SoFi Parent Loan vs. Parent PLUS Loan: Which Is the Better Option?

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If you’re looking for a student loan to help your child pay for college, you have two options: a private or a federal student loan. In this guide, we’ll compare SoFi parent loans, which are private, with parent PLUS loans, a type of federal loan offered by the U.S. Department of Education.

By learning about both loans, you can determine which one would be better suited to your family.

SoFi parent loans vs. parent PLUS loans quick comparison

SoFi parent loans and parent PLUS loans are both designed for parents whose children are in college. But since one is private and the other is federal, their similarities largely end there.

To help you compare SoFi versus parent PLUS loans, this chart gives an overview of their terms, eligibility requirements, repayment options and application processes.

SoFi Parent loans Parent PLUS loans
Eligibility requirements Your child is enrolled full time in college; you’re a U.S. citizen or permanent resident Your child is enrolled at least half time in college; you’re a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
Application process Apply for an instant rate quote with a preapproval application (soft credit pull); submit full application when you choose a loan (hard credit pull) Submit the FAFSA; work with your college financial aid office to request a parent PLUS loan
Credit requirements SoFi considers your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, income, career, education and other factors. Another parent or guardian can cosign You can’t have an adverse credit history. If you do, you can apply with an endorser who has strong credit
Borrowing limits $5,000 minimum, up to the total cost of attendance Up to the total cost of attendance, minus any other financial aid received
Rates/APRs Fixed APRs at 2.99%; variable APRs at 2.25% Fixed interest rate of 5.3% for the 2020-21 school year
Origination fees None 4.236% for loans originated after Oct. 1, 2019 and before Oct. 1, 2020
When repayment begins Immediate repayment Immediate repayment, unless you request a deferment while your child is in school and for up to six months after they graduate
Repayment options 5-, 10- or 15-year terms Standard Repayment Plan (10 years); Graduated Repayment Plan (10 years); Extended Repayment Plan (25 years); Income-Contingent Repayment, if you consolidate first (25 years)

Now that you’ve got an initial sense of how SoFi parent loans compare to parent PLUS loans, let’s take a closer look at the most important differences:

1. SoFi parent loans could have lower interest rates
2. SoFi could save you money on fees
3. Parent PLUS Loans have more flexible repayment plans
4. Parent PLUS and SoFi applications have pros and cons

1. SoFi parent loans could have lower interest rates

There are lots of factors that go into choosing a loan, including eligibility criteria and repayment options. But if your priority is saving money, take a close look at interest rates.

All parent PLUS loans come with a fixed rate of 5.3% in the 2020-21 year. This rate is significantly lower than past years’ rates, which were set around 7%. But it might still be higher than what you’d get on a SoFi parent loan, which has fixed APRs starting from 2.99% and variable APRs starting at 2.25%.

Depending on your credit, income and other factors, you could snag a rate on a SoFi parent loan that’s lower than what you’d get with a parent PLUS loan. Reducing your interest could save you a good deal of money over the long run. That said, a variable rate, unlike a fixed rate, could potentially rise over time.

Since SoFi offers an easy pre-application online, it’s worth it to check your rates. This preliminary rate quote won’t affect your credit score, and you’ll see what rate you could be eligible for.

If it’s lower than the one you’d have on a parent PLUS loan, it could be worth going with SoFi.

2. SoFi could save you money on fees

Besides potentially giving you a lower interest rate, SoFi also saves you money on origination fees; it doesn’t charge any fees for disbursing the loan.

Parent PLUS Loans, on the other hand, come with a 4.236% origination fee. If you borrowed $20,000, you’d be charged a fee of about $850 once it was disbursed.

If you’re only taking out a small loan, this origination fee probably won’t break the bank. But if you’re taking out a large amount, it significantly increases your cost of borrowing.

3. Parent PLUS Loans have more flexible repayment plans

SoFi parent loans have the potential to save you money, but they don’t come with as many repayment options as the federal parent PLUS loan. With SoFi, you must begin repaying at least the interest on your loan while your child is in school. Plus, you can only choose between a five-, 10-, or 15-year repayment term.

Parent PLUS loans, on the other hand, have a lot more options. First, you can request deferment of your loan while your child is in school. With deferment, you won’t have to start repaying the loan until six months after they graduate. (Note that interest will continue to accrue, even while your payments are paused.)

Besides deferment, you can also choose from a variety of repayment plans. The standard repayment plan, for instance, gives you fixed monthly payments over 10 years. The graduated plan also spans 10 years, but payments start small and increase over time.

If your payments are too burdensome, you can opt for the extended repayment plan, which lowers your monthly bills by spreading them out over 25 years. Finally, if you consolidate your parent PLUS loans, you can request Income-Contingent Repayment, which caps your bills at 20% of your discretionary income.

These plans can be a lifesaver if you’re struggling to make your monthly payments. They offer a way to reduce your monthly bills while avoiding student loan default.

If you’re concerned about your ability to pay back the loan, a parent PLUS loan likely has more options than a SoFi parent loan.

4. Parent PLUS, SoFi applications each have pros and cons

When comparing SoFi versus parent PLUS loans, you might also consider the qualification process. As a private lender, SoFi’s eligibility criteria is more stringent than the education department’s.

When you apply for SoFi parent loans, SoFi reviews your credit history, income and other debts. Although it doesn’t advertise a strict minimum, you’ll likely need a decent credit score and steady income to qualify for your best rates.

Parent PLUS loans, on the other hand, only state that you can’t have an adverse credit history. In other words, you can’t have derogatory marks on your credit report, such as unpaid debts or loan defaults. If you do, you could still qualify by applying with a creditworthy endorser.

Although it might be harder to qualify for a SoFi parent loan, the application process itself is easy. As an innovator in the online lending space, SoFi lives up to its reputation with a user-friendly website.

It’s easy to get a rate quote, and filling out a full application is painless as well. That’s not to say applying for a parent PLUS loan is difficult, but the process can vary depending on where your child goes to college.

Shop around to find the right parent loan for you

For college students, federal student loans typically have better terms than private ones. But when it comes to parent borrowing, this isn’t necessarily the case.

Because parent PLUS loans come with origination fees, they might cost you more than a private student loan, such as SoFi student loans for parents.

But be mindful that private student loans aren’t as flexible if you run into economic hardship. If you’re worried about repayment, a parent PLUS loan could be a safer bet.

Besides learning about the different terms and conditions, use a student loan repayment calculator to estimate the long-term costs of borrowing.

That way, you’ll have a clear sense of the costs of borrowing — and you’ll be armed with a foolproof plan for paying back your debt.

Need a student loan?

Here are our top student loan lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APREligibility 
1.04% – 11.98%1Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents

Visit College Ave

1.13% – 11.23%*,2Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents

Visit SallieMae

3.80% – 9.36%3Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit CommonBond

0.00%4Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit FundingU

1.05% – 11.44%5Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit Earnest

1.22% – 11.66%6Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit SoFi

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