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Best Student Loans for Community College

If you attend a community college for two years, you can save money on your college education. But you might still need to take out student loans to cover the costs. Fortunately, there are many options at your disposal.

Best Student Loans for Community College
Anna Baluch
Written by:Anna Baluch
Personal Finance Writer

According to a report by the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of community college is $7,460 total or $1,865 per semester. With an unsecured online student loan, you can alleviate some of this financial burden.

You can apply online and get approved quickly so that you have the funds to pay for tuition, books, housing, and more. To help make your search for the best student loans for community college a bit easier, our team of financial experts reviewed and ranked more than 30 online lenders.

Our Top Picks for The Best Community College Student Loans

earnest_logo_sl
  • Long 9-month deferment period
  • Opportunity to skip one payment per year
  • No origination fees or prepayment penalties
Min. Credit Score
Min. Credit Score 650+
Loan Amounts
Loan Amount $1K up to the cost of attendance
Fixed APR
Fixed APR 5-20 years
 sofi_logo_sl
  • No maximum loan limit
  • Prequalify without a credit check
  • Unemployment protection
  • Flexible repayment terms
Min. Credit Score
Min. Credit Score 650
Loan Amounts
Loan Amount $5K up to the cost of attendance
Fixed APR
Loan Repayment 5-15 years
 funding-ur_logo_sl
  • No credit required for qualification
  • No cosigner needed
  • Payment flexibility if there’s trouble making payments
Min. Credit Score
Min. Credit Score Not disclosed
Loan Amounts
Loan Amount $3K-$15K per school
Fixed APR
Loan Repayment Up to 10 years

How to Choose the Best Community College Student Loans?

Fortunately, there are many community college student loans available. Since each one has its own unique features, it’s important to shop around and compare all your options. While ranking the best community college student loans of 2022, our experts focused on these factors.

  • Loan Features: Loan amounts, terms, and repayment plans vary from lender to lender. If you’d like to cover all or most of the cost of your community college program, large amounts, lengthy terms, and flexible repayments are important.
  • Application process: If you lead the life of a busy student, a simple application you can complete in minutes is ideal. A prequalification tool that allows you to check your offers without any impact to your credit score is also a huge plus.
  • Interest rates and fees: Ideally, you’d choose loans that offer low interest rates and minimum to no fees. By doing so, you can reduce the overall cost of your expensive community college education.
  • Qualification process: Some community college loans cater to borrowers with good credit while others are more lenient and willing to lend to those with bad credit or no credit at all. Since we believe everyone should be able pursue an education regardless of their credit standing, we explored both options.
  • Customer support: Since student loans usually come with long terms, we gave bonus points to those with easy access to customer support should you ever need it. The support may be available via phone, email, live chat, or resources on the lender’s website.
  • Online user reviews: Third-party reviews and ratings on sites like Trustpilot and Better Business Bureau (BBB) provide an unbiased look at the student loan lender’s reputation and track record. 
  • Perks and Bonuses: In addition to funding, some community college loans offer perks like hardship assistance and career support.

Best Community College Student Loans for 2022 - Full Overview

1. Earnest: Best for No Fees

Unlike other student loan lenders, there are no fees with Earnest student loans. You won’t have to worry about any application, origination, or prepayment fees if you pursue a student loan with this lender.
Pros
No fees: Earnest doesn’t charge any application, origination, or prepayment fees
Chance to skip a payment: You can skip one payment every 12 months.
Competitive rates: Compared to other student loan lenders, Earnest offers low rates.
Cons
Strong credit required: If you don’t have the best credit, you may have trouble getting approved for an Earnest student loan.
No cosigner release: Until you fully pay off your student loans, Earnest requires a cosigner to remain on them.
Not available in every state: Earnest is only licensed in 42 states and Washington D.C.

earnest

Earnest student loans range from $5,000 to $500,000 with terms between 5 to 20 years and a fixed rate between 2.99% and 7.99% or a variable range ranging from 1.74% and 7.99%. The lender requires a minimum credit score of 650 along with a stable income source and at least two months of savings.

The Bottom Line

If you have good credit and want to avoid the common fees many lenders charge, an Earnest student loan is worth exploring.

2. SoFi: Best for Member Perks

If you take out a student loan with SoFi, you’ll enjoy a few perks that are rarely offered by other lenders. These include unemployment protection, which puts your loan in forbearance for three months and offers access to career coaching. You may also get invited to dinners and networking events as well as a members-only Facebook group filled with giveaways and money tips.
Pros
Access to member perks: SoFi offers a number of member perks including unemployment protection and exclusive events, like happy hours and dinners.
No fees: You won’t have to pay any fees, including late fees.
Cosigner discounts: If your co-signer is a SoFi member, you can lock in a 0.125% discount.
Cons
High minimum loan amount: If you only need a few thousand dollars in student loans, you may find the minimum loan amount of $5,000 a bit too high.
Limited repayment terms: Compared to other lenders, SoFi’s offers less repayment options.
Slow funding: It may take four to six weeks to receive your loan funds.

sofi
SoFi student loans start at $5,000 and go up to your cost of attendance with terms of 5,7,10, 15, or 20 years and fixed rates between 3.49% and 7.99% as well as variable rates that range from 1.69% to 11.98%. While SoFi doesn’t disclose minimum credit score requirements, the lender does require that you completed at least an associate degree and are employed or have proof that your employment will start in the next 90 days.

The Bottom Line

If you’d like access to unique perks, like unemployment protection and career coaching, SoFi should be on your radar.

Try SoFi

3. Funding U: Best for Undergraduates

While most student loan lenders do not lend to underclassmen, Funding U specializes in loans for undergraduates. You may get approved for one as a freshman with limited college experience under your belt.
Pros
Available to undergraduates: Even if you’re a freshman, you can get a Funding U student loan as the lender extends offers to everyone, including underclassmen.
Discount for interest-only payments in school: If you make either $20 flat payments or interest-only payments while you’re in school, you can lock in a 0.5% rate reduction.
No fees: Funding U doesn’t charge any origination, prepayment, late, or application fees.
Cons
One repayment term: With Funding U, you must commit to a 10-year repayment term as there are no other options.
Poor customer support: While other lenders offer customer support via phone, email, and live chat, Funding U only offers email assistance.
No graduate school loans: Funding U’s student loans are designed for undergraduate students.

funding u
Funding U’s student loans range from $3,001 to $20,000 with 10-year terms and fixed rates between 7.49% and 12.99%. While Funding U doesn’t look at your credit score or income when you apply, they will evaluate your academic and professional performance through factors like your GPA, class hours, and employment history.

The Bottom Line

If you’re in search of an undergraduate student loan and have a history of excellent academic performance, Funding U might be a good fit.

4. MPOWER Financing: Best for International Students

MPOWER Financing extends student loans to foreign students, even those without a U.S. credit score, collateral, or a co-signer. Its loans are offered to undergraduate and graduates from more than 190 countries who are attending college in the U.S. or Canada.
Pros
Credit history not required: Unlike most student loan companies, MPOWER doesn’t require you to have a U.S. credit history so you can get approved for a student loan if you’re an international student.
Career development support: Through the Path2Success program, you can receive career advice from a human resource professional.
Interest rate discounts: You may be able to lower your interest rate by 1.5% with the automatic payment discount, on-time payment discount, and graduation and employment discount.
Cons
Must be within two years of graduating: MPOWER only lends to students who are two years of graduating from their program.
Higher rates: Even though MPOWER accepts international students without U.S. credit scores, its rates are higher than the ones you may find at other lenders.
Must make interest-only payments while in school: MPOWER will require you to make interest-only payments 45 days after you receive your loan funds.

mpower financing
MPOWER Financing offers student loans that range from $2,001 to  $50,000 with 10-year terms and fixed rates between 7.52% and 13.63%. To apply, you must attend a U.S. or Canadian school that has partnered with MPOWER and be in the last two years of your program of study. MPOWER welcomes U.S. citizens, permanent residents, DACA students, and international students.

The Bottom Line

If you’re an international student who is having trouble qualifying for student loans elsewhere, MPOWER Financing is a solid pick.

5. LendKey: Best for Easy Prequalification

LendKey is a student loan marketplace, meaning it pairs you with lenders, like community banks and credit unions that offer student loans. Once you fill out a short form, you can prequalify and compare your options without any impact to your credit score.
Pros
Can choose from multiple lenders: With LendKey, you can enjoy access to multiple lenders from one platform.
No fees: LendKey doesn’t charge any origination or application fees.
Autopay discount available: If you enroll in automatic payments, you can secure a 0.25% autopay discount.
Cons
Not available to all students: LendKey is not an option for part-time students, parents, and non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Might need a cosigner: Since many of LendKey’s partner lenders require strong credit and income, you may have to apply with a cosigner to get approved.
May have to join a credit union: If LendKey matches you with a student loan from a credit union and you’d like to pursue it, you’ll be required to join the credit union.

lendkey
LendKey’s student loans come with fixed rates between ​​3.50% and 12.60% or variable rates ranging from 1.13% to 11.23%. Loan terms are 5, 10, or 15 years and you can borrow $1,000 to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance. To apply, you need good credit or a cosigner as well as a household income of at least $15,000.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a way to simplify your search for community college student loans, LendKey might be the ultimate solution.

6. Education Loan Finance: Best for Customer Service

Education Loan Finance offers student loans to all types of students. Not only does it have an “A” customer service rating from the Better Business Bureau, it assigns each applicant to a student loan advisor. You can turn to the advisor for questions and concerns related to your student loan.
Pros
Good customer service: When you apply for a student loan, you’ll be assigned to your own student loan advisor.
No fees: Education Loan Finance doesn’t charge application, origination, and prepayment fees.
Can prequalify: You can check your student loan offer without any harm to your credit.
Cons
Strong credit required: To get a student loan from Education Loan Finance, you must have a credit score of at least 680.
No cosigner release: There is no option to release your cosigner after a set time period.
School limitations: You must attend an eligible school that is listed on the lender’s website.

elfi

Education Loan Finance offers student loans between $1,000 to the amount approved by the school for qualified education expenses. Variable rates range from 1.30% to 11.52% while fixed rates fall between 3.20% to 11.99%. You can choose from five to 15 year terms. To qualify, you must have a minimum score of 680, and earn at least $35,000. You should also be enrolled in a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree program at least part time.

The Bottom Line

If customer service is important to you and you have strong credit, a private student loan from Education Loan Finance can be a stellar choice.

Try ELFI

7. Prodigy Finance: Best for Graduate Borrowers Without Credit

Prodigy Finance offers student loans to graduate students in the fields of business, engineering, law or public policy. You can take one out without a credit history or cosigner.
Pros
Can apply without a credit history: The lender will consider your application, even if you haven’t established any credit.
Cosigner not required: You can apply for a Prodigy student loan without a cosigner.
Career support: As a borrower, you can enjoy access to career development webinars and in-person events throughout the year.
Cons
Must pursue a certain program: You must be enrolled in a graduate degree in business, engineering, law or public policy.
Administrative fee: Prodigy Finance charges an administrative fee of up to 2.5%.
Limited availability: Student loans aren’t available in many states.

prodigy
Prodigy Finance specializes in student loans that range from $15,000 to $220,000 with terms of 7, 10, 15 or 20 years. Its variable rates are between 6.7% to 14.5%. To be eligible for a student loan, you must be pursuing a graduate degree in business, engineering, law or public policy.

The Bottom Line

If you’re earning a graduate degree in business, engineering, law or public policy but don’t have a credit history or cosigner, Prodigy Finance can meet your needs for a student loan.

8. Ascent Funding: Best for Rewards

Ascent Funding offers a few rewards to its student loan borrowers. You can lock in 1% cash back just for earning your degree. The lender also rewards you with cash back if you make purchases at over 50,000 stores.
Pros
Potential graduation reward: If you meet certain terms and conditions, you can receive 1% cash back for graduating.
Can earn purchase rewards: Through the Ascent Rewards program, you can earn cash from making purchases at over 50,000+ of your favorite stores.
No fees: Ascent doesn’t charge application, origination, or disbursement fees.
Cons
Cosigner may be required: If you have less than two years of credit history, you might need a cosigner to get approved.
12-month limit on fixed-rate loans: While Ascent offers repayment terms of up to 20 years for variable-rate loans, fixed-rate loans only go up to 12 years.
High rates: You might have to settle for a rate higher than you would if you chose a different lender.

ascent

Ascent Funding’s student loans range from $2,001 to $200,000 with 5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 year terms. You can choose from fixed rates between 5.17% and 13.21% or variable rates that fall from 1.78% to 9.37%. As long as you have a credit score of at least 660 and minimum income of $24,000, you have a strong chance of approval.

The Bottom Line

If you have good credit and are in search of a student loan lender with a robust rewards program, Ascent Funding might be a great option.

Best Community College Student Loans - Feature Comparison

Company Name

Fixed APR

Variable APR

Min. credit score

Loan Amount

Loan Term

Earnest

2.99%-7.99%

1.74%-7.99%

650

$5,000-$500,000 

5-20 years

SoFi

3.49%-7.99%

1.69%-11.98%

Not disclosed 

$5,000 up to your cost of attendance

5,7,10, 15, or 20 years

Funding U

7.49%-12.99%

None

Not disclosed 

$3,001-$20,000

10 years

MPOWER Financing

7.52%-13.63%

None

Not disclosed 

$2,001-  $50,000

10 years

LendKey

​​3.50%-12.60%

1.13%-11.23%

Not disclosed

$1,000-100% of your school-certified cost of attendance

5, 10, or 15 years

Education Loan Finance 

3.20%- 11.99%

1.30%- 11.52%

680

$1,000- the amount approved by the school for qualified education expense

5-15 years

Prodigy Finance

None

6.7%-14.5%

Not disclosed

$15,000 - $220,000

7, 10, 15 or 20 years

Ascent Funding

5.17%- 13.21%

1.78%- 9.37%

660

$2,001-$200,000

5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years

What’s the Average Cost of Community College?

The Education Data Initiative found that the average cost of community college is $7,460 total or $1,865 per semester. Here are some more useful stats on the cost of a community college education:

  • While tuition for an in-district community college averages $3,400, the average cost of community college tuition for out-of-state students is $8,210.
  • The yearly tuition at a private 2-year institution can go up to $25,000.

How Do Community College Student Loans Work?

Community college student loans are designed to help you cover a variety of education expenses. These may include tuition, fees, books and supplies, room and board, living expenses, and transportation. There are two types of community college student loans: federal loans from the federal government and private loans from private lenders.

Can Community College Students Get Student Loans?

Yes. Student loans are available to community college students. But keep in mind that you must meet certain requirements for federal and private loans. Most lenders look for a valid Social Security number, good to excellent credit or a cosigner, and a low debt-to-income ratio. You should also be enrolled or accepted in an eligible degree or certificate program.

Are Student Loans Usually Needed for Community College?

Whether you need student loans for community college depends on the cost and your unique financial situation. If you don’t have the cash to cover all of the costs of your education, student loans can come in handy.

How Much in Student Loans Can I Borrow for Community College?

Most private lenders limit the amount you can borrow for a community college loan. In many cases, it will be the cost of tuition minus the amount of financial aid you’re already receiving. If you opt for federal student loans, the maximum amount is $57,500 if you’re an undergraduate and $138,500 if you’re pursuing a graduate degree.

What Are the Eligibility Requirements for Community College Student Loans?

The eligibility criteria for community college student loans depends on the lender. While some lenders have strict credit score, income, and employment requirements, others are more lenient. You may come across a few lenders who prioritize your academic and professional performance over your financial situation.

Types of Community College Student Loans

While both federal and private student loans could help you pay for a community college program, it’s important to understand these differences.

Federal Student Loans

Offered by the Department of Education, federal student loans feature fixed interest rates set by Congress. Plus, they come with a number of protections, like student loan forgiveness programs and income-driven repayment plans.

Since you can apply for federal student loans without credit or income, they’re the most common college lending option. Many students pursue federal student loans before private student loans. You can choose from the following types of federal student loans:

  • Direct Subsidized Loans: Direct subsidized loans are designed for students who can prove they have a financial need. The Department of Education will pay the interest on these loans while you’re still in school and for the first six months after you leave. To be eligible, you must be enrolled no less than half-time at an accredited community college.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans: While you don’t need to show financial need with direct unsubsidized loans, your college will decide how much you can borrow. They'll look at the cost of attendance as well as other types of aid you’re receiving to come to this figure. You will need to pay interest and the interest will accrue if you decide not to pay while you’re in school.
  • Direct Parent PLUS Loans: The Direct PLUS program is for parents of community college students. It allows parents to borrow up to the cost of tuition minus any other financial aid. With these loans, interest will accrue during any period of non-payment.

Private Student Loans

Since private student loans are offered by private lenders, they come with their own eligibility criteria, rates, terms, and perks. But they don’t offer any federal protections, like student loan forgiveness or income-driven repayment plans.

Most private student loans are available through banks, credit unions, and online lenders. If you don’t receive enough funding through federal loans, grants, and scholarships, private student loans can help you cover the gap.

Pros and Cons of Private Community College Student Loans

Just like all financial products, private community college student loans offer benefits and drawbacks, including:

Pros

  • High borrowing limits: Compared to federal student loans, private student loans have higher borrowing limits. You can enjoy more cash upfront to cover the costs of your community college education.
  • Low interest rates: If you have strong credit and sufficient income, you may be able to lock in a low interest rate. This can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.
  • Flexibility to apply at any time: There is no deadline to apply for private loans, like there is with federal loans. If you suddenly face financial troubles, you’re welcome to apply for them.

Cons

  • May need good credit: Many private student loan lenders look for a solid credit history. If you don’t have one or a creditworthy cosigner, your application may get denied.
  • No federal protections: Federal loans offer protections, like forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans that can help you repay your student loan debt. These are not available with private student loans.
  • Might have to settle for variable rates: Some private student loans have variable rates. Since these rates can go up and down over time, it can be difficult to budget for them.

How to Apply for Community College Student Loans

Follow these steps to apply for community college student loans.

  • Fill Out the FAFSA: Since it’s a good idea to apply for federal student loans first, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your community college will use the results from your FAFSA to determine what federal student loans you qualify for.
  • Apply for Grants and Scholarships: You don’t need to repay grants and scholarships so it only makes sense to apply for them. There is no limit to how many you can get so apply for as many as you can.
  • Accept Federal Student Loans: Wait for a letter from your college that explains what type of federal aid you’re eligible for. Then, determine what options you’d like to accept.
  • Decide If You Need Private Student Loans and Shop Around: If your federal student loans won’t cover all of your community college expenses, private student loans make sense. Do your research and compare rates, terms, fees, and perks so you can find the ideal option for your unique situation.
  • Apply Online: Once you hone in on a private student loan that meets your needs, fill out the application. Most lenders will allow you to do online.

Fund Your Community College Education with Private Student Loans

Community college is becoming a popular option for high school graduates and adults who are ready to pursue a new career. If you decide to attend a two-year program, this handy list of the best student loans for community college can come in handy. Before you commit to a loan, however, make sure you weigh the pros and cons. Also, read the agreement carefully to avoid unwanted surprises down the road.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can you go to community college for free?

In some states, community college is free. But be aware that you might be required to exhaust federal and state programs before you get approved for free tuition. Also, even if you receive tuition waivers for your education, you may still have to find a way to cover other expenses like books, supplies, rent, food, and transportation.

How can I get a community college student loan without a cosigner?

You can get federal student loans without a cosigner. If you want a private student loan, however, you’ll need to shop around and find lenders that accept no cosigner loans. Note that these loans may only be an option if you have good credit and sufficient income.

What financial aid options are there for community college students?

The three most common financial aid options for community college students are grants, scholarships, and loans. Unlike loans, grants and scholarships don’t have to be paid back. You can think of them as “free money,” as a reward for your academic achievements or talent in a particular area of study.

What repayment options do community college student loans offer?

If you choose federal student loans, you’ll have access to several flexible repayment plans from the Department of Education, including an income-driven repayment plan. You may also be able to pause payments temporarily via deferment of forbearance. While some private student loan lenders offer several repayment options, they’re usually less flexible than those you may get with federal loans.

Am I Required to Have a Cosigner to Get Community College Student Loans?

Most federal student loans don’t require a cosigner. You may also be able to land a private student loan without a cosigner if you have good credit. Most lenders look for a credit score of at least 650 and a track record of on-time payments. If you don’t have a credit history or your credit score is low, you will likely need a cosigner for a private student loan.

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Anna Baluch

Anna Baluch

Personal Finance Writer

Freelance copywriter who enjoys writing for large publications as well as startups, small to medium sized businesses.

More about me