Anyone who borrows money to pay for their education will have to pay interest on their debt. For young graduates entering the workforce, these rates can be distressing. But while you may know how student loan interest rates in general work, you might be wondering how your lender or manager sets them.
While the government sets federal loan rates, private loan rates are based on your financial history or that of your co-signer. Here’s how lenders determine student loan rates and how today’s rates compare to previous years. Concretely, let’s look …
How are student loan interest rates set?
Federal student loan interest rates are adjusted by federal law each school year. These rates apply to all students, regardless of their credit history.
Private lenders, on the other hand, set rates according to the creditworthiness of each applicant. They take into account factors such as credit rating, work history, and income.
While stock market and economic trends also affect private and federal student loan rates, they do so in different ways. We will explore these differences in more detail below.
All federal student loan rates are set by Congress, according to the Federal Office for Student Aid.
Congress annually promulgates interest rates set by the Department of Education. The rates are based on 10-year treasury bills plus a fixed increase.
Student loan rates are set in the spring for each new school year. They are effective from July 1 to June 30 of the following year. To make sure that interest rates don’t rise too much, Congress also provides for rate caps for each type of student loan.
Here is the formula used for the different types of loans, from Congress Budget Office (OBC):
- Direct unsubsidized loans for undergraduate students: 10-year cash flow + 2.05%, capped at 8.25%
- Non-subsidized direct loans for graduates: 10-year cash flow + 3.60%, capped at 9.50%
- Direct PLUS Loans: 10-year cash flow + 4.60%, capped at 10.50%
Based on the above formula, undergraduates pay the least to borrow for college. Parents and graduate students will usually pay more to fund tuition fees.
The Department of Education approves borrowers for federal student loans on an as-needed basis. To qualify, apply using the free application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA. Factors such as a student’s or a family’s income will affect the amount of assistance they receive. But these factors have no effect on the federal student loan rates that every borrower pays.
How Do Lenders Set Private Student Loan Rates?
To get a private student loan, you will apply directly to the lender. Each private lender has its own underwriting process and standards for student loan applicants; these eligibility requirements help lenders decide whether to grant a loan to an applicant and at what interest rate.
To qualify for a private student loan, you must meet the lender’s underwriting standards or apply with a co-signer who does. Common eligibility requirements for approval include your credit score, your credit history – such as whether you’ve paid your bills on time – and your income. The lender may also take into account factors such as the degree you are working towards and your professional background or field of study.
Unlike federal student loans which offer universal rates, private lenders use their own loan models to set and offer individualized rates for each borrower. Here are the three main factors that affect the rates offered by lenders on private student loans.
1. Your credit rating
Lenders use your credit score and history to set private student loan interest rates. Generally, the better your credit, the more likely a lender is to fund a loan at a lower rate. This is because you have shown that you are able to repay your debts and that you have a lower risk of default.
To get the most favorable rates and terms on a private student loan, lenders usually require a good to excellent credit score, which means a score of at least 670, but the higher the better. is.
To maintain a good credit rating:
- Stay up to date on your debt payments: Make full and timely payments every month. Payment history is the most important factor in determining your credit.
- Keep revolving debt low: Use your available credit as little as possible, especially on credit cards, to maintain a low credit utilization rate. Experts recommend keeping it below 30% at all times.
- Maintain old accounts: Lenders like to see a long credit history, which shows that you can use credit responsibly over time.
2. The terms of your student loan
The terms you choose for your private student loans will also influence the interest rates you are offered.
For example, lenders typically offer variable interest rates on student loans. Choosing one will often get you a lower introductory rate than a fixed rate loan, but the variable rate could increase in the future. You will also usually get a lower student loan interest rate if you choose a shorter repayment period.
3. Market trends
Private student loan interest rates are also generally based on a more general benchmark interest rate, in the same way that federal student loan rates are tied to 10-year Treasury bond rates.
Student lenders most often set rates based on the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) or prime rate. These reflect larger economic forces and market prices.
What are the current student loan rates?
Federal student loan rates are still quite low for the 2019-20 school year, historically speaking. In fact, the 2019-2020 rates are around half a percentage point lower than 2018-19 rates.
- 2019-20 Direct Subsidized Loans for Undergraduates: 4.53%
- 2019-20 Non-subsidized direct loans for graduates: 6.08%
- Direct PLUS Loans 2019-20: 7.08%
The current rates for student loans from private lenders are also quite low. The best private student loan providers offer rates starting at around 4%. That’s a bit lower than the undergraduate rates on federal student loans. But this only reflects the lowest rates offered by these lenders. Many borrowers will not qualify for rates in this range. Private student loan rates can reach 15% or more.
Current student loan rates are nearly four percentage points lower than the ceiling rates that mark the highest possible student loan rates. The current formulas and ceilings for federal student loans are relatively new: they were instituted in 2013 with the passage of the law. Bipartite Student Loan Certainty Act.
In January 2017, the CBO predicted that federal loan interest rates would rise by about 0.25% to 0.4% each year for the next four years, before leveling off at 5.5% at 5. 65%. Two years later, interest rates are lower than expected.
Looking ahead, in June 2019, the Federal Reserve said further interest rate cuts for the year were unlikely, but a rate cut was possible in 2020.
Overall, student loan rates today are low by historical standards. To take advantage of today’s rates, consider following these steps:
- Research student loan refinancing to see if you could get a lower interest rate than what you’re already paying.
- Learn About Private Student Loans alongside federal student loan offers, especially if you are a parent or a graduate student facing higher interest rates. today private student loan rate often beat those offered on PLUS loans.
- Work on improving your credit so that you can avail the best student loan rates.
Borrowers should carefully consider student loan offers. By knowing how student loan rates are determined, you are better equipped to compare options and make the best choice for your situation.
Peter Fleming contributed to this report.