10 Best Places to Live After College

 August 18, 2021
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As you make the transition from school to the working world, choosing the best place to live after college is critical. It could affect your professional career and future financial prosperity.

But which are the best places to live after college? Consider factors such as:

  • Unemployment rates
  • Ability to earn enough money to repay your student loans
  • Promising job opportunities in your field

Other criteria that may be on your list are professional and social opportunities (including entertainment), affordable housing, quality of life and potential earnings.

Here are our picks for 10 of the best places to move after college in the U.S. (in alphabetical order), along with details of what makes them special and why each made the list:

The best places to live after college

Austin, Texas

If you’re planning to launch yourself into a career in the tech industry, or if you’re a lover of the arts, Austin could be one of the best places to live after college. As an established technology hub, many companies like Google, Activision Blizzard, eBay, Apple and Facebook have branch offices there, along with the headquarters for dozens of well-ranked startups like VRBO. Some may even help you pay off your student loans when you work for them.

Aside from the plentiful tech jobs, Austin is host to renowned festivals like South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits. It’s also home to the University of Texas, Austin — the alma mater to the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Michael Dell and Neil deGrasse Tyson — which helps add to the city’s cultural and artistic sophistication.

While the cost of living in Austin is high relative to some of the other places on this list, its status as one of the top three metros with the fastest growing personal income helps to strike an affordable balance.

  • Population: 978,908
  • Homeowners: 45.1%
  • Median home value: $337,400
  • Median rent: $1,280
  • Median income: $71,576
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 51.7%
  • Median unemployment: 4.8%

Charlotte, N.C.

Located in a state with one of highest growth rates for personal income, this historical city is among the best places to move after college, especially if you see yourself working in the technology or financial industry.

Over the years, the state, specifically Charlotte, has blossomed into an attractive area for large corporations to park their business. Among those companies are industry titans such as Bank of America, Lowe’s, Duke Energy, Honeywell and Nucor Corporation, as well as Student Loan Hero’s parent company LendingTree.

Charlotte, nicknamed the Queen City, also sits at a respectable No. 114 in unemployment out of 384 U.S. cities. And student loan borrowers in North Carolina also tend to have an average balance a little below the national average.

And if you’re a sports fan, Charlotte hosts the state’s NFL team, the Carolina Panthers, as well as the U.S. National Whitewater Center and NASCAR Hall of Fame.

  • Population: 885,708
  • Homeowners: 52.9%
  • Median home value: $220,300
  • Median rent: $1,135
  • Median income: $62,817
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 44.3%
  • Median unemployment: 4.7%

Cincinnati

If you’re a recent graduate looking for an affordable city to live in after college, Cincinnati stands as one of the most economical large metros to relocate to, thanks to inexpensive housing and better-than-average unemployment.

With a large concentration on the health care, education, trade and business service industries, some of Cincinnati’s top employers include Kroger Co., Mercy Health, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Health, TriHealth, University of Cincinnati and Procter & Gamble.

And if you’re looking for some fun, you can also find the largest U.S. Oktoberfest, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and the Great American Ball Park where the Cincinnati Reds play. Just be prepared to eat lots of Cincinnati chili.

  • Population: 303,940
  • Homeowners: 37.8%
  • Median home value: $138,000
  • Median rent: $738
  • Median income: $40,640
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 37.1%
  • Median unemployment: 5.5%

Cleveland

Cleveland has one of the most affordable home rental markets in the U.S. This, coupled with the fact that Ohioans have an overall student loan balance 10% below the national average, earns it a spot among the best places to live after college.

The Cleveland economy is particularly focused on health care, manufacturing, finance and business services. New college graduates may find employment at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, MetroHealth System, Cleveland Cliffs and KeyCorp.

And if you’re looking for something to do in Cleveland, try visiting the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or catching a rollercoaster at Cedar Point Amusement Park.

  • Population: 381,009
  • Homeowners: 41.6%
  • Median home value: $69,600
  • Median rent: $719
  • Median income: $30,907
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 17.5%
  • Median unemployment: 6.5%

Denver

Known as the Mile High City, the Greater Denver Area boasts a variety of job opportunities, especially in business services, government, transportation, utilities, finance, construction, education and health. Denver and nearby Boulder, Colo. also have many major tech branch offices, including the likes of Google, Slack, Salesforce, Ibotta and Rafflecopter.

That, as well as a gorgeous view of the Rocky Mountains, could make the city one of the best places for you to move after college.

And while Denver can be an expensive place to live, it is one of the top metro areas in terms of personal income growth.

  • Population: 727,211
  • Homeowners: 49.9%
  • Median home value: $390,600
  • Median rent: $1,311
  • Median income: $68,592
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 49.4%
  • Median unemployment: 6.3%

Minneapolis

With a relatively low unemployment rate and a diverse range of industries to choose from, Minneapolis is also one of the best places to move after college.

Recent college graduates may find work in health care, education, business services, trade, transportation and utilities. Some of the largest employers in the Twin Cities include Target, UnitedHealth Group, 3M, Land O’Lakes and Xcel Energy.

Minneapolis also gives new college graduates access to the state’s beautiful outdoor spaces like the Chain of Lakes, Minnehaha Regional Park (one of Minneapolis’ oldest parks) and Webber Natural Swimming Pool. And within the city, you can explore the Mall of America®, Minnesota Zoo, Stone Arch Bridge and Minneapolis Institute of Art.

  • Population: 429,606
  • Homeowners: 47.2%
  • Median home value: $251,600
  • Median rent: $1,027
  • Median income: $62,583
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 50.4%
  • Median unemployment: 4.5%

Omaha, Neb.

Located smack dab in the middle of the U.S., Omaha, Neb., ranks within the 20 urban areas with the lowest unemployment rates. Likewise, its low cost of living and quickly evolving social scene make it an attractive place to live.

As an added bonus, the average Nebraskan’s federal and private student loan balance is 22% lower than the national rate.

Some of the metro area’s biggest industries include education, health care, trade, transportation, utilities and business services. The city is home to corporate moguls such as Berkshire Hathaway, Union Pacific, Kiewit and Mutual of Omaha Insurance.

Omaha is also host to the Olympic Swim Trials, the College World Series and the award-winning Henry Doorly Zoo.

  • Population: 478,192
  • Homeowners: 58.6%
  • Median home value: $159,700
  • Median rent: $923
  • Median income: $60,092
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 37.7%
  • Median unemployment: 3.2%

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is an especially attractive place to live for recent college graduates with its low unemployment rate — the 18th lowest (tied) in the country — and proximity to natural wonders such as Arches National Park, Zion National Park and the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Also worth noting is that Utah, of which Salt Lake City is the capital, is among the top three states with the fastest growing personal income. This could make it easier to pay off those student loans.

  • Population: 200,567
  • Homeowners: 48.1%
  • Median home value: $314,500
  • Median rent: $985
  • Median income: $60,676
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 46.5%
  • Median unemployment: 3.2%

Seattle

Home to some of the largest tech companies in the world, it’s no secret why Seattle is also considered one of the best places to live after college.

The city has one of the highest rates for job growth and offers beautiful surroundings like mountains and the ocean, as well as a highly coveted food and social scene. It also hosts the headquarters of major corporations such as Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing Co. Overall, Seattle’s top industries are trade, transportation, utilities, business services, health care and education.

Meanwhile, borrowers in Washington have, on average, a 9% lower student loan debt balance than the country’s average.

  • Population: 753,675
  • Homeowners: 45.7%
  • Median home value: $663,100
  • Median rent: $1,614
  • Median income: $92,263
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 32.1%
  • Median unemployment: 5.5%

St. Louis

Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, St. Louis offers recent college graduates one of the lowest costs of living in a large metro in the country, as well as a below-average unemployment rate.

Home to the Gateway Arch, the tallest monument in the U.S, St. Louis provides a wide variety of activities, including the Six Flags St. Louis amusement park and major league baseball and ice hockey teams.

  • Population: 300,576
  • Homeowners: 43.7%
  • Median home value: $138,700
  • Median rent: $828
  • Median income: $43,896
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 36.3%
  • Median unemployment: 5.3%

Why location is important for new college graduates

Geography isn’t always destiny, but it can make a big difference in your ability to pay off student loans quickly.

For example, some places have more opportunities for student loan forgiveness, while others might be more inviting to those planning to raise a family. Generally, though, it’s often a combination of local income levels and local costs of living that make some places better for paying off student loans.

With more and more work transitioning to remote status due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s more opportunity to telework from anywhere you want. Be sure to choose wisely.

Carrie Smith contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 9 lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.88% – 6.15%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.88% – 5.64%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.50% – 6.85%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.89% – 5.90%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

1.99% – 6.59%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.88% – 5.64%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit NaviRefi

1.90% – 5.25%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.39% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

2.13% – 5.25%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit PenFed

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of June 1, 2021.


2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Interest Rate Disclosure

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.48% APR to 5.79% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.88% APR to 5.64% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 2.04% and 5.8% to the one month LIBOR. Earnest rate ranges are current as of 6/8/2021, and are subject to change based on market conditions.

Auto Pay Discount Disclosure

You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay.

Student Loan Refinancing Loan Cost Examples

These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042.39. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,249.77. Your actual repayment terms may vary.Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest. com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

Earnest Loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC or One American Bank, Member FDIC. Earnest Operations LLC, NMLS #1204917. 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105. California Financing Law License 6054788. Visit earnest.com/licenses for a full list of licensed states. For California residents (Student Loan Refinance Only): Loans will be arranged or made pursuant to a California Financing Law License.

One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC with support from Navient Solutions LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

© 2021 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved.


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. ‍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 Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
 


5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates from 2.49% APR to 6.94% APR (with autopay). Variable rates from 1.99% APR to 6.59% APR (with autopay). All variable rates are based on the 1-month LIBOR and may increase after consummation if LIBOR increases; see more at SoFi.com/legal/#1. If approved for a loan your rate will depend on a variety of factors such as your credit profile, your application and your selected loan terms. Your rate will be within the ranges of rates listed above. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers, or may become available, such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license #6054612; NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Additional terms and conditions apply; see SoFi.com/eligibility for details. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.


6 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

1. NaviRefi loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC, a member of the Navient family of companies, subject to individual approval and underwriting criteria. California residents only: Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license. Additional terms and conditions apply.

– To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or non-citizen permanent resident of the United States, reside in a state we lend in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.navirefi.com/help-and-questions. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Loan terms are subject to eligibility. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application. Loan approval is subject to confirmation that your debt-to-income, free cash flow, credit history and application information meet the minimum requirements. You must have a minimum FICO score to be considered.

– You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.75% – 6.04% APR (2.50% – 5.79% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.13% – 5.89% APR (1.88% – 5.64% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.

– You can take advantage of the 0.25% Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. NaviRefi rate ranges are current as of June 1, 2021 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

– Loan cost examples: These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,250. Your actual repayment terms may vary.

– The information provided on this page is updated as of 06/1/2021. Earnest Operations LLC reserves the right to modify or discontinue (in whole or in part) this loan program and its associated services and benefits at any time without notice. Check www.navirefi.com for the most up-to-date information. Terms and Conditions apply. Call 855-284-4893 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

– Earnest Operations LLC – NMLS #1204917, CA CFL #6054788 – 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105.
Navient Solutions, LLC – NMLS #212430 – 123 Justison St., Wilmington, DE 19801. Visit https://navirefi.com/lending-licenses for a full list of licensed states.


7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 04/07/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.49% APR – 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.13%-5.25% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are 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.

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