Best Student Loans for International Students in March 2024

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Edited byAmy Wilder
Edited byAmy Wilder

Updated: March 22, 2024

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To study in the U.S., international students often need significant funding and an F, J or M student visa. While a visa can be simple to apply for, the U.S. is one of the top three most expensive countries for international students, costing twice as much or more than studying in New Zealand, Australia or Canada.

Generally, federal student loans are the best option for financing college, but they are only available to U.S. citizens and eligible non-U.S. citizens like permanent residents, asylees, citizens of certain countries like Palau, and a few other categories. The next best option for international students is private student loans — which can be tricky for nonresidents unfamiliar with lenders in the country.

To help you find the best student loans for international students, MoneyGeek examined more than 30 private lenders across six key categories: affordability, accessibility, consumer friendliness, customer service, flexibility and lender transparency.

MPower Financing Review


  • MPower Financing

    Best option for international students looking for a fixed interest rate.


    • 13.72% – 15.01%Fixed APR Range
    • Not SpecifiedVariable APR Range
    • $2,001 up to $100,000Loan Amount Range
    • Not requiredCo-Signer

    MPower Financing, founded in 2014, offers student loans and refinancing products to domestic, DACA and international students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate courses. The company’s unique selling point is its fixed interest rates, allowing international students to plan their finances. On top of fixed interest rates, MPower Financing offers a discount rate of up to 0.25% for automatic payments through U.S. bank accounts.

    However, MPower Financing has limits to its student loans. For instance, it only offers one loan term (10 years), and its rates depend on your status (domestic, DACA or international), your course (graduate or undergraduate) and when you apply (for a future or current semester). Additionally, its loans are only available to students enrolled in MPower-supported universities.

    Pros

    • Does not require a co-signer
    • Offers up to a 0.25% rate discount for automatic payments
    • Offers refinancing for international students
    • Does not charge prepayment penalties
    • Boasts a quick approval process

    Cons

    • Only offers fixed rates depending on your status and course
    • Only offers one loan term
    • Only offers student loans to students enrolled in MPower-supported schools
    MPower Financing

Prodigy Finance Review


  • Prodigy Finance

    Best for international students seeking a master’s degree.


    • Starts at 4.98%Fixed APR Range
    • Starts at 4.66%Variable APR Range
    • Minimum $15,000, no maximumLoan Amount Range
    • Not requiredCo-Signer

    Prodigy Finance offers international student loans in the U.S. to those seeking their master’s degree. Unlike other traditional lenders, Prodigy Finance does not require any collateral or a co-signer.

    The company follows a simple interest rate formula, which means that interest is not compounded for the life of the loan. Instead, any interest charged while you are studying and during the grace period gets added to the original loan amount, creating a new principal amount on your first repayment date. On top of that, you can choose between loan terms ranging from 7 to 20 years.

    Generally, Prodigy Finance’s student loans are straightforward in terms of application and requirements. However, the company only offers its loans to master’s students and does not offer any discounts for automatic payments or good grades.

    Pros

    • Does not require a co-signer
    • Does not require collateral
    • Follows a simple interest calculation
    • Offers application completely online
    • Has flexible loan terms from 7 to 20 years

    Cons

    • Does not offer discounts on interest rates
    • Does not offer fixed interest rates
    • Does not offer student loans to undergraduates students
    Prodigy Finance

Discover Review


  • Discover

    Best for all higher education students.


    • 3.99%–11.59%Fixed APR Range
    • 1.79%–11.09%Variable APR Range
    • $1,000 up to 100% of college expensesLoan Amount Range
    • Optional Co-Signer

    While Discover has been in business since the mid-1980s, student loans only became part of its products in December 2010. Since then, the company has offered various student loans for international students taking undergraduate, graduate or postgraduate courses.

    Discover is a great choice for private international student loans in the U.S. if you do not want to pay any additional fees, as the company does not charge origination or late payment fees. However, Discover only offers 15-year loans. They can be paid in one of three ways: interest-only monthly payments while in school, fixed monthly payments while in school or monthly payments beginning six months after graduation (or if enrollment falls below half-time).

    Discover also allows you to make additional payments to lower your balance or completely pay off your balance before the term ends without any penalty. If you opt for automatic payments or get good grades, you can also qualify for a discount.

    Pros

    • Offers a variable APR as low as 5.87%
    • Does not require origination or late fees
    • Does not charge prepayment penalties
    • Offers up to 100% of college expenses
    • Provides a 0.25% discount for automatic payments

    Cons

    • Only offers a 15-year term
    • No co-signer release
    • Does not have a mobile app
    Discover

Ascent Review


  • Ascent

    Best for international students who need additional support with their loans.


    • 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 offers student loans for international students taking up undergraduate, graduate, law, dental or MBA courses under the condition that they have a co-signer. The borrower’s co-signer must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident and meets minimum requirements for credit score and gross annual income.

    Ascent student loans offer some excellent perks, including a 0.25% autopay discount. On top of that, Ascent offers a college guide, career advice, budgeting hacks and financial planning advice on its site to help international students and other borrowers improve their financial literacy.

    Pros

    • Offers a 0.25% discount if you qualify
    • Offers a 1% cashback reward after graduation
    • Does not require any origination or disbursement fees
    • Does not require any prepayment penalty fees
    • Allows borrowers to use their loans for any cost associated with their program

    Cons

    • Fixed APR can be as high as 16.43%
    • Loan approval and funding may take several weeks
    • Has a late fee of 5% (capped at $25)
    Ascent

How Do International Student Loans Work?

To fund their studies, students often turn to federal student loans — which are only available for U.S. citizens and eligible categories of non-U.S. citizens. Thus, foreign students who come to the U.S. often seek private student loans instead.

A private student loan for international students often requires a co-signer who has U.S. citizenship or is a U.S. permanent resident — but not all lenders have this requirement. Apart from this, lenders also require:

  • Proof of acceptance to a university or college
  • A student visa
  • Transcript or enrollment documents from previous universities
  • Information for an eligible co-signer

Once accepted, the student can use an international student loan for any education-related costs, including tuition, cost of living, books and more. These funds are often disbursed to the university first, with leftovers given to the borrower.

A student loan for international students can be costly or difficult to get — especially if you don’t have a co-signer. Because of this, it’s beneficial for international students to get a high loan amount with a single lender to maximize interest rates.

Who Can Get an International Student Loan?

To get an international student loan in the U.S., borrowers must meet certain qualifications. These include:

  • The student must not be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-U.S. citizen: International student loans are meant for non-U.S. citizens.
  • The student must have a solid credit history: The student must demonstrate financial responsibility.
  • The student must have a creditworthy, eligible co-signer: If the lender requires a co-signer, the co-signer should typically have a decent credit history and be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-U.S. citizen.
  • The student must be accepted into an eligible study program or university: The lender will require proof of acceptance to an eligible program or university.
  • The student must have an F, M or J visa: The lender may ask for proof of application for a visa or a granted visa.

Factors to Consider in an International Student Loan

Borrowers considering international student loans should consider a few factors before applying. In particular, the following factors can affect the total cost of the loan and even the terms of the loan during its lifetime:

  • Interest rates: This is considered the “cost of the loan,” or what the student pays on top of the principal amount. For example, if a student borrows $10,000 and has a 5% interest rate, they would owe $500 in interest.
  • Repayment terms: This is how long it will take to repay the loan following a monthly repayment plan. This can be anywhere from 5 to 20 years. The longer the repayment term, the lower the monthly payments, but the higher the cost paid in interest over time.
  • Funds disbursement: This is the time it takes to receive the funds and how they are released. Some lenders give the borrowed amount directly to the school to cover costs, while others disburse funds to the borrower to cover their education-related expenses.
  • Co-signer release: This is whether a co-signer can be “released” from responsibility for the loan after a certain period.
  • Hardship options: Some lenders offer flexible options if a borrower is facing hardship. These can include skipping a few payments or lowering the monthly payment, depending on the lender. These options are generally good and can serve as a last resort for a struggling borrower.
  • Discounts and other benefits: Some lenders offer discounts on interest rates or other perks. For instance, lenders like MPower offer discounts for agreeing to automatic payments.

While these factors can vary from lender to lender, understanding them can help a student find the best loan for their needs.

Frequently Asked Questions About International Student Loans

To give potential borrowers a thorough understanding of student loans for international students, MoneyGeek answered a few frequently asked questions.

Where can I get an international student loan?
How are interest rates in an international student loan determined?
Which international students can get federal student loans?
What are other options to fund education besides international student loans?
Can you refinance international student loans?
What are the pros and cons of international student loans?
Do international students qualify for student loan forgiveness?

Methodology

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 we feel 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.

MoneyGeek values you, the consumer, so we also factor in each lender’s customer support, business ratings and additional features that could make your experience easier and more accessible — like prequalification, payment options and mobile apps.

After careful consideration and calculation, our picks are decided and chosen with your best interest in mind. Our personal loan recommendations and expert tips are meant to help you make the best decision when choosing a lender that meets your needs.

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