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Besides getting a solid education, attending college in Arkansas provides plenty of opportunity for fun, from hiking in Mammoth Spring State Park to enjoying a slice of Possum Pie. But what isn’t fun is getting stuck with student loans in Arkansas.
Students graduate with an average of $26,799 after attending a four-year institution in Arkansas, according to The Institute for College Access & Success. This is a lot of money to owe. The good news, though, is that there are ways to find affordable Arkansas student loans or refinance those student loans you took out while in school.
This guide will help you to get the Arkansas student loans you need to make your education less costly.
Arkansas student debt: At a glance
|Average debt at graduation||$26,799|
|Percent of students who graduate with debt||55|
|National ranking for amount of debt||33|
|National average debt at graduation (Class of 2017)||$39,400|
|Info current as of 2015-16 school year, except when noted
Source: The Institute for College Access & Success
How to get Arkansas student loans
When you apply for student loans to attend school in Arkansas, it’s best to exhaust options for loans from the government before obtaining private student loans. Federal loans often have lower interest rates than their private equivalents, as well as access to loan forgiveness options and income-driven repayment (IDR) plans that cap your monthly payments at a percentage of your disposable income.
Federal student loans
Most Arkansas students borrow from the Department of Education through its direct loan program.
Direct loans, also known as Stafford loans, include both subsidized and unsubsidized loans from the federal government. Subsidized loans will cover your interest during undergraduate study, but you must demonstrate financial need to qualify. Unsubsidized loans don’t cover in-school interest costs, but they’re available to graduate and professional students — as well as undergrads — and they’re awarded regardless of financial need.
For both subsidized and unsubsidized direct loans, the government charges a low fixed interest rate and set origination fee, so there’s no need to shop around. There’s also no credit check required for these government loans, and students are automatically eligible once they submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA.
The state of Arkansas also provides resources to help students, although the state doesn’t offer loans itself. Students can visit the Arkansas Student Loan Authority website to find out about their federal loan options and get free help with college planning.
Graduate students and parents of undergrads may be eligible for PLUS loans, which are also federal student loans. But PLUS loans are not available if you have adverse credit and, unlike direct loans, aren’t always a better deal than private student loans, so it will be important to compare different options.
Private student loans
There are limits on the amount that students are eligible to take out in direct loans, both on an annual basis and throughout their time in school. Since direct loans alone are often insufficient to fully fund college, many students also take out private student loans.
Private student loans don’t offer the same kind of borrower protections that federal loans do. There’s no IDR option and no loan forgiveness for public service work. There’s also more variation in rates and terms among private lenders, which is why it’s so important to compare options to find your best deals.
To qualify for private student loans, you’ll need to have good credit and proof of income. Many students will likely have to have a cosigner to get approved. A cosigner shares legal responsibility for loan repayment, so it is a big responsibility for someone.
Students looking for private student loans in Arkansas have many options, including:
- Centennial Bank
- Carries the Smart Option Student Loan from Sallie Mae
- Interest rates run from 2.00% to 11.85%
- Arkansas Federal Credit Union
- Offers private education lines of credit with variable interest rates to graduate and undergraduate students
- Rates range from 6.00% to 7.61% as of Oct. 9, 2018
- College Ave Student Loans
- Private student loan rates are 1.49% – 11.98%
- Also offers parent loans
- Ascent Student Loans
- Has a 1% cashback graduation reward
- Interest rates range from 3.18% – 13.92%
- Rates go from 2.99% – 6.95%
- Allows you to release your cosigner from the loan
How to refinance Arkansas student loans
After graduation, Arkansas student loan borrowers also have ways to make their monthly payments more affordable. One of these options is to refinance the student loans.
Refinancing is generally done with private lenders, including local and national banks, credit unions or online lenders. The federal government doesn’t offer loan refinancing, although it is possible to consolidate certain federal loans through the Department of Education if you’d prefer to have one big loan to pay instead of many, or if you want to change your length of repayment.
Unlike consolidation, refinancing can significantly lower your interest rate, depending on how high your rates are now and how strong a credit profile you (or your cosigner) has. As a result, student loan refinancing can reduce both your monthly payments and the total cost of your loan.
But the downside to refinancing is that you lose access to federal borrower protections, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness and IDR programs, since your loan will now be private.
You should carefully weigh whether it makes sense for you to give up these federal loan benefits to achieve the savings that refinancing Arkansas student loans could provide. If you want to refinance, some financial institutions offering this option include:
- Arkansas Federal Credit Union
- Offers both fixed- and variable-rate options, with terms from five to 15 years
- Rates range from 3.50% to 10.50% as of Oct. 9, 2018
- Has fixed and variable refinancing rates ranging from 3.21% – 6.67%
- Unemployment protection program will pause your payments and help you find work
- Refinancing loans have fixed or variable rates from 3.21% – 6.67%
- Unemployment protection also available
- Education Loan Finance
- Has a wide variety of repayment terms, from five to 20 years
- Interest rates on variable- and fixed-rate loans go from 2.39% – 6.01%
As with private student loans, you’ll want to do some comparison shopping since terms can vary widely from one lender to another with these loan types.
The bottom line: Student loans in Arkansas
Whether you’re going to school in Arkansas now or have graduated and want to take control over your Arkansas student loans, understanding different financing options is key to making school affordable. Remember to max out scholarships and grants first, then take federal loans, and finally turn to private loans to make up the difference.
By borrowing as little as you can and choosing the right loan products, your path to freedom from debt should be shorter, quicker and smoother.
Note: Student Loan Hero has independently collected the above information related to student loan interest rates and terms. The financial institutions mentioned have neither provided nor reviewed the information shared in this article prior to publication.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2020!
|* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
1 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
2 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
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.
1Rates 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.
2This 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.
Information advertised valid as of 5/18/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
3 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicant’s ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
4 Important Disclosures for Discover.
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.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens.
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.54%- 6.40% (3.54% – 6.40% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.79% – 6.65% (3.79% – 6.65% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.72% – 6.11% (2.72% – 6.11% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.49% – 6.36% (3.49%-6.36% APR).
Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.47% – 8.35% (1.47% – 8.20% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.45% – 10.74% (4.45% – 10.59% APR).
Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.47% – 7.25% (1.47% – 7.10% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.40% – 9.64% (4.40% – 9.49% APR).
Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.09%-6.23% (3.09%-6.23% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 5.48%-8.52% (5.48%-8.52% APR).
Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 4.79% – 9.93% (4.79% – 9.85% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.39% – 12.82% APR).
Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.88% – 7.38% (3.88% – 7.04% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.97% – 10.08% 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 May 1, 2020, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.44%. 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%.
Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
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.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
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.
|2.00% – 10.01%*,1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.49% – 11.98%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|3.18% – 13.92%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.49% – 11.99%4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.52% – 9.50%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.54% – 6.40%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|