Can I Refinance Student Loans While I’m Still in School?

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If you have federal student loans, you usually don’t need to start making payments until six months after you graduate. But that doesn’t mean you should wait until then to start figuring out a repayment strategy.

If you’re in school and thinking about how to manage your education debt, one smart option is refinancing your student loans. Potential benefits include qualifying for a lower interest rate, a single loan to repay and new loan terms.

Sounds promising, right? However, there’s still a lot to consider. Here’s what’s possible, and how to decide whether refinancing student loans is right for you.

Why you might want to refinance student loans while in school

Scoring a lower interest rate is often the top reason to refinance your student loans. After all, trimming down your rate could save you money on your debt.

Say you’re staring at $20,000 worth of loans on a standard 10-year repayment term. Dropping your average interest rate from 7.00% to 5.00% on a new, refinanced loan could save you $2,410, according to our student loan refinancing calculator.

Refinancing also lets you combine all of your loans into one new loan, simplifying your repayment. The process would even give you the opportunity to select a new repayment plan if you’re unhappy with your current one — you could opt for a shorter term to pay the loan off more quickly, or lengthen the term to reduce your monthly payments; however, you’ll pay more in interest throughout the life of the loan.

There are some downsides to refinancing student loans, however. Perhaps the biggest issue is that if you refinance federal student loans, they become private loans, losing access to useful federal programs, including income-driven repayment options and student loan forgiveness. But if you’re still in school, those might be the least of your problems when it comes to refinancing student loans.

Can you refinance student loans while in school?

Refinancing means taking out an entirely new and separate loan to replace your existing student loans. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to refinance student loans while you’re still in college.

Lenders try to predict if you’re the kind of person who reliably repays your debt. They have underwriting standards to determine your ability to repay your debt on time, and being a graduate is chief among them.

Earnest is one possibility for refinancing while still in college, although the catch is that you must be a so-called senior, within one semester of graduating.

Even if you find a lender willing to refinance your debt without a college degree, you’d need to meet other standards central to lenders’ underwriting decisions, including:

  • Payment history: If you’re still in college, you probably haven’t even started making payments on student loans yet. If so, there’s no way for you to show a history of on-time payments.
  • Income thresholds: It can be difficult to prove that you could cover the payment on a new loan while you’re in school and not working full-time. A lender has no real way of projecting how likely it is you’ll graduate or get a job — and a full-time job is key to being able to afford your student loans in repayment.

If you’ve graduated and fall short on some of these requirements, it’s less of a problem, since in many cases you’d be able to bring in a cosigner with stronger credit, such as a parent, in order to secure the loan. Unfortunately, though, this option isn’t generally available for borrowers without a degree.

Student loan refinancing requirements from top lenders

Maybe you’re an older student who returned to school with a robust and lengthy credit history. Perhaps you already have a high-paying career despite still studying on campus. In cases like these, you might be champing at the bit to refinance.

Unfortunately, your options are still limited — unless you’re taking a break from school. In that case, Citizens Bank might be your best bet.

Unlike other top-rated lenders, Citizens Bank doesn’t require a degree to refinance student loans. However, you must have made at least 12 timely payments on your loans since leaving school.

Most other lenders require you to graduate before applying to refinance. For example:

  • SoFi requires that you hold an associates’ degree or higher from a Title IV school.
  • Laurel Road invites working professionals with four-year undergraduate or graduate degrees from Title IV accredited institutions to apply for student loan refinancing. It also works with associate’s degree-holders in medical fields, including dental hygienists and nurses.
  • CommonBond states that borrowers need to have graduated from one of 2,000-plus Title IV colleges in order to refinance with them, so current students without degrees are out of luck.
  • LendKey, a platform that connects borrowers with student loan refinancing lenders, says you must have a degree from a Title IV school to qualify for refinancing.

Graduate students might qualify for refinancing undergraduate loans

If you’re a current graduate student, you might be able to refinance student loans borrowed for your undergraduate degree.

Your chances will probably be best if you’re attending school part-time while continuing to work a day job, which will help satisfy income and employment requirements. Even so, it will still probably be easier to either refinance student loans before grad school or to wait until you’re done to start the process.

Parents can refinance while their child is in college

On the other hand, if you’re a parent who borrowed for a child’s education with Parent PLUS loans, you might not need — or want — to wait until your child completes school to refinance.

Unlike other federal student loans, Parent PLUS loans carry credit and eligibility requirements that you must pass to borrow through the program. And unlike with college students, parents are more likely to have a full-time job with a high enough salary to qualify. So, if you have a Parent PLUS loan, you’re probably already eligible for student loan refinancing.

There’s another central difference for Parent PLUS loans: unlike student-borrowed loans, Parent PLUS loans enter repayment immediately upon disbursement — usually while your child is still in school. While you can defer these loans if your child remains enrolled at least half-time, you’ll continue to accrue interest on the loan.

In addition, Parent PLUS loans can be relatively expensive. In 2018, PLUS loans taken out by parents carried a 7.60% fixed interest rate, plus a 4.25% loan origination fee.

At the same time, these loans are ineligible for many federal repayment plans. That makes it even more worthwhile for parents to consider refinancing Parent PLUS loans while their child is still in school.

Alternatives to refinancing student loans

Thankfully, there are other ways to ease the burden of student loan debt while you’re in school.

For private loans, review your repayment plan options. With a lender like College Ave, for example, you could begin making full, interest-only, or low, flat payments to minimize the interest accruing on your debt while you’re in school. You wouldn’t be able to lower your interest rate as with refinancing, but starting to repay the loan while you’re still in college could make for a happier repayment once you’ve left campus.

Similarly, with federal unsubsidized direct loans or direct PLUS loans, you also could make payments toward the interest while you’re in college. Getting a head start on paying the interest can make a big difference in your monthly payment. It can also help you avoid paying capitalized interest.

Can you consolidate student loans while in school?

If all you’re seeking is to simplify repayment, your eyes might light up at the thought of consolidation. It allows you to group your loans into one new loan, although unlike refinancing, it won’t lower your rate.

A federal direct consolidation loan, for example, would be tagged with a weighted average of your previous loan rates. However, for this kind of loan, the federal government insists that you either be in repayment or in the midst of your six-month postgraduate grace period.

Another alternative to consider is a new repayment plan for your federal student loans. Use the time when you’re still in school to check out federal program options. That way, you’re prepared to make payments — or alter your repayment plan — when you graduate.

For federal student loans, these options include:

  • Extended repayment plans: Borrowers can choose to repay federal student loans over 25 years instead of 10, and are eligible if they hold more than $30,000 in student loans.
  • Graduated repayment plans: Payments start low and gradually increase. You’ll most likely pay more for your student loans over time, however.
  • Income-driven repayment plans: These include PAYE, REPAYE, income-based repayment and income-contingent repayment. They determine your monthly amount due based on your current income, making your student loan payments more affordable.

Check out our comprehensive list of repayment assistance programs for more options.

And don’t forget about student loan forgiveness programs — a great opportunity if you fit the requirements.

Kali Hawlk contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate 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 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.


2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate.” Rates listed include a 0.25% EFT discount, for automatic payments made from a checking or savings account. Interest rates as of 11/8/2018. Rates subject to change.

Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term, 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term, 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term, 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term would be from $180.89 to $193.75. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term would be from $139.65 to $146.76. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104.56 to $111.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term would be from $78.77 to $86.78. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term would be from $67.05 to $75.68.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.


3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance:
    Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 7.979% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.470% APR to 6.990% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.470% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.30% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. 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. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

4 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.


5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). 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 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.


6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, 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 November 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.29%. Variable interest rates range from 2.79%-8.39% (2.79%-8.39% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. 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. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. 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 with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, 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 and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. 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 at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, 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.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The cosigner (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a cosigner will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.

2.47% – 6.99%3Undergrad
& Graduate

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2.46% – 6.97%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.57% – 8.44%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

3.02% – 6.44%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.50% – 7.24%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.79% – 8.39%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Citizens

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.