Best Bad Credit Student Loans in January 2024

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Edited byAmy Wilder
Edited byAmy Wilder

Updated: April 24, 2024

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If you have a low credit score, understanding how to get a student loan with bad credit may require some research. Most lenders use your financial history to determine your loan eligibility and rates. While federal loans don’t consider your credit history — federal loans may not be enough to cover your educational costs, which may make getting a private student loan necessary to bridge the gap. Fortunately, there are bad credit student loan lenders that have more relaxed requirements.

MoneyGeek’s ranking of the best student loans for bad credit is based on our analysis of more than 30 lenders using more than 35 data points. Discover the best private student loan for bad credit for your needs.

Ascent Review


  • Ascent

    Best for students with bad credit who have no cosigner or need a small loan amount.


    • 4.36%–14.08%Fixed APR Range
    • 1.47%–11.31%Variable APR Range
    • $2,001–$200,000Loan Amount Range
    • Non-U.S. citizens and temporary residentsCo-signer

    Ascent aims to provide students with the means to expand their possibilities, offering several loans for undergraduate, graduate, international and DACA students. However, its student loans for bad credit are only available for undergraduate students.

    Ascent’s non-cosigned, outcome-based loans are offered to borrowers without established credit or borrowers who meet the minimum credit criteria but not income or repayment requirements. The company evaluates the potential borrower’s school, program, graduation date, cost of attendance, academic performance and other factors.

    Not all students qualify, as Ascent only offers its non-cosigned, outcome-based loan to undergraduate junior or senior students who are enrolled full-time with a 2.9 GPA or higher. Additionally, the maximum amount students with bad credit can get is $20,000.

    Pros

    • No income requirement for outcome-based loans
    • Flexible repayment terms of 5, 7, 10, 12 or 15-year terms
    • 9-month grace period after school
    • Considers borrowers based on school, program, GPA and more
    • Offers up to 2% discount on interest for AutoPay and after graduation upon meeting terms and condition

    Cons

    • Borrower must maintain 2.9 GPA or higher
    • Borrower must be a junior or senior enrolled full time
    • Low maximum loan amount of $20,000
    Ascent

Earnest Review


  • Earnest

    Best for those with a co-signer with good credit.


    • 4.43% - 14.90%Fixed APR Range
    • 5.32% - 16.20%Variable APR Range
    • $1,000 upLoan Amount Range
    • Allowed Co-signer

    Earnest is an online lender that aims to make higher education more accessible and affordable for anyone who needs it. Aside from offering private student loans, personal loans, refinance loans and credit cards, the company offers insightful resources.

    Earnest’s student loans for bad credit are known as “co-signer loans,” and as the name implies, a cosigner is required. Generally, a co-signer allows students to get a lower rate according to their co-signer’s credit score, and Earnest notes that students are four times more likely to be approved if they have one.

    Students with a co-signed loan through Earnest can benefit from a nine-month grace period after graduation, three months longer than competitors. Students also have access to flexible repayment options and do not need to pay any origination, disbursement or late payment fees. However, there is no co-signer release and only full-time students can apply for a loan.

    Pros

    • Offers a nine-month grace period
    • Has four repayment options
    • No origination fees, late payment fees or disbursement fees
    • Application is done entirely online

    Cons

    • No co-signer release
    • Not available in all states
    • Only accepts full-time students
    Earnest

Funding U Review


  • Funding U

    Best for those with no co-signer.


    • 6.99% – 12.49%Fixed APR Range
    • 7.49% – 12.99%Variable APR Range
    • $3,001 up to $20,000Loan Amount Range
    • Not requiredCo-signer

    Funding U is an online student loan lender determined to help students cover the cost of education. The company offers no co-signer student loans for undergraduates, with an underwriting process that looks at more than just your credit history. Instead of basing the decision on your credit score, Funding U looks at other merit-based metrics, such as your GPA and academic performance.

    However, Funding U’s loans are only available to full-time undergraduates, which means part-time or graduate students cannot apply. The company also requires a minimum GPA and graduate threshold that varies based on your class year.

    Pros

    • Offers a discount on interest rates with AutoPay
    • No application, origination, cancellation or prepayment penalty fees
    • Underwriting process does not center around FICO scores
    • Uses merit-based factors to determine eligibility
    • Allows students to determine eligibility online in minutes

    Cons

    • Low range of APR is only available to seniors with outstanding academic performance
    • Loans are only available to full-time undergraduate students
    • Requires a minimum GPA and graduate rate threshold for borrowers and institutions
    Funding U

Federal Student Loans for Those With Bad Credit

Federal student loans are the best options for any student — especially those with bad credit. This is because federal options often come with lower rates than private lenders.

Direct Subsidized Loans

A Direct Subsidized Loan is a type of federal student loan available to those with demonstrated financial need. Interested borrowers must be enrolled at least half time to get a degree or certificate at a participating school and must be an undergraduate student. There is no need to demonstrate financial need. Further, with a Direct Subsidized Loan, the interest is paid for by the U.S. Department of Education while a borrower in school, for the first six months after graduation and during a period of deferment.

Other details of Direct Subsidized Loans are as follows:

  • Loan Amount: Determined by the school the borrower is enrolled in. This may not exceed the borrower’s financial need.
  • Fixed APR: 4.99% for undergraduate borrowers
  • Repayment Terms: 10 to 25 years
  • Grace Period: Six months

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Direct Unsubsidized Loans are a type of federal student loan similar to its subsidized counterpart, except that it is meant for those with no financial need. In this case, the borrower is fully responsible for their loan. Similar to a Subsidized Loan, however, the loan amount is determined by the school in which the borrower is enrolled.

  • Loan Amount: Determined by the school the borrower is enrolled in based on the cost of attendance and other financial aid.
  • Fixed APR: 4.99% for undergraduates; 6.54% for graduates
  • Repayment Terms: 10 to 25 years
  • Grace Period: Six months

Direct PLUS Loans

A Direct PLUS loan, also known as a Grad PLUS Loan, is a type of federal loan specifically for parents, graduate students and professional student borrowers. To qualify, borrowers must not have an adverse financial history, as a credit check will be conducted, and only students at schools participating in the Direct Loan program are eligible.

  • Loan Amount: Determined by the school the borrower is enrolled in based on the cost of attendance and other financial aid.
  • Fixed APR: 7.54%
  • Repayment Terms: 10 to 25 years
  • Grace Period: Six months for graduate or professional students; none for parents
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HOW WE REVIEWED PRIVATE STUDENT LOAN LENDERS

We reviewed more than 30 private student loan lenders using 35+ individual data points across six key categories: loan affordability, accessibility, consumer friendliness, customer service, flexibility and lender transparency.

Within each ranking criteria category, we considered several individual data points that carry the most weight when choosing a private student loan lender. These factors include APR ranges, available loan amount, minimum credit score, minimum income amount, application fees and disbursement time.

With the consumer in mind, we also factor in each lender’s customer support, business ratings and additional features that could make your experience easier and more accessible — like pre-qualification, payment options and mobile apps.

Frequently Asked Questions About Student Loans

While there may be additional requirements for getting a student loans with a low credit score, there are several options available. MoneyGeek answered a few commonly asked questions about student loans to help borrowers with less-than-ideal credit know where to start.

What credit score do you need to apply for a student loan?
Can I improve my credit score as a college student?
Are there student loans that don’t require a credit check?
How do I apply for student loans with bad credit?
What do I do if I get denied a student loan?
Should I get a co-signer to get a student loan?
What is the grace period for a federal student loan?

Experts' Insights on the Best Student Loans for those With Bad Credit

  1. How can students with bad credit improve their chances of qualifying for a student loan?
  2. Can you offer some strategies for finding the best student loans for those with poor credit scores?
Brittany Tweed
Brittany TweedDirector of Financial Aid at Metropolitan State University
Marty Somero
Marty SomeroDirector, at the Office of Financial Aid at the University of Northern Colorado
Dan Cieniewicz
Dan CieniewiczFinancial Planner at Hyperion Financial
Eric Young
Eric YoungSenior Instructor at the Department of Economics at Loyola Marymount University
sources
*Rates, fees or bonuses may vary or include specific stipulations. The content on this page is accurate as of the posting/last updated date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. We recommend visiting the card issuer’s website for the most up-to-date information available.
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