How to Get or Refinance Oregon Student Loans

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From its rocky coastlines to verdant rainforests, dry deserts to sprawling glaciers, Oregon’s natural landscape has something for everyone. The Beaver State’s great outdoors is just one of the reasons roughly 100,000 residents and nonresidents enrolled at Oregon’s public universities in 2017.

And along with a wide selection of public, private, and community colleges, Oregon students can also benefit from a recent state law requiring colleges to be more transparent about student loans. Oregon schools must now make sure students have a clear understanding of how much they’ll end up borrowing in student loans and what their future monthly payments will be.

But even with the new law, many students might not be aware of all their options for borrowing student loans in Oregon, or how to refinance student loans once they have them.

Whether you’re a new college student or have already graduated, read on to learn about all your options for getting or refinancing Oregon student loans.

Oregon student debt: At a glance

Average debt upon graduation in Oregon $27,321
% of students who graduate with debt 58%
National ranking for average debt 31
National average debt upon graduation (Class of 2017) $39,400
Info current as of 2015-2016 school year

Source: The Institute for College Access & Success

How to get Oregon student loans

Federal student loans

Although the state of Oregon doesn’t have its own student loan program, Oregon students can borrow from the federal government via the Direct Loan Program. You can access federal student loans by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Federal student loans can be subsidized (no interest until the grace period is over, usually six months after leaving school) or unsubsidized (interest starts accruing right away). Only students with demonstrated financial need can qualify for subsidized loans, while any students attending an eligible school can borrow unsubsidized ones.

Since federal student loans come with relatively low interest rates — 5.05% for undergraduates — and don’t have credit requirements, they tend to be a superior option to private student loans. What’s more, they also come with flexible terms for borrowers, including income-driven student loan repayment plans and eligibility for federal loan forgiveness programs.

That said, you can only borrow up to a certain amount in federal loans — the annual limit for dependent undergraduate freshmen is $5,500, for instance — so you might still have a gap in funding. In this case, your parents might consider taking out a federal Parent PLUS Loan.

Alternatively, you could look into additional loans from a private lender. Just make sure you’ve exhausted your options for grants and scholarships before taking on any debt.

Private student loans

If you’re looking for more money to pay for school, private student loans could help. But before you borrow, make sure you understand what repayment will look like. The last thing you want to do is pile on more debt than you can handle.

Unlike federal student loans, private lenders don’t typically offer income-driven plans, meaning you can’t adjust your monthly payments along with your income. Nor do private lenders necessarily offer forbearance in case of financial hardship. Likewise, private student loans aren’t eligible for federal loan forgiveness programs, though they could qualify for certain student loan repayment assistance programs.

The process of getting a private student loan is different from that of a federal one. Private lenders want reassurance you’ll pay back the loan, so they require you to meet certain criteria for credit and income. Since most undergraduates can’t meet these requirements on their own, they typically apply with a cosigner, such as a parent.

Once you qualify, you’ll likely have your choice between a fixed rate and a variable interest rate, as well as repayment terms between five and 15 years. You’ll also probably choose an approach to repayment — whether you defer repayment while in school, make fixed monthly payments from the date you get the funds, or just cover the interest until full student loan repayment kicks in after graduation.

As private loans differ from lender to lender, pay close attention to terms and conditions before signing any paperwork. Here are some local and national lenders to consider for private student loans in Oregon. Rates and terms are accurate as of August 2018.

  • Oregon State Credit Union
    • Partners with Sallie Mae to provide the Smart Option Student Loan (with rates of 4.12% to 11.85%)
    • Offers membership to those who live or work in one of 24 listed counties in Oregon
  • Oregon Community Credit Union
    • Finances student loans between $1,000 and $15,000 annually, and up to $50,000 for your entire education
    • Offers variable rates starting at 5.82% and fixed rates starting at 7.74%
    • Membership open to those who live or work in one of its 28 Oregon county areas or meet other qualifying criteria
  • Unitus Community Credit Union
    • Finances a student line of credit with flexible terms
    • Has variable rates between 6.74% APR and 8.74% APR.
  • Trailhead Credit Union
    • Directs its members to the Sallie Mae Smart Option Student Loan (with rates of 4.12% to 11.85%)
    • Offers membership to residents of Multnomah County or family members of current Trailhead members
  • Ascent
    • Offers repayment terms of five, 10, or 15 years for undergraduates, and 10 or 15 years for graduate students
    • Gives you a 1% cash back reward if you meet certain terms and conditions
    • Rates of 3.82% to 14.53%
  • College Ave Student Loans
    • Finances student loans starting at $1,000
    • Allows repayment terms of five, eight, 10, or 15 years
    • Rates of 3.69% to 12.07%
  • Sallie Mae
    • Finances student loans up to the cost of your school’s cost of attendance
    • Rates of 4.12% to 11.85%

Before choosing a provider for your Oregon student loans, make sure to shop around. Some lenders provide an instant rate quote online with no impact to your credit score so you can compare offers. By taking your time choosing a lender, you can find a private student loan with the lowest long-term costs of borrowing.

How to refinance Oregon loans

If you’re in Oregon and already have student loans, refinancing could be a strategic move. For some borrowers, refinancing can help get rid of debt more easily and at less cost, or even allow you to pay your loans off faster.

If you have decent credit and a steady income — or can apply with a cosigner who does — you could qualify for a lower interest rate than what you have now. That lower rate could save you a lot of money over the life of your loan.

Plus, you’ll get the chance to restructure your debt with new student loan repayment terms. You could choose a shorter term to pay off your debt ahead of schedule, for instance. Or you could add years to lower your monthly payments and take some of the pressure off your budget.

Finally, when you refinance student loans, you could consolidate multiple loans into one. Instead of tracking multiple payments and due dates, you’ll only have to pay a single bill.

Note that student loan refinancing is different from federal loan consolidation, which involves taking out a Direct Consolidation Loan and only applies to most federal loans. With refinancing, however, you work with a private lender, and both private and federal student loans are eligible.

Refinancing essentially turns any federal loans into private ones. As a result, you lose access to income-driven repayment plans and federal forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness. So if you’re worried about making monthly payments, it might not be a good idea to refinance student loans and lose this flexibility.

But if you’re confident you can keep up with your bills, refinancing could be a savvy move. Although the Oregon credit unions above don’t advertise specific student loan refinancing products, you can check with them about options, as well as looking into national refinancing providers that could potentially give you a lower interest rate.

  • Earnest
    • Refinances student loans between $5,000 and $500,000
    • Rates of 2.47% to 6.32%
  • Laurel Road
    • Allows repayment terms of five, seven, 10, 15, or 20 years
    • Rates of 2.80% to 7.02%
  • SoFi
    • Offers an instant rate quote so you can compare offers
    • Rates of 2.57% to 8.18%
    • Allows members to network and meet with mentors through its Entrepreneurship Program
  • LendKey
    • Partners with community banks and credit unions to show you student loan refinancing offers
    • Allows for an instant rate quote with no impact on your credit score
  • CommonBond
    • Refinances student loans up to $500,000
    • Rates of 2.48% to 6.25%

Just as you should compare offers when borrowing a private student loan, you should also shop around for the best refinancing offer. By comparing offers — and taking advantage of online rate quotes — you can find a refinanced loan with the best rate.

The bottom line: Student loans in Oregon

Before borrowing student loans in Oregon, estimate your future monthly payments so you can avoid taking on too much debt.

And remember, student loans aren’t the only ways to pay for college. Make sure to apply for scholarship and grants first, and consider a part-time job during college to make ends meet. For state-specific funding opportunities, check out this guide on scholarships for Oregon students.

Note: Student Loan Hero has independently collected the above information related to student loan rates. The financial institutions mentioned have neither provided nor reviewed the information shared in this article.