How Much Does a Master’s Degree Cost?

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If you’re thinking of going to graduate school, you might wonder, “How much does a master’s degree cost?” The cost of graduate tuition and fees is based on a few different factors, from whether you’re attending an out-of-state school to your chosen field of study.

According to Peterson’s, an educational services company, the average cost of a master’s degree at a public school is almost $30,000 annually, just for tuition and fees. Comparatively, private school graduate students spend an average of nearly $40,000 per year on tuition and fees.

Here’s what to expect when it comes to the average cost of a master’s degree, factors that affect tuition, and how to pay for your graduate school education.

Cost of a master’s degree: What you’ll pay at schools across U.S.
4 factors that affect the cost of a master’s degree
How to pay for a master’s degree
Master’s degree FAQ

Cost of a master’s degree: What you’ll pay at schools across U.S.

Peterson’s range above offers a high-level view of the cost you can expect when pursuing a graduate program. To help you understand specific master’s degree tuition costs, we pulled tuition and fee data, for resident and nonresident students, at 10 universities across the country.

Cost of Master’s Degree Tuition and Fees
School Annual Tuition and Fees
University of California, Los Angeles ● Residents: $17,272
● Nonresidents: $32,374
University of Maine ● Resident: $15,952*
● Nonresident: $46,432*
● MBA nonresident: $25,702*
University of Florida ● Resident: $12,740
● Nonresident: $30,134
Murray State University ● Resident: $13,056**
● Nonresident: $19,200**
Texas A&M University – College Station ● Resident: $15,248 §
● Nonresident: $33,280 §
Colorado State University ● Resident: $15,130 §§
● Nonresident: $30,858 §§
University of Idaho ● Resident: $9,876
● Nonresident: $29,112
Kansas State University ● Resident: $12,198
● Nonresident: $25,036
University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill ● Resident: $11,038
● Nonresident: $28,764
Pennsylvania State University ● Resident: $21,960
● Nonresident: 37,694
*Based on 15 credit hours per semester
**Excludes education, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology (CDI), and applied engineering and technology management (AETM) programs
§ Based on 9 credit hours per semester
§§ For 2020-2021 tuition and fees; excludes MBA, business, EMS, science, IST, engineering programs

4 factors that affect the cost of a master’s degree

There are a handful of factors that influence how much your master’s degree tuition will cost.

  • In-state or out of state: Many graduate schools distinguish tuition rates based on whether you’re an in-state versus an out-of-state student. Resident master’s degree tuition is generally lower, since state residents pay taxes into the public institutions that offer graduate programs. This also gives in-state students an incentive to study at a local program instead of an out-of-state school. In comparison, out-of-state graduate tuition can be thousands of dollars more, as shown above.
  • Online or on-campus: Graduate programs may be offered online in addition to a traditional on-campus environment. The tuition and fees for online master’s degrees can differ compared to getting your graduate degree on-campus. For example, Pepperdine University’s average MBA cost for full-time, on-campus study over three trimesters is $79,080. Online MBA students, on the other hand, pay at least $94,380 for the entire 52-unit program.
  • Profit vs. nonprofit institutions: For-profit schools are designed to offer scheduling flexibility and fast-track students toward a degree or certification. Generally, for-profit schools charge considerably higher tuition compared to nonprofit institutions. It’s important to note that credits from for-profit schools may not be transferable to nonprofit schools, so tread carefully before enrolling.
  • Subject of study: The cost of master’s degree tuition varies depending on the graduate program you enroll in at a particular school. For example, at the University of Texas in Austin, 2020-2021 graduate tuition for the Cockrell School of Engineering costs $10,554 compared to the $9,274 paid by graduate students under the College of Education.

When figuring out what the average cost of a master’s degree might look like for you, consider these distinctions to find a program that works for your budget.

How to pay for a master’s degree

The high cost of graduate programs may require you to seek financial aid, if paying for a master’s degree out of pocket isn’t possible. Here are a few options to explore.

Scholarships and grants

Scholarships and grants can help you pay for the graduate degree expenses. This kind of financial aid may be awarded by federal and state governments, the graduate school you’re attending, or third-party companies and organizations. Some examples of scholarships and grants for graduate students include:

  • Federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant. A federal grant available to undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, or graduate students attending a participating TEACH Grant school and enrolled in an eligible graduate program.
  • Florida Stormwater Association Scholarship. This is a merit-based scholarship funded by the Florida Stormwater Association. It’s available to eligible graduate students studying water quality, stormwater management or finance at a Florida college or university.
  • USC Asian Pacific Alumni Association (APAA) Scholarship. A scholarship that’s based on need and merit, and is available to students attending the University of California full-time.
  • Goldman Sachs MBA Fellowship. Available to eligible women and black, Hispanic/Latino or Native American MBA students who are interested in a position as a Goldman Sachs summer associate.

These are just a few examples of the range of scholarships and grants available, based on different types of affiliations. The biggest advantage of using scholarship and grant funds toward your graduate degree is that these awards don’t need to be repaid. This means you’ll take on less student debt toward your master’s degree.

Federal student loans

Graduate students who need additional financial aid beyond scholarships and grants can consider federal student loans. Direct unsubsidized loans and Direct PLUS loans are available to graduate students. Here’s what to know about each option:

  • Direct unsubsidized loans. Direct unsubsidized loans are not need-based, but schools determine the loan amount. Graduate students can borrow up to $20,500 in direct unsubsidized loans per academic year at a fixed interest rate that’s currently 6.08%. Interest accrues as soon as funds are disbursed. The maximum total amount of direct loans (subsidized and unsubsidized) that each student is allowed to borrow is $138,500, with no more than $65,500 coming from subsidized direct loans.
  • Direct PLUS loans. Graduate students who are enrolled at least half-time and working toward a graduate or professional degree or certification at an eligible school can apply for a direct grad PLUS loan. The school determines the amount you can borrow, based on the cost of attendance minus other financial aid you’ve received. Currently, the fixed interest rate on grad PLUS loans is 7.08%. A credit check is required.

If you must borrow to pay for your master’s degree, federal student loans offer protections, like student loan forbearance, income-driven repayment options, and deferment if you’re unable to make payments. Also, eligible federal loan borrowers may qualify for forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Private student loans

Private student loans can make paying for master’s degree costs possible if you’ve exhausted scholarship, grant, and federal loan options. Private student loan rates can be fixed or variable, and term durations vary depending on the lender. Some examples of private student loan lenders include:

  • Commonbond. The lender offers graduate students fixed- and variable-rate private student loans. Interest rate ranges are 3.74% – 10.74% APR and 3.87% – 9.40% APR, respectively, which includes a 0.25% autopay discount. Commonbond doesn’t charge prepayment penalties, has a cosigner release option, and offers loan deferment for up to 12 months.
  • Discover. Borrowers can get up to 100% of graduate school costs covered. Interest rates on fixed-rate loans are 4.49% – 12.59% APR and variable-rate grad loans are 1.87% – 11.87% APR, while enrolled in automatic payments (i.e., the 0.25% autopay discount). The lender doesn’t charge additional fees and students with a 3.0 GPA or higher earn a one-time cash reward.
  • Citizen’s Bank. The bank offers graduate student loans starting at 4.64% – 11.23% APR for fixed student loans and starting at 1.90% – 10.67% for variable loans. You can borrow $1,000 to $150,000 toward a graduate degree; if you’re pursuing an MBA, law school or health care field, you may be able to borrow more toward your education.

To apply for a private student loan, you’ll need to undergo a credit check. Lenders have different credit requirements and terms when approving borrowers.

Master’s degree FAQ

What kind of master’s degrees can I pursue?

There’s a broad range of master’s degrees you can pursue across Humanities, Science, and more. Some examples include a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, and a Master of Arts in Linguistics.

How much does an MBA cost?

According to The Princeton Review, the average cost of an MBA at a prestigious business school can be higher than $130,000. However, there may be more affordable MBA programs available, if you look at in-state schools or online programs.

What is the return on investment for graduate school?

The return on investment (ROI) for graduate school depends on the discipline you choose to study. For example, the ROI for social work and education graduate degrees may be lower compared to the ROI for STEM graduate school programs.

What are some of the miscellaneous student fees that graduate students need to pay?

Depending on your graduate school and area of study, you may encounter additional fees, like health center fees, administration fees, or student body fees. For example, University of Houston graduate students are charged mandatory fees for student services, the university center, and the recreation and wellness center.

How do I know which master’s degree is best for me to pursue?

When deciding on the right master’s degree for you, consider what your professional future might look like after grad school and whether you’re passionate about the career path. Ask yourself what the prospective earnings are in your desired job, how interested you are about the field, and whether it’ll be an in-demand occupation once you’re done with school. Using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook can help you answer some of these questions.

Kat Tretina 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

1.88% – 5.64%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit NaviRefi

2.50% – 6.85%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.25% – 6.39%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.90% – 5.25%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

1.89% – 5.90%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

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 2.59% 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 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.

– 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.


4 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.


5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates from 2.74% APR to 6.74% APR (with autopay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.39% 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 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 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


7 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.
 


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.