In Tennessee, the average student loan balance — including both federal and private student loans — is $34,607, 6% less than the national average of $36,689. However, student loans can be an especially difficult burden in Tennessee, as the statewide median household income is $53,320, 22% lower than the national median household income of $68,703.
To help make college more affordable, Tennessee has a large number of scholarships, grants and discount programs. In addition, some student loan relief programs for existing student loan borrowers can help reduce the debt burden.
Here’s what you should know about Tennessee student loans and available repayment and forgiveness options.
|Tennessee student debt overview|
|Total outstanding debt||$30.1 billion|
|Number of borrowers||0.8 million|
|Average total monthly payment||$262|
|Note: Averages include federal and private student loan debt.|
If your focus is on minimizing your education costs to reduce how much you need to rely on student loans, attending an in-state public university could be a smart decision. Tennessee’s four-year universities include:
- Austin Peay State University
- Tennessee State University
- University of Memphis
The state also offers public education in specialized subjects. The University of Tennessee Space Institute is a graduate-exclusive institution focusing on subjects including engineering and aviation, while the University of Tennessee Health Science Center offers undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees in various sectors of the health field. The state is also home to 13 community colleges.
In addition, there are 35 private colleges and universities that are part of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, including:
- Bethel University
- Maryville College
- Vanderbilt University
Tennessee does have several programs that can help reduce education costs. For example, state employees and their dependents can qualify for up to 25% off tuition or maintenance fees for undergraduate courses through the Fee Waiver Program. Financially needy students can qualify for up to $4,000 a year if they enroll at an eligible postsecondary institution in Tennessee with the Tennessee Student Assistance Award Program.
|Student loan debt in most populous Tennessee counties|
|County||Average student loan balance||Average monthly student loan payment|
|Note: Limited to counties with a population of at least 300,000 residents; averages include federal and private student loan debt.|
Despite the multiple financial aid opportunities available in Tennessee, many borrowers in the state still graduate with significant amounts of education debt, including both federal and private student loans. However, the state does offer several repayment programs that can make this debt more manageable.
Tennessee residents who are registered nurses and want to become faculty members and administrators within the state can qualify for up to $7,000 a year in assistance. In return, they must agree to serve for four years in a faculty or administrative position at a Tennessee nursing education program.
The Graduate Nursing Loan Forgiveness Program can only be used to cover the costs of pursuing an eligible master’s degree or post-master’s degree in a nursing educational program. It can’t be used to pay for existing student loans.
If the borrower doesn’t fulfill the service obligation, the award must be repaid. The interest rate is set at 9%.
Tennessee residents from minority groups can qualify for up to $5,000 a year in student loan repayment assistance through the Minority Teach Fellows Program if they agree to teach pre-K through 12th grade in a Tennessee public school. Recipients of the award must teach on a full-time basis. The award can be renewed an additional three times, giving eligible teachers up to $20,000 in potential loan assistance.
If recipients don’t fulfill the obligation, the reward must be repaid at a 9% interest rate.
A forgiveness program for federal loan borrowers nationwide, PSLF helps people pursuing a career in public service. To qualify, you must make 120 qualifying monthly payments while working for an eligible nonprofit organization or government agency. After making the required payments, the government will forgive your remaining balance.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness is a federal loan forgiveness program available to teachers nationwide. If you teach full time for five full and consecutive academic years at a qualifying institution, you could get up to $17,500 in federal loan forgiveness.
Qualified primary care practitioners in Tennessee — including physicians, dentists, psychiatrists and licensed social workers — are eligible for help with their student loans in exchange for a two-year service obligation working in a primary care site in a designated health professional shortage area (HPSA).
The maximum TSLRP award is $50,000 for the initial two-year service obligation. However, professionals can extend their service and qualify for up to $20,000 a year for up to three years after the initial obligation (up to five years total).
Tennessee federal student loan borrowers younger than 25 owe less than national average — and more comparisons
In Tennessee, 5% of student loan borrowers have an outstanding balance of $100,000 or more. If you have a large amount of education debt, student loan refinancing can be especially useful.
When you refinance your federal or private student loans, you combine them into one new loan from a private lender. The refinanced loan will have completely different repayment terms than you had before. Depending on your creditworthiness and your selected loan term, you could get a lower interest rate, reduce your monthly payment and potentially save money over the life of your loan.
You can refinance your student loans through some banks, online lenders and credit unions. There are several lenders that cater to Tennessee residents, including:
- Eastman Credit Union: With Eastman Credit Union, you can refinance your federal and private student loans and get a repayment term as long as 25 years.
- Education Loan Finance: While Education Loan Finance — also known as ELFI — serves borrowers all over the country, this lender is based in Tennessee. You can refinance federal and private student loans, including parent loans.
However, there are some drawbacks to refinancing that you should keep in mind. When you refinance federal loans, they become private loans. You’ll lose federal loan benefits like eligibility for loan forgiveness, income-driven repayment plans and forbearance or deferment programs. Some private lenders do offer forbearance in cases of hardship, but the benefit generally isn’t as strong as it is for federal loans — for example, private loan payment suspension periods tend to be shorter than those you could have with federal loans.
- U.S. Department of Education data as of June 30, 2020
- Anonymized My LendingTree June 2020 credit reports
- Federal Reserve Bank of New York Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax as of June 2020
Because the latter data is from 2015, researchers estimated the increase in student loan debt per borrower in the state using statewide data from anonymized credit reports.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 9 lenders of 2021!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.88% – 6.15%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.88% – 5.64%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.88% – 5.64%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.85%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.39%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.90% – 5.25%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
|2.13% – 5.25%8||Undergrad & Graduate|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of June 1, 2021.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application..
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.79% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.88% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.64% 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 October 26, 2020, 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 10/26/2020. 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 [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for Navient.
4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
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 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 04/07/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
7 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.13%-5.25% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are 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.