If you’re drawn to the concert halls of Music City or the hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you could attend school at one of Tennessee’s more than 180 colleges and universities.
Along with great country music and beautiful mountain views, you might also enjoy that Tennessee students graduate with $12,419 less in student loan debt than the national average — $26,981, compared with $39,400.
This amount of debt can still be a burden, and it’s important for in-state and out-of-state students to understand their options for borrowing, repayment, and refinancing.
Whether you’re looking to take out new student loans in Tennessee or refinance existing debt, here’s everything you should know.
|Tennessee student debt: At a glance|
|Average debt upon graduation in Tenn.||$26,981|
|Percent of students who graduate with debt||60|
|National ranking for average debt||34|
|National average debt upon 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 student loans in Tennessee
Savings and scholarships can help you pay for college tuition, but they don’t always cover the full cost. If you still have a gap in funding, you might consider student loans.
Although you won’t find state-sponsored loans in Tennessee, you can borrow federal student loans through Federal Student Aid, as well as private student loans from banks, online lenders, or credit unions.
You can also get valuable guidance and resources from Tennessee Student Assistance Corp., an organization dedicated to helping students and their families finance the costs of higher education.
Federal student loans
Through Federal Student Aid, the Department of Education offers federal student loans to undergraduates and graduates. There are two main types:
- Direct Subsidized Loans: These loans don’t accrue interest while you’re in school and for six months after you graduate. These come with a 5.05% interest rate, as well as a 1.062% origination fee for loans disbursed on or after Oct. 1, 2018.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These loans accrue interest from the date of disbursement. These also come with a 5.05% interest rate and 1.062% origination fee (for loans disbursed on or after of Oct. 1, 2018).
Only students with financial need can qualify for subsidized loans, but any student enrolled in an eligible school can borrow unsubsidized loans. You can access Direct Loans by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA.
Once you get accepted to college, your financial aid award letter will detail what federal student loans you can borrow. But since federal loans come with borrowing limits, you might still need more money to pay for school.
Dependent undergraduate freshmen, for instance, can borrow up to $5,500 in Direct Loans, which might not be enough to pay for tuition, housing, dining, books, and other expenses. If you find yourself coming up short, you have two other options for student loans.
The first is for your parents to take out a Parent PLUS Loan, which is a federal student loan that comes with a 7.60% interest rate and 4.248% origination fee, for loans disbursed on or after Oct. 1, 2018. Parents can borrow up to the full cost of attendance of their child’s school in Parent PLUS Loans, but they must pass a credit check to qualify.
Your other option is to borrow a private student loan from a private lender. Although private loans can be useful, you should probably only take one out after you’ve exhausted your other options.
Private student loans
Federal student loans are almost always a better option than private ones since they typically come with lower interest rates and various borrower protections, such as income-driven repayment (IDR) plans and forbearance in the case of financial hardship.
Federal loans also qualify for federal forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness, while private ones don’t. Before looking to a private lender, you should likely max out your eligibility for federal student aid.
But if you’ve maxed out federal student loans and still need funding, private student loans in Tennessee could help. You have a lot of lenders from which to choose, including a local community bank or an online lender.
Private lenders set their own underwriting requirements, so you typically must have a certain credit score and income to qualify. Most undergraduates can’t borrow on their own, so they apply with a cosigner, such as a parent.
Your interest rate will be based on you or your cosigner’s credentials, and you can typically choose between a fixed and variable rate. Each lender also determines its own repayment options, with most letting you choose a term between five and 15 years.
Some lenders also offer extra protections, such as forbearance (in case you lose your job or return to school), cosigner release after months of on-time repayment, and a grace period that pushes off your first bill until after you graduate.
You could borrow from one of Tennessee’s banks or credit unions or choose a national lender that provides student loans throughout the country. Here are some leading lenders for private student loans in Tennessee:
- TriStar Bank
- Headquarters: Dickson
- Partners with iHelp to connect you with student loans from community banks
- Provides loans from $1,000 to $100,000 for undergraduates and from $1,000 to $150,000 for graduate students
- Offers variable rates from 4.71% to 9.21% and fixed rates from 5.52% to 9.09% as of Sept. 4, 2018
- Allows repayment terms up to 20 years
- Eastman Credit Union
- Headquarters: Kingsport
- Provides a student line of credit with fixed APRs from 6.50% to 8.0% as of Sept. 4, 2018
- Allows financing up to 21 years
- Has flexible eligibility requirements for membership
- FedEx Employees Credit Association
- Headquarters: Memphis
- Provides a line of credit of up to $50,000
- Offers variable rates from 7.75% to 9.75% as of Sept. 4, 2018
- Allows membership for FedEx employees and members of their family or household
- Leaders Credit Union
- Headquarters: Jackson
- Finances student loans of up to $75,000
- Offers variable rates between 5.61% and 8.12% on undergraduate student loans as of Sept. 4, 2018
- Serves people who live, work, worship, or attend school in eligible counties in Tennessee or who meet its other membership requirements
- Finances student loans for undergraduates and graduate students across the U.S.
- Offers variable rates from 4.23% to 13.23% and fixed rates from 5.08% to 14.16% for undergraduates
- Provides repayment terms of five, 10, or 15 years for undergraduates and 10 or 15 years for graduate students
- Awards a 1% cash-back graduation reward if you meet certain terms and conditions
- Offers loans to students across the country from $1,000 up to your school’s cost of attendance
- Has variable rates from 3.99% to 11.32% and fixed rates from 4.74% to 12.78%
- Lets you repay your loan over five, eight, 10, or 15 years
- Sallie Mae
- Lends student loans nationwide for up to 100% of your school’s cost of attendance
- Has variable rates from 4.50% to 11.35% and fixed rates from 5.74% to 11.85%
Since private student loans differ by lender, make sure to shop around to find the best rates. Several lenders let you apply for an instant rate quote so that you can see your offer without making a commitment or dinging your credit score.
Along with comparing private student loan offers, make sure you understand how repayment on your loan will work. You can use our student loan payment calculator to estimate your future monthly bills and interest payments.
That way, you’ll be prepared to manage student loan repayment and can avoid taking on too much debt to pay for college.
How to refinance Tennessee student loans
After you’ve taken out student loans, you might be ready to forget about them. But being proactive about student loan repayment could save you money and get you out of debt faster. Choosing to refinance your student loans is one strategy for speeding up debt payoff.
When you refinance, you could qualify for a lower interest rate on your debt. Plus, you can choose new repayment terms, whether you choose a shorter term to pay off your loans faster or a longer term to decrease your monthly payments. Finally, you could combine multiple loans into one, which could simplify student loan repayment.
Refinancing, by the way, is different from federal student loan consolidation, which involves combining multiple federal student loans into one with a Direct Consolidation Loan. This approach to consolidation could help you simplify student loan repayment, but it won’t result in a lower interest rate or save you money.
That said, student loan refinancing could come with a downside. When you refinance federal student loans, you turn them into a private one. That means you lose access to federal IDR plans and forgiveness programs. Make sure you’re confident about your ability to pay back your loan before shutting the door on federal protections.
If you decide to refinance student loans, consider these banks, credit unions, and online providers for refinancing your student loans in Tennessee:
- SouthEast Bank
- Lets you combine multiple loans into one with its Education Loan Finance program
- Offers repayment terms from five to 20 years
- Offers you a choice of variable or fixed interest rates
- TriStar Bank
- Partners with iHelp to provide consolidation loans for college students
- Offers fixed, variable, and fixed hybrid rates. Fixed hybrid rates are adjusted every five years
- Requires borrowers or their cosigners to meet credit and income criteria
- Eastman Credit Union
- Allows you to consolidate federal and private student loans
- Offers to beat your current interest rate (or the weighted average of multiple rates) by 1%
- Leaders Credit Union
- Refinances student loans up to $100,000
- Lets you choose between fixed and variable rates starting at 4.07% as of Sept. 4, 2018
- Offers repayment terms of five, 10, and 15 years
- Partners with community banks and credit unions to bring you student loan refinancing offers
- Makes it easy to check your rates and pre-qualify with no impact on your credit score
- Refinances student loans from $5,000 to $500,000
- Offers competitive rates from 2.49% to 7.89%
- Offers instant pre-qualification so that you can check your rates
- Has interest rates from 2.49% to 8.07%
- Offers an Entrepreneurship Program to members looking to network and meet with professional mentors
Just as you should shop around before choosing a private student loan, it’s also important to compare offers before you refinance student loans. By doing your due diligence, you can find an offer with the best possible rates and benefits.
Student loans in Tennessee
Student loans can be a valuable part of your strategy for covering the costs of higher education. But if you’re not careful, you could end up taking on too much debt.
Before signing any paperwork, make sure to estimate the long-term costs of borrowing. Make sure you’re clear on what repayment will look after — or even before — you graduate.
The last thing you want to do is be caught unaware when your first student loan payment is due. Arm yourself with knowledge so that you’re ready to hit the ground running when student loan repayment kicks in.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
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 3.50% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.49% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% 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 April 17, 2019, 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 04/17/2019. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student 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.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed 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.
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.
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
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.
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 2.48% effective April 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.49% – 7.27%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 6.65%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.41%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.11%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.98% – 9.72%6||Undergrad & Graduate|