20 Best Business Schools for Avoiding Massive MBA Debt

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You’ve weighed the costs, risks, and rewards of a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and decided it’s a smart next step for you.

Earning an MBA can open doors to opportunities such as higher pay and more senior company positions. Typical earnings for MBA graduates three years after completing the degree were a high $142,000 in 2016, according to MBA school rankings from the Financial Times.

But before you can focus on maximizing your post-MBA earnings, you need to figure out how to pay for your degree.

That’s why Student Loan Hero analyzed 116 business schools to identify the 20 programs where graduates can most easily avoid student debt and afford to repay it. Among these top-ranked MBA programs, tuition costs are low, students avoid huge MBA debt, and graduates command high pay relative to student loans.

Find out if one of the following top 20 business schools is right for you.

MBA program rankings: 20 best business schools with high ROI

The two biggest reasons MBA applicants said they’d decide against attending an MBA program were cost-related, according to the Graduate Management Association Council’s (GMAC) 2017 survey of prospective MBA students:

  • 52 percent worried about not being able to afford the costs.
  • 47 percent were concerned about taking out huge student loans.

Those concerns were well-founded given the average MBA debt for new grads — $53,000, according to Bloomberg. The outlet also estimated the “real cost” of a two-year MBA, including tuition, living expenses, and forgone wages, at a whopping $248,000.

By finding the best MBA loans and attending one of the MBA programs on the following list, it will help you optimize the return on investment of earning a master’s degree by minimizing the debt you owe.

1. Lehigh University in Pennsylvania

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $19,350
  • MBA graduates with debt: 0 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $0
  • Average starting compensation: $86,667

2. Oklahoma City University

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $16,230
  • MBA graduates with debt: 9 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $11,331
  • Average starting compensation: $101,090

3. University of Texas — Dallas

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $19,048
  • MBA graduates with debt: 25 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $7,132
  • Average starting compensation: $83,000

4. Missouri University of Science and Technology

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $15,402
  • MBA graduates with debt: 19 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $11,386
  • Average starting compensation: $66,667

5. Oklahoma State University (Spears)

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $12,121
  • MBA graduates with debt: 22 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $18,728
  • Average starting compensation: $70,700

6. University of Missouri (Trulaske)

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $14,599
  • MBA graduates with debt: 20 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $20,495
  • Average starting compensation: $64,252

7. Florida State University

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $18,693
  • MBA graduates with debt: 31 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $14,379
  • Average starting compensation: $67,308

8. West Virginia University

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $9,450
  • MBA graduates with debt: 33 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $18,608
  • Average starting compensation: $58,488

9. Louisiana State University — ​Baton Rouge (Ourso)

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $17,800
  • MBA graduates with debt: 27 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $17,900
  • Average starting compensation: $62,429

10. West Texas A&M

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $9,600
  • MBA graduates with debt: 54 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $18,500
  • Average starting compensation: $93,625

11. University of Mississippi

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $13,500
  • MBA graduates with debt: 28 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $24,806
  • Average starting compensation: $65,300

12. University of Florida (Hough)

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $14,859
  • MBA graduates with debt: 38 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $34,426
  • Average starting compensation: $115,664

13. San Diego State University

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $14,446
  • MBA graduates with debt: 15 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $29,066
  • Average starting compensation: $61,467

14. New Jersey Institute of Technology

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $22,690
  • MBA graduates with debt: 17 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $29,637
  • Average starting compensation: $78,167

15. University of Wisconsin — ​Whitewater

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $9,504
  • MBA graduates with debt: 67 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $8,000
  • Average starting compensation: $57,000

16. University of California — ​Riverside (Anderson)

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $29,124
  • MBA graduates with debt: 7 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $41,805
  • Average starting compensation: $103,041

17. University of Connecticut

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $15,368
  • MBA graduates with debt: 37 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $34,161
  • Average starting compensation: $107,648

18. University of South Dakota

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $8,818
  • MBA graduates with debt: 31 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $23,250
  • Average starting compensation: $53,417

19. University of Texas of the Permian Basin

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $6,482
  • MBA graduates with debt: 53 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $18,634
  • Average starting compensation: $60,750

20. University of North Texas

  • Annual MBA tuition and fees: $9,327
  • MBA graduates with debt: 36 percent
  • Average MBA debt balance: $29,867
  • Average starting compensation: $70,036

3 strategies for getting an MBA without the debt

Private student loans can be a great way to cover the costs of graduate school. But limiting how much you borrow is the most reliable way to ensure you can repay MBA debt quickly. But you’ll need to carefully choose cost-effective schools — like those listed in the MBA program rankings above.

You can cut costs further by following these three strategies.

1. Pursue scholarships, grants, and fellowships

Your net price for an MBA program could be significantly lower if you can snag money through financial aid such as scholarships, grants, and fellowships.

There will be some tough competition for these types of financial aid, however. According to the GMAC survey, full-time MBA students expected to get around 30 percent of their MBA funding from grants, fellowships, and scholarships.

On the other hand, the GMAC survey also noted that business schools have been seeing fewer applicants overall. With a smaller pool of applicants, MBA programs are more likely to compete for top candidates and offer financial incentives such as institutional aid.

To give yourself the best chance of paying less, apply to a few business schools and pursue multiple forms of financial aid. Then compare your total financial aid package and real costs at each school.

An MBA program with higher tuition could cost less if it comes with more scholarships or a generous fellowship.

2. Earn money and an MBA at the same time

Many business schools are providing more flexible options for earning an MBA. Part-time programs and online MBAs can be a smart choice for students looking to earn a paycheck and a graduate degree at the same time.

Flexible MBA options can help make a degree more affordable in few ways:

  • You can stretch out your MBA costs. Annual tuition will be lower for a part-time program.
  • You can continue working and earning money. In other words, you can afford to pay as you go. By holding down a job and stretching out tuition, you might be able to cover costs out of pocket and avoid debt altogether.
  • You can get your employer to pay some of your MBA costs. Many benefits packages include educational stipends or tuition reimbursements. Talk to your employer and see if it offers these benefits or would be willing to do so.

3. Consider a one-year MBA program

Many business schools offer alternatives to the traditional full-time, two-year MBA. A one-year MBA will help you graduate faster and earn the six-figure pay common for MBA holders sooner.

Interested applicants should be aware that one-year MBAs often have more specific application requirements. You’ll likely need to have a business-focused undergraduate degree to meet prerequisite requirements, according to Poets & Quants.

One-year MBA programs also tend to offer lower total tuition and enrollment costs than two-year programs. In fact, compared to a two-year MBA, the total costs of a one-year MBA can represent a savings of 25 to 50 percent.

A one-year MBA program can be a smart but intense option. You’ll need a lot of stamina and a sterling work ethic to keep up. But if the reward is saving tens of thousands of dollars and getting a jump-start on your career, it could be a bet worth taking.

With some creativity and dedication, students can limit their MBA debt. The MBA application process is long and intensive — but your work doesn’t stop there. Devote the same amount of time, energy, and research to figuring out how to pay for business school.

Rank Business School Average Indebtedness Percentage of graduates with debt Annual tuition and fees Average starting compensation
1 Lehigh University $0 0% $19,350 $86,667
2 Oklahoma City University $11,331 9% $16,230 $101,090
3 University of Texas —​ Dallas $7,132 25% $19,048 $83,000
4 Missouri University of Science and Technology $11,386 19% $15,402 $66,667
5 Oklahoma State University (Spears) $18,728 22% $12,121 $70,700
6 University of Missouri (Trulaske) $20,495 20% $14,599 $64,252
7 Florida State University $14,379 31% $18,693 $67,308
8 West Virginia University $18,608 33% $9,450 $58,488
9 Louisiana State University—​Baton Rouge (Ourso) $17,900 27% $17,800 $62,429
10 West Texas A&M $18,500 54% $9,600 $93,625
11 University of Mississippi $24,806 28% $13,500 $65,300
12 University of Florida (Hough) $34,426 38% $14,859 $115,664
13 San Diego State University $29,066 15% $14,446 $61,467
14 New Jersey Institute of Technology $29,637 17% $22,690 $78,167
15 University of Wisconsin —​ Whitewater $8,000 67% $9,504 $57,000
16 University of California —​ Riverside (Anderson) $41,805 7% $29,124 $103,041
17 University of Connecticut $34,161 37% $15,368 $107,648
18 University of South Dakota $23,250 31% $8,818 $53,417
19 University of Texas of the Permian Basin $18,634 53% $6,482 $60,750
20 University of North Texas $29,867 36% $9,327 $70,036
21 Lamar University $32,118 20% $5,365 $55,000
22 University of Georgia (Terry) $34,025 43% $15,670 $108,321
23 University of Arizona (Eller) $44,654 21% $24,100 $109,219
24 University of Cincinnati (Lindner) $29,437 33% $20,958 $77,606
25 Brigham Young University (Marriott) $38,355 53% $12,310 $121,655
26 Auburn University (Harbert) $32,628 16% $23,988 $65,558
27 Temple University (Fox) $27,770 41% $28,512 $99,539
28 Arkansas State University — ​Jonesboro State $38,000 35% $9,414 $74,500
29 Binghamton University —​ SUNY $24,779 42% $16,776 $63,808
30 University of Iowa (Tippie) $44,583 30% $23,234 $106,061
31 Purdue University—​West Lafayette (Krannert) $43,355 33% $22,418 $105,524
32 University of Tennessee — ​Knoxville (Haslam) $36,378 32% $19,894 $79,893
33 Xavier University (Williams) $28,646 33% $19,188 $62,443
34 University of Massachusetts —​ Amherst (Isenberg) $30,464 46% $16,087 $74,134
35 Mercer University —​ Atlanta (Stetson) $17,172 60% $19,632 $62,500
36 St. John’s University (Tobin) $28,291 21% $29,160 $59,276
37 Jacksonville University $30,334 35% $18,480 $62,500
38 University of Texas —​ El Paso $27,325 53% $11,940 $64,714
39 Arizona State University (Carey) $49,859 34% $29,150 $122,250
40 Stetson University $28,757 42% $24,216 $72,500
41 Michigan State University (Broad) $55,666 26% $30,600 $121,775
42 North Carolina State University (Jenkins) $40,473 35% $25,152 $90,500
43 St. Bonaventure University $19,455 54% $17,592 $50,000
44 University of Southern Indiana $49,887 40% $8,854 $84,100
45 La Salle University $21,429 49% $24,570 $55,867
46 SUNY —​ Oswego $16,677 65% $16,883 $48,000
47 University of Massachusetts — ​Dartmouth $31,824 13% $15,312 $40,800
48 University of California —​ Davis $52,039 27% $38,836 $115,176
49 University of Washington (Foster) $32,047 63% $33,339 $133,299
50 University of Tampa (Sykes) $41,517 30% $23,730 $70,796

Methodology: Student Loan Hero surveyed 116 MBA programs and ranked them by factors indicating students’ likelihood to avoid student debt:

1. The ratio of the average MBA debt balance to the average starting compensation

  • Average indebtedness figures sourced from the U.S. News & World Report education rankings
  • Compensation calculated as average starting salary (plus average signing bonus when listed) and sourced from the MBA program’s site or U.S. News & World Report listing if not provided by the college

2. Portion of students graduating with MBA debt, sourced from U.S. News & World Report

3. Annual 2017-18 in-state tuition and fees, sourced from each college’s site, normalized to assume two terms per year of attendance and 12 credit hours per term

Rankings weighted the first factor at half and the remaining two factors at a quarter each. All data was sourced August 28-31, 2017.

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LenderVariable APREligibility 
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3.80% – 9.36%3Undergraduate and Graduate

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0.00%4Undergraduate and Graduate

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1.05% – 11.44%5Undergraduate and Graduate

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1.22% – 11.66%6Undergraduate and Graduate

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1.15% – 11.01%7Undergraduate and Graduate

VISIT CITIZENS

1.24% – 10.34%8Undergraduate

Visit Discover

* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.

1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
 
This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 4/22/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.


2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

3 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.  If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. 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.


4 Important Disclosures for Funding U.

FundingU Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.


5 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Rates include 0.25% Auto Pay Discount
     
  2. Explanation of Rates “With Autopay” (APD)
    Rates shown include 0.25% APR discount when client agrees to make monthly principal and interest payments by automatic electronic payment. Use of autopay is not required to receive an Earnest loan.

    Available Terms
    For Cosigned loans – 5, 7, 10, 12, 15 years. 
    Primary Only – 10, 12, 15 years

    In school deferred payment is not available in AL, AZ, CA, FL, MA, MD, MI, ND, NY, PA, and WA).


6 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

sofiDisclosures

UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.37% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.12% to 11.73% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.30% to 11.52% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.29% to 11.89% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60% to 10.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.16% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. 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. Information current as of 4/1/2021. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).


7 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.15% – 11.01% (1.15% – 10.24 APR)Fixed interest rates range from 4.18% – 11.70% (4.18% – 10.83% APR).

Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 10.66% (1.89% – 10.41% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.64% – 11.23%% (4.64% – 10.95% APR).

Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 9.22% (1.89% – 8.50% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.38% – 10.44% (4.38% – 9.72% APR).

Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 8.02% (1.89% – 7.72% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.28% – 9.24% (4.28% – 8.94% APR).

Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.97% – 7.06% (1.97% – 7.06% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.94% – 8.58% (4.94% – 8.58% APR).

Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 4.44% – 9.58% (4.44% – 9.52% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.83% APR).

Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.53% – 7.03% (3.53% – 6.76% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.98% – 10.09% APR).

Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are 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 June 1, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.09%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. 

Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.

Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.

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.  Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, 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. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website 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.

Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.

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.

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.


8 Important Disclosures for Discover.

Discover Disclosures

  1. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.250% as of April 1, 2021. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Our lowest APR is only available to applicants with the best credit. The APR will be determined after an application is submitted. It will be based on credit history, the selected repayment option and other factors, including a cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). If a student does not have an established credit history, the student may find it difficult to qualify for a private student loan on their own or receive the lowest advertised rate. Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Rates.
  2. Aggregate loan limits apply.

  3. Get a cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan when you earn at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) in any academic period covered by the loan. Limitations Apply. Visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for terms and conditions. 

Lowest APRs shown for Discover undergraduate loans are available to the most creditworthy applicants, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.1