How to Get or Refinance Wisconsin Student Loans

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Along with the Green Bay Packers and the nation’s top cheese producers, Wisconsin is home to 84 colleges and universities, including 27 that belong to the University of Wisconsin System.

If you’re heading to campus in America’s Dairyland, you might be thinking about how to pay for college. After grants and scholarships, student loans can be useful financial tools — as long as you avoid taking on too much debt.

Before signing any paperwork, explore your options for the best student loans in Wisconsin. And if you’ve already graduated, learn about ways to manage your student loan repayment, such as by refinancing student loans at a lower interest rate.

Either way, we have you covered with this in-depth look at borrowing and refinancing Wisconsin student loans.

Wisconsin student debt: At a glance

Average debt at graduation $30,059
Percent of students that graduate with debt 67%
National ranking for amount of debt 17
National average debt at graduation (Class of 2017) $39,400
Info current as of 2015-16 school year, except when noted
Source: The Institute for College Access & Success

How to get Wisconsin student loans

As a Wisconsin student, you have three main options for student loans. One is federal student loans from Federal Student Aid. Second, you might qualify for state loans, but these are limited to students in certain teaching and nursing programs. Finally, you could borrow from a private lender, such as a bank or national lender.

Here’s what you need to know about all three types.

Federal and state student loans in Wisconsin

For most Wisconsin students, federal student loans are the best option for borrowing. They have low interest rates — 5.05% for undergraduates as of July 1, 2018 — and come with certain federal protections and perks, such as income-driven repayment (IDR) plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Anyone in an eligible school can qualify for Direct Unsubsidized Loans. If you have financial need, you might also be able to take out Direct Subsidized Loans, which are similar to the unsubsidized version, but with the advantage that the government will cover the interest while you’re in school and for six months after you graduate.

That said, federal student loans come with borrowing limits, so they might not cover the full cost of attendance of your college in Wisconsin. If you’ve hit your limit and still need extra funding, you have a couple of other options.

One is for your parent to borrow a Parent PLUS Loan from Federal Student Aid. These come with a 7.60% interest rate, and your parent must pass a credit check to qualify.

Wisconsin residents studying to be teachers or nurses might also qualify for state loans. What’s great about these loans is that they’re eligible for partial or full forgiveness if you meet certain criteria after graduation.

These are the four main loans that Wisconsin offers:

  • Minority Teacher Loan: Between $250 and $10,000 a year to minority students who are studying in a “teacher shortage area” discipline. You must be in your sophomore, junior, or senior year, as well as meet other requirements.
  • Nursing Student Loan: Between $250 and $3,000 a year to undergraduate or graduate students studying to be licensed nurses.
  • Teacher Loan Program: Between $250 and $10,000 a year to sophomores, juniors, or seniors studying for their teaching license in a discipline considered to be a teacher shortage area.
  • Teacher of the Visually Impaired Loan: Between $250 and $10,000 a year to undergraduate or graduate students studying to be licensed teachers of the visually impaired or to be orientation and mobility instructors.

As with federal loans, you must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be considered for these Wisconsin student loans.

Once you’ve exhausted your federal and state options, you might still need more money to pay for school. In this case, you’ll likely need to explore borrowing from a private lender.

Private student loans

If you need more money to pay for school, consider taking out a private student loan. Private student loans might come from a local or national bank, a credit union, or an online lender.

Unlike federal student loans, you’ll need to pass a credit check to qualify. If you can’t qualify on your own, you’ll need to apply with a creditworthy cosigner, such as a parent.

With private student loans, you can typically choose between a variable and a fixed interest rate. You can also choose a repayment term, often as short as five years or as long as 15 or 20 years.

Note that private loans don’t qualify for federal programs, such as IDR or Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Each lender sets its terms and conditions, so make sure you understand your options for repayment before signing on the dotted line.

If you decide a private student loan is right for you and your family, here are some lenders that offer private student loans in Wisconsin.

  • Royal Credit Union
    • Finances private student loans between $1,000 and $10,000 a year
    • Offers variable APRs between 4.75% and 9.75% as of Sept. 19, 2018
    • Allows membership to anyone who lives, works, or attends school in one of its designated counties in Wisconsin or Minnesota
  • WESTconsin Credit Union
    • Finances loans between $1,000 and $12,500 a year for undergraduate students, and between $1,000 and $17,500 a year for graduate students
    • Offers variable rates with a floor of 5.00% and ceiling of 15.00% as of Sept. 19, 2018
    • Offers membership to those who live or work in its designated counties in Wisconsin or Minnesota, as well as those who meet other criteria
  • UW Credit Union
    • Finances student loans between $1,000 and $15,000 a year, with a lifetime limit of $50,000
    • Offers variable APRs starting at 4.67% and fixed APRs starting at 6.43% as of Sept. 19, 2018
    • Offers membership to Wisconsin residents who have attended college, to anyone who lives, works, or attends school in one of its designated areas, and to those who meet other criteria
  • Peoples State Bank
    • Partners with Sallie Mae to provide the Smart Option Student Loan
    • Annual rates from 4.62% to 11.85%
  • Ascent
    • Offers student loan repayment terms of five, 10, or 15 years for undergraduates, and 10 or 15 years for graduate students
    • Awards you with 1% cash back if you meet certain terms and conditions
    • Annual rates from 4.26% to 14.46%
  • College Ave Student Loans
    • Finances student loans of $1,000 or more
    • Offers student loan repayment terms of five, eight, 10, or 15 years
    • Annual rates from 4.20% to 12.78%
  • Sallie Mae
    • Finances student loans up to the cost of your school’s cost of attendance
    • Annual rates from 4.62% to 11.85%

Since each lender determines its rates, make sure to shop around to find the best private student loan with the lowest costs of borrowing.

How to refinance Wisconsin loans

Once you’ve started paying back your student loans, you might be looking for strategies to save money on your debt. Choosing to refinance student loans is one possible way to lower your interest rate.

When you refinance student loans, you basically give your loans to a private lender and take out a new loan in their place. Depending on your credit and income, you could qualify for a better rate than you have now, saving you money over the life of your student loan.

You can also choose new repayment terms, perhaps opting for a shorter term to pay off your debt more quickly, or a longer term to lower your monthly bills.

You can refinance a single debt or combine two or more into one loan, which can also make it simpler to keep up with payment due dates.

Note that refinancing is different from federal student loan consolidation, which involves combining multiple federal loans with a Direct Consolidation Loan and doesn’t lower your interest rate. Unlike with federal consolidation, you can refinance both private and federal loans.

Along with the benefits of refinancing, though, could come some downsides. Since refinancing federal loans turns them private, you’ll lose access to federal plans, such as IDR and forgiveness programs.

If you’re counting on any federal protections, refinancing federal student loans wouldn’t be right for you. But if you don’t need these federal programs and are confident you can pay back your debt, it could be a savvy move.

Whether you’ve already decided on refinancing or want to learn more about it, check out these lenders for refinancing student loans in Wisconsin.

  • Royal Credit Union
    • Refinances student loans between $5,000 and $50,000
    • Offers variable APRs between 4.75% and 9.75% as of Sept. 19, 2018
    • Allows for cosigner release after 36 consecutive on-time payments
  • UW Credit Union
    • Refinances student loans between $5,000 and $150,000
    • Offers variable APRs starting at 3.87% and fixed APRs starting at 3.99% as of Sept. 19, 2018
    • Offers five-, 10-, and 15-year student loan repayment terms
  • Northwestern Mutual Credit Union
    • Refinances student loans between $5,000 and $100,000
    • Offers fixed and variable APRs from 3.25% to 8.50% as of Sept. 19, 2018
    • Provides student loan repayment terms of five, 10, or 15 years
    • Offers membership to employees of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. and its subsidiaries, along with retirees and spouses or immediate family members of current or past employees
  • Earnest
    • Refinances student loans from $5,000 to $500,000
    • Annual rates from 2.47% to 7.89%
  • Laurel Road
    • Offers repayment terms of five, seven, 10, 15, or 20 years
    • Annual rates from 3.23% to 7.02%
  • CommonBond
    • Refinances student loans up to $500,000
    • Annual rates from 2.61% to 7.57%

Just as you should shop around for the best rates when borrowing a private student loan, it’s also important to compare refinancing offers. By inquiring about your options with multiple lenders, you can find a refinancing offer that will save you the most money on your debt.

Finding the right student loans in Wisconsin

College is challenging enough, and you don’t want to be worrying about student loans while you’re attending classes or cheering on the Badgers as they face the Golden Gophers.

By exploring your options for the best student loans, you can make smart choices about borrowing — and avoid taking on too much debt. And once you’ve graduated, you might go through a similar process to refinance student loans with a new lender and save money on interest.

By strategically searching for the lowest interest rate, as well as making extra payments on your loans, you can get out from under the shadow of debt ahead of schedule.

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