How to Get or Refinance Tennessee Student Loans

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  • Ascent
    • Finances student loans for undergraduates and graduate students across the U.S.
    • Offers variable rates from 3.82% to 12.82% and fixed rates from 5.49% to 14.53% 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
  • CollegeAve
    • Offers loans to students across the country from $1,000 up to your school’s cost of attendance
    • Has variable rates from 3.69% to 10.94% and fixed rates from 5.29% to 12.07%
    • 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 4.12% to 10.98% 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
  • LendKey
    • 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
  • Earnest
    • Refinances student loans from $5,000 to $500,000
    • Offers competitive rates from 2.47% to 6.32%
  • SoFi
    • Offers instant pre-qualification so that you can check your rates
    • Has interest rates from 2.57% to 8.18%
    • 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.

A good place to start is this guide on how to repay student loans ahead of schedule. And if you’re looking to refinance, check out our student loan refinancing FAQ for answers to all your questions.

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 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% 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

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. 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.

3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 8.179% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.570% APR to 6.980% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. SoFi rate ranges are current as of September 14, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.570% APR assumes the current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 0.740% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay 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

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable 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 August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.57%-8.17% (2.57%-8.17% 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, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. 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 co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (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 co-signer 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.
  7. Estimated average savings amount is based on 14,659 Education Refinance Loan customers who saved on loans between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018. The calculation is derived by averaging monthly savings across Education Refinance Loan customers whose payment amounts decreased after refinancing, calculated by taking the monthly payment prior to refinancing minus the monthly payment after refinancing. We excluded monthly savings from customers that exceeded $4,375 and were lower than $20 to minimize risk of data error skewing the savings amounts. Savings will vary based on interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of loans to be refinanced. Borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if monthly payments are lower.

2.57% – 6.98%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 5.87%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.47% – 8.03%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.80% – 6.22%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 6.25%5Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.57% – 8.17%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.