50 U.S. Colleges With the Most Generous Financial Aid Packages

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When it comes to choosing an affordable college, sticker price can be deceiving. The cost of attending a college is just one factor that impacts what a student must pay or borrow to enroll. The financial aid package a college offers students to help cover educational expenses is just as important.

Our new study surveyed student aid awarded at 1,244 U.S. colleges to find the schools that offer the most financial assistance to students in need. We found that the average financial aid package offered to students with a financial need at U.S. colleges is an impressive $20,494.

Some colleges provide far more assistance than that, thanks mostly to institutional aid such as scholarships and grants. Here, we highlight the 50 top colleges in the U.S. that provide the most financial aid to their students who need help.

Key Findings


  • The average value of financial aid packages was $47,895 among the top 50 schools. That’s more than 2.3 times the average among all 1,244 schools surveyed.
  • The gap between aid packages charts with higher costs. The average annual tuition and fees across all 1,244 colleges was $24,042. Among the top 50 schools, the average was $49,702.
  • All 50 of these top schools are private colleges or universities. Additionally, all Ivy League schools made the list, with Columbia University leading the pack by offering aid packages averaging $55,521.
  • Of the top 50 colleges with the largest financial aid packages, 46 reported meeting the full demonstrated financial need for every qualifying student.

10 U.S. colleges awarding the most financial aid


For this study, we used data from Peterson’s to identify U.S. colleges offering the largest financial aid packages to students in need.

These financial aid packages include all forms of financial assistance awarded to students. The numbers reflect federal, college-provided, and private student aid. They also include gift aid, such as grants and scholarships, as well as federal and private student loans.

We also include the following stats for each school:

1. Columbia University in New York City

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $55,521
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 2,973
  • Students whose full financial need was met: 99%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $55,056

As stated on its site, Columbia University meets 100% of the demonstrated financial need of its first-year and transfer students. Parents of families who have a combined income of less than $60,000 aren’t expected to contribute to the cost of attendance.

2. Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $52,894
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 2,732

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $49,480

On its site, Yale University says that it meets 100% of financial need without student loans. It puts its own average need-based scholarship at $49,575 for the 2017-2018 school year.

If a Yale student’s family has an annual household income under $65,000 plus typical assets, they’re not expected to pay any college costs out of pocket.

3. Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $51,890
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 1,014

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $51,790

Williams College is committed to meeting 100% of each student’s financial need, according to the school’s website. It awards over $50 million in institutional aid to its students each year.

4. Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $51,775
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 1,066

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $52,476

Amherst College is another school that seeks to meet 100% of both domestic and international students’ financial need. In fact, we included it in another report highlighting colleges that have the best financial aid packages.

Amherst College awards $50 million in scholarships each year. This help students pay for college while relying less on student loans. Seven out of 10 graduates in Amherst’s Class of 2017 graduated without student debt. Compare that to the 75% of students who did after graduating from a private nonprofit college.

5. Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $51,308
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 3,687

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $47,074

Getting into this famed school can be hard enough. Fortunately, students get plenty of help figuring out how to pay for a Harvard University degree.

Roughly 6 out of 10 Harvard University students receive a need-based scholarship, the college reports. Students who come from a family with an annual income below $65,000 pay nothing out of pocket for their education. About 20% of students aren’t expected to contribute to their education.

6. Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $50,820
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 1,548

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $53,090

All Vassar College students with family incomes of or below $270,000 received gift aid of some kind this past academic year, according to the school.

Like other colleges on this list, it’s no accident that Vassar meets the full financial need for 100% of its students. Providing full aid is one of the college’s stated goals.

7. Webb Institute in Glen Cove, New York

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $50,710
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 33

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 89%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $48,775

Webb Institute offers a full-tuition scholarship to all enrolled students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. This school of engineering also offers additional need-based aid to cover other attendance costs, such as room and board, which totaled $14,750 during the 2017-2018 school year.

8. Duke University in Durham, North Carolina

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $50,312
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 2,651

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $51,265

Duke University also meets 100% of all admitted students’ financial need, according to its financial aid website.

Families with household incomes at or below $60,000 aren’t expected to pay college costs out of pocket. Even a student whose family is expected to contribute around $20,000 to college could still receive around $45,510 in need-based grants.

9. University of Chicago

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $49,967
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 2,483

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $52,491

The University of Chicago offers to cover the demonstrated financial need for all students “through a combination of grants, scholarships, and work expectations.”

Of the University of Chicago’s 2016 graduates who left college with student debt, the average balance was a relatively manageable $23,852, according to Collegedata.

10. Colgate University in Hamilton, New York

  • Average financial aid package for students with financial need: $49,912
  • Undergraduate students receiving gift aid: 1,047

  • Students whose full financial need was met: 100%
  • Annual tuition and fees: $51,955

Of the average aid awarded to students who qualify for need-based assistance at Colgate University, just $2,500 comes in the form of student loans, according to the university’s website. The majority of aid ($46,775) came in the form of a school grant. The university is committed to covering the full financial need for every one of its students.

The 50 colleges that offer the most student aid


These private colleges offer competitive student aid packages despite high enrollment costs. Annual tuition and fees are over $47,000 for nearly all 50 colleges. Compare these costs to the average in-state tuition and fees at a public college, which comes to $9,970.

With such huge price tags, many students would struggle to afford these colleges on their own. Fortunately, these private colleges offer millions of dollars in institutional aid, grants, and scholarships to help cover costs. In fact, none of the top 50 colleges have financial aid packages below $45,000.

Below is a list of the 50 U.S. colleges that provide the largest financial aid packages, ranked by the size of the average financial aid package awarded.

RankCollegeAverage financial aid packageAnnual tuition and feesStudents receiving need-based aidStudents whose full need was met
1Columbia University$55,521$55,0562,97399%
2Yale University$52,894$49,4802,732100%
3Williams College$51,890$51,7901,014100%
4Amherst College$51,775$52,4761,066100%
5Harvard University$51,308$47,0743,687100%
6Vassar College$50,820$53,0901,548100%
7Webb Institute$50,710$48,7753389%
8Duke University$50,312$51,2652,651100%
9University of Chicago$49,967$52,4912,483100%
10Colgate University$49,912$51,9551,047100%
11Princeton University$49,502$45,3203,126100%
12Haverford College$49,186$51,024629100%
13Dartmouth College$49,141$51,4382,097100%
14Stanford University$49,124$47,9403,255100%
15Barnard College$49,012$50,394998100%
16Georgetown University$48,999$50,5472,400100%
17Brown University$48,420$53,4192,702100%
18University of Southern California$48,399$52,9926,128100%
19Washington and Lee University$48,392$49,254771100%
20Smith College$48,115$50,0441,459100%
21Pomona College$48,034$49,352917100%
22Middlebury College$48,000$50,0631,085100%
23University of Notre Dame$47,884$49,6853,997100%
24Trinity College$47,679$52,760976100%
25Wellesley College$47,527$48,8021,361100%
26Swarthmore College$47,255$50,822867100%
27Wake Forest University$47,228$51,4001,449100%
28Franklin & Marshall College$47,144$52,4901,186100%
29Wesleyan University$47,077$52,4741,206100%
30Hamilton College$47,003$51,240892100%
31Vanderbilt University$46,938$45,6103,121100%
32Occidental College$46,791$51,0701,137100%
33University of Pennsylvania$46,707$53,5344,445100%
34Cornell University$46,339$50,9536,390100%
35Claremont McKenna College$46,129$50,950523100%
36California Institute of Technology$46,095$47,577500100%
37The Colorado College$46,024$50,892647100%
38Skidmore College$45,900$50,6841,07094%
39Bryn Mawr College$45,900$50,500721100%
40University of Richmond$45,784$50,9101,308100%
41Carleton College$45,763$50,8741,147100%
42Grinnell College$45,717$50,4641,122100%
43Lafayette College$45,615721100%
44Northwestern University$45,505$50,8553,547100%
45Bates College$45,494$50,310774100%
46Pitzer College$45,338$50,430406100%
47Colby College$45,306$50,960783100%
48Tulane University$45,124$51,0102,08096%
49Reed College$45,050$52,150725100%
50Davidson College$45,001$50,444864100%

How to get a bigger financial aid award

Overall, this study shows that a high price tag doesn’t always put a college out of financial reach for a prospective student. College applicants and students can take steps to try to access more aid.

First, weigh the pros and cons of applying early for college. Many of the colleges on this list set early decision deadlines in November for the following school year.

Applying early can give you an edge in getting admitted and receiving more financial aid. But applying through early decision could mean you’re committing to attend one college without having all the information on hand. And keep in mind that many of these colleges require additional forms, such as the CSS Profile, to apply for student aid.

Many colleges set their own definitions and methods for determining your financial need. That means you might qualify for more aid at one college than another. That’s why it’s important to use financial aid award letters to compare what each college can offer you.

The rankings in this study can also highlight colleges that go above and beyond to help students cover educational costs. If you’re considering one of these 50 colleges, you can feel confident that it’ll likely provide assistance to meet your need for student aid.

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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 9/24/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.


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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 Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for the Discover Private Consolidation Loan and include an Auto Debit Reward. 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.
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
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    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 1.87% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.37% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.77% 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 1.94% to 11.89% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60% to 10.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.87% 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 10/20/2020. 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 10/01/2020 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 3.53% 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 4.56% and 13.42%. 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 3.67% and 12.42%. Fixed rate loans will not increase or decrease over the life of the loan and have an APR range between 4.57% and 13.44%. 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.


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