California Student Loans: Debt Stats, Repayment Programs and Refinancing Loans

 August 7, 2021
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California federal and private student loan borrowers owe an average of $34,187 in debt, 7% less than the U.S. average of $36,689.

Three California cities and regions rank in the top 10 of the Council for Community and Economic Research’s third-quarter 2020 cost-of-living index, leaving its student borrowers to carry a unique financial burden. However, protections have expanded for borrowers in the state. In September 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Student Borrower Bill of Rights, which standardizes student loan servicer practices and how payments are applied.

Here’s what else you should know about California student loans.

California student loans: Borrowers owe average of $34,187 in federal, private debt — and more facts

California student debt overview
Average balance $34,187
Total outstanding debt $148.3 billion
Number of borrowers 4 million
Average total monthly payment $314
Note: Averages include federal and private student loan debt.

One way to keep student loan debt low is by attending an affordable community college. Today, there are 116 colleges in the California Community Colleges system. Lower-income students who plan to enroll part time or full time can apply for the California College Promise Grant to receive an enrollment fee waiver.

In addition to its community college system and hundreds of private colleges, California is home to 10 campuses that are part of the public University of California system. Notable schools within the system include:

Separately, the California State University system has 23 campuses.

Eligible California students can explore state-sponsored grants, including the Cal Grant, which awards up to $14,226 to students depending on their school type and educational year.

Despite the financial aid programs available to California residents, about 4 million students in the state still rely on federal and private student loans.

Student loan debt in California’s largest counties, from Alameda to Ventura

Student loan debt by ZIP code in California’s 4 largest cities: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco

Loan repayment programs for California residents

If you’re looking for student loan forgiveness in California, here are some loan repayment programs for residents.

Allied Healthcare Loan Repayment Program (AHLRP)

The AHLRP offers awards up to $16,000 that are renewable up to three times. Program applicants must be licensed and practicing in an Allied Healthcare profession — ranging from audiology and health education to podiatry and speech therapy — in one of 35 County Medical Services Program (CMSP) counties. If selected, recipients must commit to working in a CMSP location or facility for at least 12 months.

CalHealthCares

Eligible physicians and dentists can get up to $300,000 in loan repayment assistance through the CalHealthCares loan repayment program. In exchange, recipients must commit to serving Medi-Cal patients for at least five years, among other requirements. Eligible dentists also have the option of committing to 10 years of service as a Medi-Cal practitioner for up to $300,000 through the Practice Support Grant.

California Dental Association (CDA) Foundation Student Loan Repayment Grant

The CDA began offering its privately funded grant in 2002. New dental graduates who choose to work in underserved communities may be awarded up to $35,000 annually for three years for a total of $105,000. This grant was on hold in 2020, so check with the CDA Foundation to see whether it’ll be offered again.

California State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP)

Licensed medical professionals who practice in a health professional shortage area in the state may be eligible for California’s SLRP. Applicants can choose a full-time obligation of two years or a half-time obligation of four years. The initial award is $50,000, with the option for recipients to extend their service. Extension awards depend on full-time versus half-time service.

County Medical Services Program (CMSP) Loan Repayment Program

Medical professionals who provide care in one of 35 CMSP counties can receive up to $50,000 for full-time service over two years. Eligible CMSP applicants can also choose to commit to half-time service for two years for an award up to $25,000. Applicants must have a valid and unrestricted license to practice in the state and meet other requirements to be considered.

Steven M. Thompson Physician Corps Loan Repayment Program (STLRP)

STLRP recipients can receive up to $105,000 for a minimum of three years of full-time service in a health professional shortage area or primary care shortage area within the state. Repayment can be awarded up to two times. This program is only available to eligible allopathic or osteopathic physicians or surgeons.

California federal student loan borrowers younger than 25 owe less than national average — and more comparisons

How to refinance California student loans

Nearly 10% of borrowers in California owe $100,000 or more in federal student loans, so refinancing your student loans could help save money — especially if you have strong credit.

A student loan refinance is offered by a private lender that repays the borrower’s existing federal and/or private student loans in full, then creates a new private student loan.

A major benefit of refinancing California student loans is potentially getting a lower interest rate, which can save you in interest charges. It also simplifies loan repayment by creating one loan with one monthly due date.

Refinancing federal student loans, however, means borrowers lose valuable government protections, such as:

Before moving forward with student loan refinancing, consider whether the potential savings are worth losing these federal benefits.

Sources

  • U.S. Department of Education data (as of June 30, 2020)
  • Anonymized My LendingTree June 2020 credit reports
  • Federal Reserve Bank of New York Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax (as of June 2020)
  • mappingstudentdebt.org

Because the latter data is from 2015, researchers estimated the increase in student loan debt per borrower in the state using statewide data from anonymized credit reports.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 9 lenders of 2022!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
2.75% – 8.90%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

2.50% – 6.80%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.81% – 7.21%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.49% – 7.99%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

3.24% – 7.99%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit NaviRefi

3.24% – 8.24%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

3.53% – 7.24%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

1.74% – 7.99%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Purefy

3.69% – 9.92%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Citizens

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. Fixed loans feature repayment terms of 5 to 20 years. For example, the monthly payment for a sample $10,000 with an APR of 5.47% for a 12-year term would be $94.86. Variable loans feature repayment terms of 5 to 25 years. For example, the monthly payment for a sample $10,000 with an APR of 5.90% for a 15-year term would be $83.85.

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 October 1, 2022.


2 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 $9 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 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) and changes in the SOFR 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%. There is no limit on the amount your interest rate can increase at one time. The Index is currently published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (“New York Fed”). If the Index is no longer available, it will be replaced by a replacement Index according to the terms of the promissory note.

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

This information is current as of October 31, 2022. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.


3 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 10/26/2022 student loan refinancing rates range from 2.81% APR – 7.21%APR Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.99% APR – 10.68 APR% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


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

Earnest Disclosures

You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 3.99% – 8.74% APR (3.74% – 8.49% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.74% APR to 8.24% APR (2.49% – 7.99% 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.


5 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 4.24% – 9.24% APR (3.99% – 8.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 3.49% APR to 8.24% APR (3.24% – 7.99% 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.


6 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates range from 3.99% APR to 8.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 3.24% APR to 8.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. 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. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.


7 Important Disclosures for Purefy.

Purefy Disclosures

Purefy Student Loan Refinancing Rate and Terms Disclosure: Annual Percentage Rates (APR) ranges and examples are based on information provided to Purefy by lenders participating in Purefy’s rate comparison platform. For student loan refinancing, the participating lenders offer fixed rates ranging from 2.73% – 7.99% APR, and variable rates ranging from 1.74% – 7.99% APR. The maximum variable rate is 25.00%. Your interest rate will be based on the lender’s requirements. In most cases, lenders determine the interest rates based on your credit score, degree type and other credit and financial criteria. Only borrowers with excellent credit and meeting other lender criteria will qualify for the lowest rate available. Rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice. Terms and conditions apply.  


8 Important Disclosures for Citizens.

CitizensBank Disclosures

Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69%-9.92% (3.69%-9.92% APR). Fixed interest rates range from  4.49%-10.11% (4.49%-10.11% APR). 

Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 6.39%- 9.60% (6.39% – 9.60% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.58% – 9.79% (6.58% – 9.79% APR).

Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69% – 9.16% (3.69% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.35% (4.49% – 9.35% APR).

Education Refinance Loan for Parents Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69%- 9.09% (3.69%- 9.09% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.28% (4.49% – 9.28% APR).

Medical Residency Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69% – 9.16% (3.69% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.35% (4.49% – 9.35% APR).