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.
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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
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.
Top Picks for The Best Community College Student Loans
Best Community College Student Loans for 2023 - Full Overview
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 2023, 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 - Feature Comparison
Min. credit score
$5,000 up to your cost of attendance
5,7,10, 15, or 20 years
$1,000-100% of your school-certified cost of attendance
5, 10, or 15 years
Education Loan Finance
$1,000- the amount approved by the school for qualified education expense
$15,000 - $220,000
7, 10, 15 or 20 years
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:
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.
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.
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
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.