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Although Washington, D.C., only covers an area of 68 square miles, it’s home to some of the nation’s leading colleges, including Georgetown, American University, Howard University and George Washington University.
If you’re heading to the nation’s capital for college — or grew up with the Capitol and White House in your backyard — you might be wondering what your options are for student loans in Washington, D.C. Or maybe you already have 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.
Washington D.C. student debt: At a glance
|Average debt at graduation||$31,054|
|Percent of students that graduate with debt||53%|
|National ranking for amount of debt (among 50 states and D.C.)||12|
|National average debt at 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 Washington, D.C. loans
Unlike some states, Washington, D.C., doesn’t run its own student loan program 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. If you’re looking for school funding, your best bet is to start with federal student loans.
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, anyone attending an eligible school can borrow them. 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 APR — 5.05% for undergraduates, as of July 1, 2018.
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) and 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. For one, you can check with your individual college to see if it has a loan program for students. Second, your parents could consider taking out a federal Parent PLUS loan, which has a 7.60% APR as of July 1, 2018.
Finally, you could consider borrowing a private student loan from a bank, credit union or online lender. Since private loans rarely come with the same flexibility as federal ones, you should probably exhaust your options for federal borrowing before looking to private sources.
Private student loans
Before borrowing a student loan from a private lender, make sure to learn how private student loans differ from federal ones. For one thing, they don’t qualify for federal repayment plans or forgiveness programs.
You’ll typically choose repayment terms when you borrow, often from as short as five years, up to 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 can increase over time.
Private lenders also check your credit and other financial factors before approving you for a loan. If you, like most 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.
Also, private lenders aren’t always flexible if you run into financial hardship. Since your private student loan doesn’t qualify for income-driven repayment, you’ll need to speak with your lender or loan servicer about your options in the event 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 APRs below are accurate as of Oct. 4, 2018, unless otherwise noted.)
- Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union
- Finances student loans up to $75,000
- Offers variable APRs starting at 8.25%
- Congressional Federal Credit Union
- Partners with Sallie Mae to provide the Smart Option Student Loan
- Currently has APRs from 4.50% to 11.85%
- IDB-IIC Federal Credit Union
- Finances an educational line of credit up to 50% of your school’s annual cost, with a maximum of $19,400
- Offers APRs starting at 6.00%
- 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 APRs starting at 4.72% and fixed APRs starting at 5.36%
- Offers student loan repayment terms of five, 10 or 15 years for undergraduates and 10 or 15 years for graduate students
- Gives you a 1% cash back reward if you meet certain terms and conditions
- Currently offers APRs from 4.24% to 14.15%
- College Ave Student Loans
- Finances student loans starting from $1,000
- Offers student loan repayment terms of five, eight, 10, or 15 years
- Current APRs range from 4.07% to 12.78%
Since you have your pick of lenders, make sure to shop around before choosing. By comparing offers, you can find a student loan with the lowest rate.
How to refinance Washington, D.C. loans
Most student loans come with a grace period, meaning you don’t have to start repayment until six months after you graduate. But once you start repayment, you might 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 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.
Plus, you get to choose new repayment terms when you refinance student loans. You might select a shorter term to get out of debt even faster. Or you could extend your term to lower your monthly bills.
Finally, refinancing your student debt allows you to consolidate 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.
Also, your new private lender might have limited options if you run into financial hardship. So before deciding to refinance student loans, make sure you don’t need any of these federal protections. On the other hand, if you are 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 APRs below are accurate as of Oct. 4, 2018, unless otherwise noted.)
- 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 APRs starting at 2.51% and fixed APRs starting at 3.49%
- Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union
- Refinances student loans between $5,000 and $125,000
- Offers fixed APRs between 5.74% and 7.24% and variable APRs starting at 8.25%
- 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 APRs starting at 2.47% and fixed APRs starting at 3.49%
- Offers a consolidation loan that allows for interest-only payments for four years
- Refinances student loans up to $500,000
- Currently offers APRs from 2.55% to 8.07%
- Refinances student loans between $5,000 and $500,000
- Currently APRs range from 2.50% to 7.89%
- Laurel Road
- Offers student loan repayment terms of five, seven, 10, 15 or 20 years
- APRs on offer currently run from 2.50% to 7.02%
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 can find the lowest possible interest rate.
Managing your student loans in the nation’s capital
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 student loans can be a useful tool to pay for college, be careful not to take on too much debt. A recent study by Student Loan Hero’s parent company, LendingTree found that Washington, D.C., ranks first among metros for highest student loan debt, with nearly 10% of borrowers owing more than $100,000.
Likewise, if you decide to refinance your existing debt, make sure to consider the pros and cons discussed above 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 — maybe sooner than you think — 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 September 2018. The financial institutions mentioned have neither provided nor reviewed the information shared in this article.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
|1 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
2 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.
Information advertised valid as of 4/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 Important Disclosures for 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.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2019 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|4.24% – 13.24%1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.07% – 11.32%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.84% – 13.49%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.50% – 11.35%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 13.25%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|6.08% – 7.22%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.95% – 9.81%7||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.45% – 12.42%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|