz)

  • Annual tuition: $29,668 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $88,301
  • Average starting salary: $74,820

Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law has the highest post-graduate employment rate of the top 20 law schools at 97.7%.

They also earn slightly above-average starting salaries and get a head start on repaying law school debt by limiting it to $88,301 upon graduation.

15. Boston College

  • Annual tuition: $50,620
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $108,873
  • Average starting salary: $103,147

The only private university in the top 20, Boston College Law School carries the highest tuition costs among these law schools.

Despite annual costs that top $50,000, graduates tend to limit debt to a relatively low figure. Plus, since Boston College Law School grads net large starting salaries, even this six-figure debt can be managed and repaid in time.

16. University of California — Los Angeles (UCLA)

  • Annual tuition: $45,338 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $118,291
  • Average starting salary: $109,030

UCLA School of Law has the highest average starting salary among the top 20 law schools, with the average graduate earning well over six figures. In fact, that’s nearly 50% more than the average post-law school salary.

Add employment rates of 95.5%, and UCLA School of Law grads are well-positioned to maximize post-law school earnings.

This high salary also lags about $9,000 behind the typical debt of a UCLA School of Law graduate. With a higher ROI, UCLA ranks among the most affordable law schools.

17. University of Florida (Levin)

  • Annual tuition: $22,299 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $82,480
  • Average starting salary: $69,032

The Levin College of Law at the University of Florida is one of the cheapest law schools listed here, with three years of law school costing just under $67,000. The average student loan balance of Levin graduates is about $15,000 higher than that.

Unfortunately, graduates can expect below-average salaries. The average law school debt for graduates of this school beats out the average by just over $29,000, however.

18. Wayne State University

  • Annual tuition: $30,727 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $81,738
  • Average starting salary: $74,879

At Wayne State University Law School in Michigan, graduates have a high starting salary compared to their student debt.

Borrowers make it out of this law school with less student loan debt than the combined cost of tuition for three years at a little more than $92,000. What’s more, out-of-state students won’t pay significantly more, with tuition costs at just $33,509 annually.

19. University of Arkansas — Little Rock (Bowen)

  • Annual tuition: $15,121 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $65,931
  • Average starting salary: $57,420

In-state students at UA Little Rock’s William H. Bowen School of Law pay $21,000 less per year than the average law school tuition.

That helps keep borrowing low and student loans manageable — even with a starting salary that’s about $16,300 below the average.

20. William & Mary Law School

  • Annual tuition: $32,000 (in state)
  • Average law school debt at graduation: $90,028
  • Average starting salary: $82,945

Rounding out the list is William & Mary Law School in Virginia, where graduates leave with $21,700 less debt on average. These law school graduates also earn a higher starting salary, which helps them keep up with student loan payments.

Top 50 most affordable law schools

Wondering how other law schools in the U.S. stack up when it comes to borrowing student loans?

Here’s a list of the top 50 cheapest law schools we found to be the best options if you’re looking to avoid six-figure law school debt.

Is your top pick or current school among the best law schools for avoiding debt? See how your school measures up in terms of average law school debt and average starting salary.

RankingLaw SchoolAverage Law School DebtAverage Salary (NALP)
1.Brigham Young University (Clark)$58,133$75,872
2.Georgia State University$64,384$83,427
3.Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey$56,173$64,604
4.University of Iowa$74,128$74,903
5.University of Houston$97,246$102,153
6.University of Texas  Austin$103,417$105,647
7.University of Arizona (Rogers)$84,601$76,664
8.University of Nebraska  Lincoln$62,888$58,614
9.University of Wisconsin  Madison$77,555$72,089
10.University of North Carolina  Chapel Hill$95,365$88,781
11.University of North Dakota$66,917$55,470
12.Louisiana State University  Baton Rouge (Hebert)$83,919$71,065
13.George Mason University$118,056$83,669
14.Ohio State University (Moritz)$88,301$74,820
15.Boston College$108,873$103,147
16.University of California  Los Angeles$118,291$109,030
17.University of Florida (Levin)$82,480$69,032
18.Wayne State University$81,738$74,879
19.University of Arkansas  Little Rock (Bowen)$65,931$57,420
20.William & Mary Law School (Marshall-Wythe)$90,028$82,945
21.University of Cincinnati$75,512$70,099
22.Vanderbilt University$127,434$110,384
23.Temple University (Beasley)$86,937$73,085
24.University of Tennessee  Knoxville$80,445$70,029
25.University of Tulsa$76,988$64,919
26.Northwestern University (Pritzker)$154,923$131,503
27.University of Oklahoma$83,433$65,874
28.University of Illinois  Urbana-Champaign$99,782$91,753
29.Cornell University$158,128$131,742
30.Columbia University$159,769$136,512
31.Cleveland State University (Cleveland-Marshall)$83,484$70,518
32.University of Nevada  Las Vegas$97,361$72,654
33.University of Hawaii  Manoa (Richardson)$82,510$66,926
34.West Virginia University$82,683$62,897
35.University of Missouri$80,138$61,127
36.Washburn University$81,528$61,204
37.University of Kansas$88,809$64,171
38.University of Minnesota$106,436$82,027
39.University of Mississippi$67,539$51,530
40.University of New Mexico$75,277$57,951
41.University of Memphis (Humphreys)$76,997$56,404
42.Indiana University  Bloomington (Maurer)$99,895$78,880
43.CUNY$78,523$58,009
44.University of Utah (Quinney)$91,982$68,155
45.New York University$167,646$125,457
46.University of California  Berkeley$145,260$112,935
47.University of Michigan  Ann Arbor$146,309$114,928
48.University of Idaho$86,022$45,500
49.Southern Methodist University (Dedman)$126,172$95,049
50.University of Colorado  Boulder$100,499$65,550

Methodology: This study surveyed 116 law schools using data from the U.S. News & World Report college rankings and employment data from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP).

This study ranked colleges on four factors:

  1. The ratio of the average post-law school starting salary (from NALP) to the average indebtedness (from U.S. News), weighted at half
  2. Annual in-state tuition, weighted at one-sixth (from U.S. News)
  3. Percentage of graduates leaving law school with student debt, weighted at one-sixth (from U.S. News)
  4. Employment rates of recent law school graduates, weighted at one-sixth (from NALP)

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1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
 
This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

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3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.  If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.


4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Rates include 0.25% Auto Pay Discount
     
  2. Explanation of Rates “With Autopay” (APD)
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    Available Terms
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5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

sofiDisclosures

UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.37% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.12% to 11.73% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.30% to 11.52% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.29% to 11.89% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60% to 10.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.16% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 4/1/2021. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).


6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.76% – 7.14% (2.76% – 7.14% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.01% – 7.50% (3.01% – 7.50% APR).

Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.19% – 6.73% (2.19% – 6.73% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 2.89% – 7.09% (2.89%-7.09% APR).

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Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.55% – 7.05% (3.55% – 6.77% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.97% – 10.07% APR).

Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of March 1, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.11%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. 

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Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer.  Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.

Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.

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Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.


7 Important Disclosures for Discover.

Discover Disclosures

  1. Aggregate loan limits apply.
  2. Get a cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan when you earn at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) in any academic period covered by the loan. Limitations Apply. Visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for terms and conditions.
  3. Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including undergraduate, graduate, health professions, law and MBA Loans. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.250% as of April 1, 2021. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Your APR will be determined after you apply. Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Rates.
  4. Lowest APRs shown for Discover Private Consolidation Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants who are approved and choose a shorter repayment term, and include a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.250% as of April 1, 2021. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Your APR will be determined after you apply. Visit Discover.com/student-loans/consolidation.html for more information, including up-to-date interest rates and APRs.
Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.