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If you’re concerned about eligibility for a private student loan, consider that College Ave Student Loans stands out for its accessibility.
You could be an international student without a GED seeking an associate degree on a part-time basis, for example, and still qualify for College Ave private student loans.
Founded by former Sallie Mae executives in 2014, the online-only company offers competitive interest rates to students in college as well as career or graduate schools, as well as their creditworthy parents.
To ensure it’s the right lender for you, consider our review.
College Ave Student Loans review: The basics
While you could qualify for College Ave private student loans with several different educational backgrounds and ambitions, you still need to be creditworthy. Having a credit score of at least 660 is a good start.
The lender doesn’t disclose its specific credit criteria, but you could gauge your (or your cosigner’s) eligibility using the lender’s pre-qualification tool. Passing that test would unlock these loan features:
- Loans for part- or full-time undergraduates, graduate students, career school students and parents
- Prequalify with a three-minute application (and without affecting your credit)
- No fees to apply
- Fixed and variable interest rates
- Borrow between $1,000 and your school’s full cost of attendance
- Choose from four in-school repayment options, including full deferment
- Select one of four repayment term options: five, eight, 10 or 15 years
- Receive your loan in as little as 10 days after applying
- Cosigners are accepted — and encouraged (note that they are required for international students who have a Social Security number)
- Release your cosigner after more than half your repayment term has elapsed
- Enjoy a federal loan-like six-month grace period after leaving school
- Net a 0.25% interest rate reduction for enrolling in autopay
- No penalty for paying off your loan early
- Forbearance — the ability to temporarily suspend payments — is awarded on a case-by-case basis
- Student loan forgiveness in the case of the borrower’s permanent disability or death
While the majority of the loan characteristics above are true no matter your status in school, there are some notable differences for graduate students, career school students and parents.
Whether you’re seeking a postgraduate, master’s, doctoral or professional degree, you can count College Ave private student loans as an option. Note that the ceiling on College Ave’s interest rate ranges as of early June 2019 was significantly lower for graduate students compared to undergrads.
In summer 2019, College Ave also added unique perks for postgraduate students seeking an MBA or other professional degree. The loans include longer grace periods, for example, with 12 months for dental students and 36 months for medical students.
There are also deferments available for students who enter a residency program — or, in the case of law school students, a clerkship — after receiving their degree. Additionally, students seeking these advanced credentials might be able to select a longer loan term (20 years) than their peers.
Career school students
If you’re pursuing an associate, bachelor’s or graduate degree in a career-focused program, including at some community colleges, keep this bonus in mind: College Ave offers borrowers of this loan type a $150 statement credit for completing their program.
College Ave gives parents even more repayment term flexibility. The lender said on its website that it would assist creditworthy parents in choosing one of 11 possible repayment terms, spanning between five and 15 years.
Another plus of borrowing from College Ave: The lender allows Mom or Dad to directly receive up to $2,500 of the loan funds to cover smaller, secondary expenses including books and supplies. (The balance would be sent directly to the student’s school.)
On the downside, however, the floor on College Ave’s interest rate ranges as of early June 2019 was noticeably higher for parents than for undergraduate students. Plus, parent borrowers only have three in-school repayment choices, not including full deferment. Making interest-only payments is the cheapest option available.
What we like about College Ave Student Loans
It’s rare to find a lender that’s so accessible. In College Ave’s eyes, you don’t need a high school diploma or GED, don’t need to be pursuing a four-year degree, don’t need to be enrolled full time — you don’t even need to be an American student (as long as you have a Social Security number).
Aside from flexibility on qualifying, below are a few more features of College Ave private student loans that benefit from additional context.
A bevy of in-school repayment options
Many private lenders offer fewer repayment options than College Ave. But College Ave provides four payment methods, including:
- Deferred: Postpone payments until six months after leaving school, allowing interest to pile up on your balance.
- Flat: Submit monthly dues of $25 to eat into the accruing interest on your loan.
- Interest-only: Pay only enough each month to cover accruing interest to ensure you face the same balance you borrowed upon leaving school.
- Full: Enter repayment immediately by making interest-and-principal payments, so you’ll owe less than what you borrowed once you step off campus.
For cash-strapped students, making (significant) in-school payments isn’t always possible. For other students with income or parental support, entering repayment sooner could pave the way for a faster route out of debt. That’s why it’s so nice to have options.
According to the lender, about 6 in 10 College Ave borrowers elect to submit in-school payments to whittle down interest before the reality of repayment hits upon graduation.
Pick your repayment term
Some lenders, including Sallie Mae, assign you a loan repayment term based on your creditworthiness.
One benefit of borrowing College Ave private student loans, however, is that you (and your cosigner) could independently choose your term. You might select five, eight, 10 or 15 years, depending on your budget and future income. (Unlike with federal loans, however, private lenders like College Ave don’t allow you to change terms later, extending or shortening your repayment term as you wish.)
College Ave said on its website that 84% of borrowers choose a term of 10 years or less.
Receive strong customer service
Nearly 400 College Ave borrowers had awarded a 4.8-out-of-5 rating of their lender — at least according to the lender website.
For a more objective accounting, Trustpilot lists a four-star rating for College Ave, and the Better Business Bureau gives the lender an “A+” grade.
What to keep in mind about College Ave Student Loans
If you like what you’ve learned about College Ave private student loans, keep in mind that no lender is perfect for every borrower.
Decide for yourself whether the following facts should point you in the direction of a competitor.
A long trek to cosigner release
By College Ave’s math, 96% of undergraduates have a cosigner on their loan. After all, teens and 20-somethings can make up for their thin credit files by piggybacking on a creditworthy cosigner, usually Mom or Dad.
The majority of top-rated lenders allow you to release that cosigner (from their legal obligation to repay your debt, if you can’t) after 12 to 48 months of successful payment history.
With College Ave private student loans, however, it’s a long haul. To remove your cosigner from your loan agreement, you must:
- Reach the halfway mark of your loan term
- Make 24 consecutive on-time payments
- Show twice as much income as your loan balance
- Pass a credit check
If you want to reward your cosigner by sending them on their way, you might avoid a 15-year loan term. Under that scenario, you wouldn’t be able to release them until you’ve been in repayment for seven-and-a-half years.
To make matters worse for some borrowers, international students can’t achieve cosigner release at all.
If cosigner release essential to you and your guarantor, you might consider borrowing from Sallie Mae, which offers a 12-month route to release.
A limited form of forbearance
Forbearance is a vital component of any student loan, as it allows you to press pause on your repayment in the face of hardships such as unemployment.
Unfortunately, College Ave is cagey about its forbearance policy, leaving details off its otherwise resource-heavy website.
It turns out, the lender evaluates forbearance applications on a case-by-case basis. In other words, if you find yourself out of work or under another sort of financial duress during repayment, there’s no guarantee College Ave will grant you a reprieve.
If you think you might need a more clear-cut safeguard built into your loan, you might opt to borrow from Discover, as the bank offers a variety of protections, from payment extensions to as many as 12 months of forbearance.
Third-party loan servicing
If you’re attracted to College Ave, in part, because of its modern, easy-to-use platform and strong customer service record, you might be disappointed to learn that the company outsources the servicing of its loans.
Repayment of College Ave private student loans even takes place on a different website. University Accounting Service (UAS) handles statements and payments and fields customer concerns.
When deciding whether College Ave is right for you, factor UAS into the equation, too. You might be wise to contact the latter company to get a sneak peek of its effectiveness in answering your loan management questions.
If you’re left wanting more, you might be better off walking into your local bank or credit union, where your loan will be funded and managed under the same roof.
Are College Ave Student Loans right for you?
If you’re an atypical college student — maybe you’re attending part time or seeking an associate degree — College Ave private student loans are more accessible than education financing found elsewhere.
Even if you’re attending a traditional four-year school, you could be drawn to the online lender’s assortment of in-school and postgraduate repayment options. They give you the power to customize a loan that works best for your borrowing situation. Plus, if you (or your cosigner) are especially creditworthy, you could unlock some of the lowest interest rates offered by banks, credit unions and online competitors.
College Ave won’t be as appealing, however, if you’re counting on a fast pathway to cosigner release or federal loan-like safeguards such as mandatory forbearance. To pit College Ave against the competition, find out where the lender ranked among our top-rated student loan companies.
MagnifyMoney has independently collected the above information related to this review, which is current as of June 3, 2019, unless otherwise noted. College Ave. neither provided or reviewed the information shared in this article.