A number of private outside agencies offer students alternative sources for financing their education. Unlike federal loans, the terms of private loans are set by the individual lenders. The interest rate and fees are determined by your credit history, your debt-to-income ratio and that of your co-signer. The interest rates for private educational loans are variable and are most often based on a range using SOFR Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) or the London Interbank Offered Rates (LIBOR) as a base and add an additional percentage based on the borrower's credit. The current Prime and LIBOR rates are available at the Federal Reserve Statistical Release.
Students are encouraged to consider all federal loan options before applying for a private loan. Federal loans generally have better benefits and fixed interest rates. See the Department of Education’s Federal Aid First site for more information. You can also contact our office if you have questions.
Individual lenders set the terms of private loans. Your credit history, co-signer, and debt-to-income ratio will influence interest rates, which can be either fixed or variable.
Questions you should ask a potential lender:
- How soon will I enter repayment? Are interest-only payments required during enrollment?
- How often is the interest capitalized? (The frequency of capitalization will increase the total loan amount that you have to repay because you will be charged interest on a higher principal loan.)
- If I use a co-signer, can I receive a better rate? Is a co-signer release available?
- How will the rate formula (interest and fees charged) change in repayment?
- What will my monthly payment be on this loan amount when I am in repayment?
- What kind of borrower benefits does the lender offer? (interest rate reductions with automatic withdrawals, principle reduction with a certain number of on-time payments, etc.)
Northwestern University's Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid adheres to the Code of Conduct as established by the Higher Education Opportunity Act as well as the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators' (NASFAA) Statement of Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct for Institutional Financial Aid Professionals. View Northwestern’s Financial Aid Code of Conduct Policy.
Your private education lender will require you to complete a Private Education Loan Applicant Self-Certification Form. You should use the version the lender provides as it may contain pre-populated information, but you may use this version if your lender does not provide you with one.
The loan programs and lenders listed here are provided to help you start your research. You are not required to only borrow from these options. The lenders included in this lender information were selected via a Request for Information (RFI) process. Any lender providing student loan programs was eligible to submit an RFI.
We chose to list the lenders below based on a review of competitive interest rates and fees, quality of servicing, and borrower benefits. Please contact the lender directly for more information. The links below include lender contact information and the lenders’ application and solicitation disclosures.
- College Ave
- Custom Choice Loan
- ISL Student Lending
- NU Loan for Parents
- Sallie Mae Student Loans
- Union Federal
Loans for Special Circumstances
Some lenders provide loans to students with special circumstances:
- International students* (with U.S. cosigner): Ascent, Citizens, College Ave, Earnest (co-signer may not be required), Nelnet, Sallie Mae Student Loans, SoFi (co-signer may not be required), Union Federal
- International students* (without U.S. cosigner): MPOWER
- Half-time students: Citizens , College Ave, Custom Choice Loan, Earnest, ISL Student Lending, Nelnet, Sallie Mae Student Loans, SoFi, Union Federal
- Less than half-time students: College Ave, Custom Choice Loan, Nelnet, Sallie Mae Student Loans, Union Federal
- Non-degree-seeking students: College Ave, Sallie Mae Student Loans
- Loans to cover recent past-due balances: Ascent (180 days) Citizens (365 days), College Ave (365 days), Custom Choice Loan (365 days) Earnest (365 days), ISL Student Lending (180 days), Nelnet (365 days), Sallie Mae Student Loans (365 days), SoFi (365 days) Union Federal (365 days)
*Please note that most lenders require students to be residing in the United States at the time of disbursement. Lenders may also require an I-20 to apply, so these loans may not be a viable option for new students. Be sure to check with individual lenders for their specific policy.