How to Refinance or Get California Student Loans

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California student loans

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Residents of the Golden State have a lot to brag about: beautiful beaches, epic mountains, a booming television and film industry, and the epicenter of technology.

However, there’s one thing California dwellers might not be so thrilled about: student loan debt. And as if student loans weren’t bad enough, the high cost of living in much of California makes achieving financial success even more of a challenge.

But here’s the good news: There are programs to help with California student loans. Read on to find some programs that might help you.

The state of California student loans

If you’re curious about where you stand compared to the average amount of California student loan debt, here are some numbers to get you oriented.

Student Loan Report recently aggregated the amount of student loan debt per state, and 24/7 Wall St. reported on it. Here are some of the findings:

  • The average amount of California student loan debt per graduate is more than $12,000.
  • More than 32 percent of adults in California have at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • The median household income for ages 25 to 44 in California ranks 15th highest in the U.S.

It’s also interesting to note that California boasts more than 1.7 million graduates from its University of California schools. And the majority of those schools’ students receive financial aid to attend.

So, where does this degree get you?

According to Census Bureau data, it can make a large difference in your income — despite the costs you might incur to graduate. In fact, California residents with at least a bachelor’s degree have, on average, more than double the income of those who did not attend college.

Federal student loans for California schools

If you hope to attend school in California, you can get federal student loans to help you pay for college. Start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Have a copy of the information sent to each of the schools you are interested in attending.

Each college will present a student aid package based on your FAFSA, including how much you can borrow in federal student loans. You don’t need to worry about a credit check or income to get these types of loans. Plus, if you qualify based on need, you might be able to get subsidized loans — and have the government pay your interest while you’re in school.

You can get federal loans each year you attend school. However, you need to complete a FAFSA each year.

Private student loans for attending college in California

In some cases, you might not be able to pay for college in California using just federal loans. After receiving your financial aid package, calculate the difference between what it will cost to attend college (including tuition, fees, room, and books) and what you have. You might need to apply for private student loans in order to make up the difference.

Depending on the lender, you might need to prove your credit history or show your income. If you can’t qualify for a private student loan on your own, consider getting a cosigner to help you.

Private student loans can be a way to bridge the funding gap if federal loans just aren’t enough.

Resources to help if you have student loans in California

But what if you’re already done with school? If you have California student loans and work in California, there are a few student loan repayment assistance programs that can help, depending on your needs and qualifications.

1. Free Tuition

This first option doesn’t pertain to graduates. Instead, it’s for people who are attending college in California or preparing to enroll. If that’s you, you might qualify for free tuition through one of two programs: Free City or Cal Grant.

Free City is for San Francisco residents attending City College, a two-year community college. The program is available regardless of need. Anyone can apply through the City College of San Francisco website.

Free City is just for San Franciscans, but Cal Grant is much broader. According to the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC), Cal Grants can be used at the following schools:

  • University of California
  • California State University
  • California Community College
  • Certain independent, career, or technical colleges in the state

Cal Grants come in three types: A, B, and C. The eligibility requirements and award amounts vary based on your FAFSA, your school, your GPA, and more. You can find details on the CSAC website.

There are more specialized grant programs too, including:

You also can find more programs on the CSAC website.

2. CDA Foundation Student Loan Repayment Grant

The California Dental Association (CDA) Foundation offers a student loan repayment grant for new dentists working in underserved communities. You can receive up to $105,000, paid out over three years, for repayment of your California student loans.

If you don’t receive that grant, you still could earn an award of up to $5,000 toward education expenses as a runner-up. You can apply on the CDA website.

3. California Bachelor of Science Nursing Loan Repayment Program

You might qualify for this program if you’re a California nurse with California student loans. Here are the details, according to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD):

  • You must have a Bachelor of Science nursing degree.
  • You must be a California-licensed registered nurse (RN).
  • You must be giving direct patient care as an RN in an underserved or shortage area or in a county, state, prison, or veterans facility.

Nurses who receive the award must agree to work in one of the above areas for two years.

If you’re selected for the award, you can receive up to $8,000 for student loan repayment. You also can try for a second-time award of $11,000, but you’ll have to agree to another two years.

4. California Mental Health Loan Assumption Program

This award is for professionals working in the Public Mental Health System. According to OSHPD, some of the eligible positions include the following, based on need in the county you work in:

  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Postdoctoral psychological assistants or trainees
  • Marriage therapists
  • Family therapists
  • Social workers
  • Clinical counselors or clinical counselor interns
  • Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners
  • Other staff within such facilities

You can find more information about whether your work qualifies you for this award by going to the OSHPD website.

If you’re selected for an award, you can receive up to $10,000 for your California student loan repayment. In return, you must agree to continue the work for one year.

5. California State Loan Repayment Program

The California State Loan Repayment Program helps you pay your student loans in California if you work in one of the following fields, according to OSHPD:

  • Primary care physicians
  • Dentists
  • Dental hygienists
  • Physician assistants
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Certified nurse midwives
  • Pharmacists
  • Mental or behavioral health providers

That said, you must work in a shortage area, which you can learn more about on the OSHPD website. The award amount varies.

The California State Loan Repayment Program enables you to receive up to $110,000 if you’re a full-time student or half that if you’re a part-time student. You must commit to full-time status for at least two years or part-time status for at least four.

If you think you qualify, you can apply for the award on the OSHPD website.

6. Steven M. Thompson Physician Corps Loan Repayment Program

You might qualify for this program if you’re a California allopathic or osteopathic physician or surgeon with California student loans. Here are a few of the qualifications, according to OSHPD:

  • You can’t be obligated to serve for any other programs.
  • You have to be licensed to practice in California.
  • You must work in a shortage area.

With this award, you can receive up to $105,000 for your California student loan repayment. But you must work full time in the designated shortage area for at least three years.

7. California Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs) offered by your alma mater

If you don’t qualify for any of the aforementioned awards, there are other ways you can receive help. One way is through a student loan repayment assistance program (LRAP) offered by your alma mater.

You can find out if your alma mater offers an LRAP by browsing its website or contacting its financial aid office. For all you know, there could be a plan in place to help.

Statute of limitations on student loans in California

If you’re facing student loan default, look into the statute of limitations on debt as it pertains to your student loans. Keep in mind that it applies only to private student loans.

Basically, after a designated number of years, your debt becomes “time-barred.” When that happens, debt collectors can no longer successfully sue you to collect on that debt.

When the statute of limitations expires depends on the type of debt you have. Student loans fall under “written contracts,” which expire at four years in California.

In other words, if your private student loan debt is more than four years old and a debt collector tries to sue you to collect, there’s only one way the debt collector can win, and that’s if you don’t show up to court to use the statute of limitations to prove you no longer owe.

There’s one more important detail you should be aware of: If your private student loans are in default and you make a payment on them, you’ll restart the clock on the statute of limitations.

Federal income-driven repayment programs

If you have federal student loans and are having trouble making payments, you can take advantage of income-driven repayment (IDR) programs that cap your monthly obligation to 10 percent of your income.

These IDR programs allow you to stay current on your loans without going into deferment or forbearance. It’s important to realize, though, that you could end up paying much more in interest over time. Your loans might be forgiven after 20 or 25 years (depending on the program), but by that time you might have paid even more than you originally owed — and you might be taxed on the amount forgiven.

Once you start earning more money, you can put some of it toward paying off your loans faster.

Student loan refinancing

Another way to get your payments under control is by refinancing your student debt to a lower rate. This works especially well with private student loans. You can refinance to a lower rate or shorter term to get out of debt faster as well.

You can also refinance federal loans. If you don’t qualify for IDR, and you have good credit, refinancing your federal loans can save you money. However, you will also lose the potential to go on IDR later, if your financial situation changes.

Carefully weigh your options to determine if refinancing is the right move for you. It’s also possible to refinance your private student loans, and separately consolidate your federal loans if you want to maintain some of your protections.

Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Borrowers that work for a government or nonprofit entity can potentially have their loans wiped out with Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). In order to qualify, you need to work in a qualifying job and make 120 consecutive payments on your eligible loans.

Before you begin a job on the basis of receiving PSLF, make sure your federal loans qualify, and double-check to see if your employer qualifies. In order to be most effective, you need to be on IDR, since standard repayment is designed to have your loans paid off in 10 years.

How to live your dream even with California student loans

Repaying student loan debt can be a lonely endeavor, especially if you feel like your number isn’t getting smaller as the years go by.

You can expedite your repayment by refinancing your student loans to a lower interest rate or paying extra whenever you can. But that’s not all you can do.

If you’d like to see the laws regarding California student loans change, take your ideas straight to the powers that be: your local representatives.

On GovTrack, you can find a list of your current California senators and California representatives. Reach out to them, and let your voice be heard. It’s more powerful than you might think.

And finally, stay on top of your loans by doing the following:

  • Utilizing the above programs if you qualify
  • Understanding your rights, including those dictated by the statute of limitations on debt
  • Remembering that you’re not alone in your debt payoff journey

Student loan debt is a challenge; there’s no question about that. But if you follow the steps above and remember to tap into the programs available to you in California, you can create a winning strategy.

Miranda Marquit contributed to this article.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate 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 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit, email us at, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 8.179% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.570% APR to 6.980% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. SoFi rate ranges are current as of September 14, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.570% APR assumes the current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 0.740% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR 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. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via 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 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 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.

5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable 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 August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.57%-8.17% (2.57%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. 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 their loan.
  2. 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 with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, 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 and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at, 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.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Estimated average savings amount is based on 14,659 Education Refinance Loan customers who saved on loans between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018. The calculation is derived by averaging monthly savings across Education Refinance Loan customers whose payment amounts decreased after refinancing, calculated by taking the monthly payment prior to refinancing minus the monthly payment after refinancing. We excluded monthly savings from customers that exceeded $4,375 and were lower than $20 to minimize risk of data error skewing the savings amounts. Savings will vary based on interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of loans to be refinanced. Borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if monthly payments are lower.

2.57% – 6.98%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 5.87%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.47% – 8.03%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.80% – 6.22%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 6.25%5Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.57% – 8.17%6Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.