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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 the 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 2.87% 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 2.84% – 10.97%
- Also offers parent loans
- Ascent Student Loans
- Has a 1% cashback graduation reward
- Interest rates range from 3.28% – 12.59%
- Rates go from 3.79% – 10.61%
- 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 perks 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 2.31% – 7.36%
- Unemployment protection program will pause your payments and help you find work
- Refinancing loans have fixed or variable rates from 1.99% – 6.89%
- 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 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.
(1)All rates shown include the auto-pay 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.
(2)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.
(3)As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.
Information advertised valid as of 11/4/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
Discover's lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.
4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).
5 Important Disclosures for Citizens.
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, 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 December 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.70%. Variable interest rates range from 2.80% – 11.06% (2.80% – 10.91% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.72% – 12.19% (4.72% – 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school 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. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.
Please Note: International Students are not eligible for the multi-year approval feature.
|2.84% – 10.97%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|2.87% – 10.75%*,2||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|2.80% – 11.37%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.52% – 9.50%4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|2.80% – 11.06%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|