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If you’re heading to the nation’s capital for college — or you grew up with the Capitol and White House in your backyard — you might be wondering about your student loan options. Or maybe you already have Washington, D.C., student loans and want to see if refinancing could save you money on interest, or even help you pay off your debt ahead of schedule.
Fortunately, we have your guide to getting or refinancing Washington, D.C., student loans right here. Take a look at your options and consider the advantages and drawbacks of each.
For current students:
For borrowers no longer in school:
Unlike some states, Washington, D.C., student loans aren’t administered by the local government for local students (although it does have the District of Columbia Tuition Assistance Grant, a scholarship of up to $10,000 per year to eligible residents).
Instead, your options for D.C. student loans come from two sources: federal and private. And if you’re looking for school funding, your best bet is to start with federal student loans.
Before turning to private lenders, explore your options with federal student loans. These tend to be a better choice for a few reasons.
For one thing, most students attending an eligible school can borrow them. And you don’t have to pass a credit check to qualify — you simply need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
You can easily qualify for unsubsidized loans, and students with financial need might also qualify for subsidized loans. Subsidized loans have even better terms, since the government covers interest that accrues while in college and during your six-month grace period after leaving school. However, both types come with a relatively low-interest rate — 2.75% for undergraduates, as of July 1, 2020.
Plus, federal student loans are eligible for various federal protections, including:
- Income-driven repayment plans (which cap monthly payments based on your income)
- Forbearance and deferment (which can delay repayment)
- Federal loan forgiveness programs (which can wipe away your loan balance)
That said, federal student loans might not cover your full cost of attendance, since they come with borrowing limits. However, if you need more money, you do have a few options.
You can check with your individual college to see if it has an institutional loan program for students. Your parents could also consider taking out a federal Parent PLUS loan, which has a 5.30% interest rate as of July 1, 2020.
Furthermore, you could consider borrowing a private student loan from a bank, credit union or online lender in D.C. or nationally. Since private loans rarely come with the same flexibility as federal ones, however, you should probably exhaust your options for federal borrowing before looking to private sources.
|Washington, D.C., student loans: At a glance|
|Type of degree||Avg. debt at graduation|
|Average debt upon graduation||$34,046|
|% of students who graduate with debt||51%|
|National ranking for average debt upon graduation (among U.S. states and D.C.)||7|
|National average debt upon graduation (Class of 2018)||$29,200|
|Source: The Institute for College Access & Success|
Before borrowing Washington, D.C., student loans from a private lender, make sure to learn how private student loans differ from federal loans — for starters, they don’t qualify for federal repayment plans or forgiveness programs.
You’ll typically choose repayment terms when you borrow; often, these can be as short as five years to as long as 15 or 20 years. You can also choose between a fixed interest rate, which stays the same over the life of your loan, and a variable rate, which often starts out lower but could increase over time.
Private lenders check your credit and other financial factors before approving you for a loan. If you, like many undergraduates, can’t qualify on your own, you’ll have to apply with a cosigner who can. Before signing any paperwork, make sure you and your cosigner are on the same page about who’s paying back the debt. If you can’t pay, your cosigner will be just as responsible for the loan as you are.
In addition, private lenders aren’t always flexible if you run into financial hardship. Since your private student loan doesn’t qualify for income-driven repayment, as many federal loans do, you’ll need to speak with your lender or loan servicer about your options when you can’t make payments.
But if you understand the terms and conditions, a private student loan could help you cover a gap in funding. If you’re looking for private student loans in Washington, D.C., here are some lenders to consider. (The rates below are accurate as of July 21, 2021, unless otherwise noted as “currently.”)
|Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union||● Finances student loans up to $75,000|
● Offers variable rates starting at 6.75%
|Congressional Federal Credit Union||● Partners with Sallie Mae to provide the Smart Option Student Loan|
● Currently has rates from 3.62%
|DC Credit Union||● Partners with LendKey to provide student loans|
● Finances loans of up to $120,000 for undergraduates and up to $160,000 for graduate students
● Offers variable rates starting at 2.99% and fixed rates starting at 4.99%
|Ascent||● Offers student loan repayment terms of five, 10, 15 years or 20 years, depending on your loan type|
● Gives you a 1% cash back reward if you meet certain terms and conditions
● Currently offers rates from 2.46%
|College Ave Student Loans||● Finances student loans starting from $1,000|
● Offers student loan repayment terms of five, eight, 10 or 15 years
● Current rates range from 1.04%
|Sallie Mae||● Provides student loans up to the cost of your school’s cost of attendance|
● Currently offering rates from 1.25%
Since you have your pick of lenders, make sure to shop around before choosing. By comparing offers, you can find some of the best private student loans available to you currently on the market.
Most student loans come with a grace period, meaning you don’t have to start repayment until six months after you leave school. But once you start repayment, you might want to look for strategies to save money on your debt.
One way to save is by refinancing student loans. When you refinance, you basically take a new loan from a private lender and use it to repay one or more of your existing student loans.
If you have a stable income and a decent credit score — or apply with a cosigner who does — you could qualify for a lower interest rate on your refinanced student loan. Even a small reduction in your rate could save you a lot of money over the life of your loan.
Student Loan Refinancing Calculator
Refinancing student loans yields other positives, such as:
- Choosing a new repayment term. You might select a shorter term to get out of debt even faster — or you could extend your term to lower your monthly bills.
- Consolidating multiple student loans into one. Instead of tracking numerous due dates and loan servicers, you’ll only have to remember a single payment.
Note that refinancing is different from federal student loan consolidation, which involves combining federal student loans via a direct consolidation loan (and doesn’t result in a lower interest rate). Unlike federal consolidation, refinancing can involve federal or private student loans.
However, choosing to refinance student loans isn’t for everyone. When you refinance federal loans, you essentially turn them into a private loan. As a result, you lose access to federal programs, such as income-driven repayment or even Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
In addition, your new private lender might have limited options if you run into financial hardship. So before deciding to refinance student loans, make sure you won’t need any of these federal protections. On the other hand, if you’re confident about your ability to repay your loan, refinancing could be a financially savvy move that might save you a significant sum of money.
Here are some refinancing providers to get you started. (The rates below are accurate as of July 21, 2020, unless otherwise noted as “currently.”)
|Agriculture Federal Credit Union||● Partners with LendKey to provide student loan refinancing|
● Refinances undergraduate loans up to $125,000 and graduate loans up to $175,000
● Offers variable rates starting at 2.61% and fixed rates starting at 3.19%
|Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union||● Refinances student loans between $5,000 and $125,000|
● Offers fixed rates between 5.74% and 7.24% and variable rates starting at 6.50%
|DC Credit Union||● Refinances up to $125,000 in undergraduate loans and up to $175,000 in graduate loans through its partnership with LendKey|
● Offers variable rates starting at 2.61% and fixed rates starting at 3.19%
● Offers a consolidation loan that allows for interest-only payments for the first four years of the loan
|CommonBond||● Refinances student loans up to $500,000|
● Currently offers rates from 2.83%
|Earnest||● Refinances student loans between $5,000 and $500,000|
● Currently rates range from 1.99%
|Laurel Road||● Offers student loan repayment terms of five, seven, 10, 15 or 20 years|
● Rates on offer currently run from 1.89%
Just as you should shop around before borrowing a private student loan, make sure to explore your options before refinancing. By comparing various refinancing offers, you may find your lowest possible interest rate.
As a Washington, D.C., student, it’s fitting that the federal government should be your first stop for student loans (once you’ve run through free aid such as scholarships). Then, if you’ve exhausted your federal options and still need funding, a private lender could help.
But remember that while Washington, D.C., student loans can be a useful tool to pay for college, be careful not to take on too much debt. Washington, D.C., ranks first among U.S. metros for highest education loan balances, with 15% of borrowers owing more than $100,000, according to our study of the places with the most student debt.
Likewise, if you already have student loan debt, don’t be shy about asking for help. Through an initiative announced in May 2020, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser provided payment relief for private student loan borrowers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, adding onto the 2017 installation of the district’s student loan ombudsman.
The nation’s capital also has two student loan forgiveness programs:
|DC Health Professional Loan Repayment Program||As of May 1, 2020, the program provided up to $67,952.62 for physicians and $37,373.01 for other eligible primary care providers.|
|DC Bar Foundation’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program||The foundation finances interest-free, forgivable loans of up to $12,000 per year to attorneys working on behalf of low-income D.C. residents.|
If the help isn’t enough, make sure to consider the pros and cons of refinancing and other loan management strategies before replacing your current loans.
Either way, remember that when it comes to student loans, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Even though it might take years, you can eventually pay it off and live a life free of student debt.
Note: Student Loan Hero has independently collected the above information related to student loan interest rates and terms, which is accurate as of July 2020. The financial institutions mentioned have neither provided nor reviewed the information shared in this article.
Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2021!
|1.04% – 11.98%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|1.25% – 11.35%*,2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|1.24% – 11.99%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.78% – 11.89%4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.05% – 11.44%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.19% – 11.51%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|2.46% – 12.98%7||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|* 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.
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.
Information advertised valid as of 1/27/2021. 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 Discover.
Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.
4 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.88% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.37% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.78% 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 1.95% to 11.89% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60% to 10.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.88% 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 11/04/2020. 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).
5 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.19% – 11.51% (1.19% – 10.67% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.99% – 11.80% (3.99% – 10.92% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.37% – 11.41% (1.37% – 11.12% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.39% – 11.70% (4.39%-11.39% APR).
Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.37% – 9.55% (1.37% – 8.83% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.13% – 9.84% (4.13% – 9.12% APR).
Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.37% – 8.35% (1.37% – 8.05% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.03% – 8.64% (4.03% – 8.34% APR).
Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.11% – 7.42% (2.11%-7.42% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.69% – 7.83% (4.69% – 7.83% APR).
Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 4.47% – 9.61% (4.47% – 9.54% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.38% – 12.81% APR).
Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.56% – 7.06% (3.56% – 6.78% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.97% – 10.08% 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
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.
7 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Ascent Student Loans are funded by Richland State Bank (RSB), Member FDIC. Loan products December not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions December apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Ts&Cs
Rates are effective as of 12/01/2020 and reflect an automatic payment discount of 0.25% on the lowest offered rate and a 2.00% discount on the highest offered rate. Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Rates
1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details.