How to Get or Refinance Washington, D.C., Student Loans

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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:

Plus: Managing your Washington, D.C., student loans

How to get Washington, D.C., loans

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.

Federal student loans in Washington, D.C.

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 degreeAvg. debt at graduation
Average debt upon graduation$34,046
% of students who graduate with debt51%
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

Private student loans in Washington, D.C.

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 2.69%
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 1.09%
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.

How to refinance Washington, D.C. student loans

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

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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.

Managing your Washington, D.C., student loans

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 ProgramAs 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 ProgramThe 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 2020!
LenderVariable APREligibility 
1.09% – 11.98%1Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents

Visit College Ave

1.25% – 11.10%*,2Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit SallieMae

1.24% – 11.99%3Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit Discover

1.05% – 11.44%4Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents

Visit Earnest

1.78% – 11.89%5Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.69% – 12.98%6Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit Ascent

3.52% – 9.50%7Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit CommonBond

* 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 11/2/2020. 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.

Discover Disclosures

  1. Aggregate loan limits apply.
  2. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
  3. 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 Auto Debit Reward. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including undergraduate and graduate loans. 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 October 1, 2020. 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 customers with the best credit and other factors. Your APR will be determined after you apply. It will be based on your credit history, which repayment option you choose and other factors, including your cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates.
  4. Lowest APRs shown for the Discover Private Consolidation Loan are available for the most creditworthy applicants and include a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.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 October 1, 2020. 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 customers with the best credit and other factors. Your APR will be determined after you apply. It will be based on your credit history, which repayment option you choose and other factors, including your cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). Visit Discover.com/student-loans/consolidation for more information, including up-to-date interest rates and APRs.
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 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).


5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

sofiDisclosures

UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.88% 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).


6 Important Disclosures for Ascent.

Ascent Disclosures

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.

  1. Competitive variable rates calculated monthly at the time of loan approval based on a margin plus the 1-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) rounded to the nearest 1/100th of a percent. The current LIBOR is 0.152%, which may adjust monthly. Your interest rate may increase or decrease, based on LIBOR monthly changes. Rates are effective as of 11/01/2020 and reflect an Automatic Payment Discount. 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.(See Automatic Payment Discount Terms & Conditions.)
    1. Undergraduate Loans: Your variable interest rate may increase or decrease, based on LIBOR monthly changes, resulting in an APR range between 2.69% and 12.98%.  Fixed rate loans will not increase or decrease over the life of the loan and have an APR range between 3.58% and 14.50%. Rates reflect an Automatic Payment Discount of 0.25% on the lowest offered rate and a 2.00% discount on the highest offered rate. The following table shows a 48 month in-school period plus 9 months of grace prior to a full repayment term of either: 60-months (lowest fixed/variable rate), 144-months (highest fixed rate) or 180-months (highest variable rate) with examples of (i) Interest Only payments, (ii) $25 Minimum payments, and (iii) Deferred repayment options.((See Undergraduate Loan repayment examples.)
    2. Graduate Loans (Graduate, MBA & Law): Your variable interest rate may increase or decrease, based on LIBOR monthly changes, resulting in an APR range between 3.65% and 12.40%. Fixed rate loans will not increase or decrease over the life of the loan and have an APR range between 4.62% and 13.54%. Rates reflect an Automatic Payment Discount of 0.25%. The following table shows a 36 month in-school period plus 9 months of grace prior to a full repayment term of either: 84-months (lowest fixed/variable rate), 144-months (highest fixed rate), or 180-months (highest variable rate) with examples of (i) Interest Only payments, (ii) $25 Minimum payments, and (iii) Deferred repayment options. (See Graduate Loan repayment examples.)
    3. Medical: Your variable interest rate may increase or decrease, based on LIBOR monthly changes, resulting in an APR range between 3.65% and 12.40%. Fixed rate loans will not increase or decrease over the life of the loan and have an APR range between 4.62% and 13.54%. Rates reflect an Automatic Payment Discount of 0.25%. The following table shows a 48 month in-school period plus 36 months of grace prior to a full repayment term of either: 84-months (lowest fixed/variable rate), 144-months (highest fixed rate), or 240-months (highest variable rate) with examples of (i) Interest Only payments, (ii) $25 Minimum payments, and (iii) Deferred repayment options. (See Medical Loan repayment examples.)
  2. Payments may be deferred. Subject to lender discretion, forbearance and/or deferment options may be available for borrowers who are encountering financial distress.
  3. Making interest only or partial interest payments while in school will not reduce the principal balance of the loan. There are three (3) flexible in-school repayment options that include fully deferred, interest only and $25 minimum repayment. (See Undergraduate Loan repayment examples.)
  4. Flexible repayment plans may be offered up to a fifteen (15) year repayment term for a variable rate loan and ten (10) year repayment term for a fixed rate loan. Students must be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school. Minimum loan amount is $2,000.
  5. Interest rate reduction of either 0.25% (for Credit-Based Loans) or 2.00% (for Undergraduate Future Income-Based Loans) applies only when the borrower and/or cosigner sign up for automatic payments and the payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account each month. The amount of the discount is dependent upon the loan product and credit history of the borrower at the time of application. Interest rate reduction(s) will not apply during periods when no payment is due, including periods of in-school, deferment, grace or forbearance, unless a regular payment amount has been arranged with the servicer. If you have two (2) consecutive returned payments for Nonsufficient Funds, we may cancel your automatic debit enrollment and you will lose the interest rate reduction. You will then need to re-qualify and re-enroll in automatic debit payments to receive the interest rate reduction.(See Automatic Payment Discount Terms & Conditions.)
  6. All applicants (individual and cosigner) are required to complete a brief online financial literacy course as part of the application process to be eligible for funding.
  7. Eligibility, loan amount and other loan terms are dependent on several factors, which may include: loan product, other financial aid, creditworthiness, school, program, graduation date, major, cost of attendance and other factors. Aggregate loan limits may apply. The cost of attendance is determined and certified by the educational institution.
  8. The legal age for entering into contracts is eighteen (18) years of age in every state except Alabama where it is nineteen (19) years old, Nebraska where it is nineteen (19) years old (only for wards of the state), and Mississippi and Puerto Rico where it is twenty-one (21) years old.
  9. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details. In order to be eligible for the 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward, borrower must meet the following criteria after graduation:
    • The student borrower has graduated from the degree program that the loan was used to fund.
    • The student borrower may change majors and/or transfer to a different school, but must obtain the same level of degree (e.g. – undergraduate or graduate)
    • The graduation date is more than 90 days and less than five (5) years after the date of the loan’s first disbursement.
    • Any loan that the student has borrowed under the Ascent loan is not more than 30-days delinquent or in a default status as of the graduation date and until any Graduation Reward is paid.
  10. Students can apply to release their cosigner and continue with the loan in only their name after making the first 24 consecutive regularly scheduled full principal and interest payments on-time and meeting the other eligibility criteria to qualify for the loan without a cosigner.

* Application times vary depending on the applicant’s ability to supply the necessary information for submission.


7 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. 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 0.17% effective Sep 1, 2020 and may increase after consummation.