Juno Review: Collective Bargaining for Student Loans

 October 23, 2020
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Juno student loans review

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Before borrowing or refinancing a student loan, it’s essential to shop around for your lowest rate possible. One service that can help is Juno (formerly LeverEdge), a company that negotiates affordable student loans for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as refinanced student loans for existing borrowers.

By leveraging the power of collective bargaining, Juno co-founders Chris Abkarians and Nikhil Agarwal get lenders to compete for your business, instead of the other way around.

Here’s our Juno review, looking at how it works and some of the pros and cons. In it, we’ll answer the following questions:

What Juno is and how it came to be

When they got accepted to Harvard Business School, Abkarians and Agarwal knew they’d have to borrow student loans to afford its high price tag. After seeing the massive amount of interest they and other students would have to pay on student loans, they looked for a way to bring those interest rates down.

“Nikhil and I started Juno to access cheaper student loans for ourselves and our classmates,” Abkarians told Student Loan Hero. “We’re still customers of our own product.”

Ultimately, they discovered that bringing students together to negotiate with lenders led to better offers. Before enrolling at Harvard, Abkarians and Agarwal recruited over 700 business students at their own school, as well as students from Wharton, Stanford and others, to join their negotiation pool.

After speaking to a variety of lenders, they were able to negotiate lower rates on their student loan offers.

“Juno is the first collective bargaining group for student loans,” Abkarians said. “Our mission is to help students minimize the cost of education, from the day they take out their first loan to the day they finish paying it off.”

In the end, Juno helped this first group of students save about $15,000 each on their student loans. Since that time, Abkarians and Agarwal have recruited more than 30,000 students to bargain for low-rate student loans and reports having saved its members over $26 million. As they grow their numbers, the founders expect to get even better student loan deals for their members.

“Juno is the ultimate team effort,” said Abkarians. “The more people involved, the greater our ability to negotiate lower rates. We’re committed to doing whatever we can to minimize the cost of student loans.”

What rates and terms can you expect?

Juno vets student loan lenders before partnering with them to bring its members competitive rates and flexible terms. It partners with multiple lenders to offer special deals to borrowers, which include the following:

  • Undergraduate student loans from Earnest with exclusive rate discounts for Juno members
  • Graduate student loans from Earnest and Credible. If borrowing with Earnest, Juno members get an exclusive rate map and can qualify without having an income or cosigner. They also get 0.5% cash back. If borrowing via Credible, Juno members get 1.0% cash back.
  • Refinanced student loans from Earnest, Splash, First Republic, and Laurel Road. Special deals for Juno members include:
    • Up to $1,000 cash back when refinancing with Earnest
    • Up to $600 cash back when refinancing with Splash
    • Up to $800 cash back when refinancing with First Republic
    • A rate discount of 0.25% when refinancing with Laurel Road

Rates will depend on what Juno negotiates and what you qualify for as a borrower, but just as an example, Juno reported the following rates and terms for graduate students, as of Oct. 5, 2020.

Term Fixed rate APR Variable rate APR
5 years 3.49% – 6.05% 1.24% – 5.65%
7 years 4.15% – 6.15% 3.65% – 5.75%
10 years 4.25% – 6.20% 2.64% – 5.80%
15 years 4.45% – 6.50% 3.95% – 6.10%
20 years 4.75% – 6.90% 2.84% – 6.50%

For undergraduates, Juno offers the following:

Term Fixed rate APR Variable rate APR
5 – 15 years 3.49% – 11.78% 1.24% – 10.44%

Finally, Juno reports these rates and terms for refinanced student loans:

Term Fixed rate APR Variable rate APR
5 – 20 years Starting at 2.25% Starting at 1.98%

How to join Juno’s negotiation pool

While Juno was originally limited to graduate students attending MBA, law, medical, dental or pharmacy programs, it’s now available to all undergraduate and graduate students.

When you sign up, you’ll provide your name, email, school, expected graduation year and residency status (whether you’re a domestic or an international student).

You can also indicate your credit score, annual income (if any), cosigner status and the amount of loans you need, though this supplemental information is optional at the Juno sign-up stage.

As with any other private loan, you’ll need a certain level of creditworthiness (or a cosigner) to meet a lender’s underwriting requirements.

After you sign up, the Juno team will get lenders to compete for your business. They collect proposals, analyze the data and select the loan with the best value for their members. While Juno will send you the best value, you’re not obligated to accept it.

“We are a student-first initiative,” said Abkarians. “Through Juno, students get loans at interest rates lower than they could get by themselves. We don’t charge students for anything, and we don’t obligate them to take the loan we negotiate.”

Are there downsides to using Juno?

Since Juno doesn’t require any commitment from students who sign up, it could be worth joining its free student loan bargaining group. You might get a competitive student loan offer that lets you save a bundle in interest.

But before committing to your Juno loan, it’s important to compare other possibilities to make sure you’re getting the best deal for you. Juno only partners with a few lenders, so you don’t want to miss out on a better deal elsewhere. Many private lenders offer instant rate quotes online, so you can see what rates you prequalify for with no commitment.

Look into federal student loans, as well, since they tend to come with low rates and flexible repayment terms. Federal student loans are eligible for certain benefits, such as income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness, whereas private student loans are not.

Because of these perks, it’s usually best to max out your eligibility for federal student loans before considering a private student loan through Juno or elsewhere. But if you need additional funding and are confident in your ability to repay your loan, a low-interest private student loan could be the right choice — and Juno could help you find a competitive offer.

Finding an affordable student loan with Juno

Juno offers an innovative approach to borrowing student loans. By bringing students together, Juno is able to negotiate with lenders to bring you low rates.

As noted above, the savings can be significant. And if interest rates drop later in your repayment, you could always look for an even deeper discount by refinancing your student loan.

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