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College Students and Recent Grads, Reviews, Strategies to Save

Review: PNC Solution Loan for Students

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

PNC Solution Loan

PNC is one of the larger banks in the United States, and it offers private student loans through its Solution Loan. Existing PNC customers may benefit from this loan the most, as it includes a 0.50% interest rate reduction if you have a checking or savings account with PNC and enroll in automatic payments.

Let’s see how it compares against federal student loans and other private lenders.

Details of PNC’s Solution Loan

The minimum amount you can borrow is $1,000, and the maximum amount you can borrow is $40,000 per year. Your total student loan debt (federal and private loans) can’t exceed $225,000. Fixed APRs on the Solution Loan range from 6.29% to 12.29% and variable APRs range from 5.23% to 11.23%.

You have up to 15 years to repay the loan. You can choose to have payments deferred as long as you’re enrolled at least half time, and payments won’t be due until six months after you graduate. You can also start paying right away or make interest-only payments while in school if you want to reduce how much you pay in interest over the life of the loan. Either of these last two choices will save you money in the long run, but they don’t come with the six-month grace period.

Don’t have the greatest credit, or a lengthy credit history? You can apply with a cosigner, and a cosigner release is available after 48 consecutive on-time monthly payments have been made.

Remember, if you have a PNC checking or savings account, you can receive a 0.50% interest rate deduction by enrolling in automatic payments.

An example payment looks like this: If you borrow $10,000 at a fixed APR of 6.19% on a 15 year term, your monthly payment will be $111.07, and the total cost of your loan will be $19,992.60.

[Student Loan Disbursement 101]

How Does the Solution Loan Compare to Federal Student Loans?

Federal student loans are known for having lower interest rates than private loans, and that holds true in this case. Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans have a fixed interest rate of 4.29% as of the 2015 – 2016 academic year. While the variable APR for PNC’s Solution Loan begins at 4.58%, you (or your cosigner) will need excellent credit to obtain that low rate. Additionally, variable rates aren’t set in stone. That rate could increase over the next few years, potentially making the loan more expensive.

Federal student loans also come with a host of benefits for borrowers, including: Income-Driven Repayment Plans, deferment forbearance, forgiveness, cancellation and discharge. Private loans don’t come with these guaranteed benefits and PNC makes next to no mention on its site about repayment assistance.

At the very least, the Solution Loan doesn’t include any fees, whereas there’s a 1.068% disbursement fee associated with Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans as of the 2015 – 2016 academic year.

However, not everyone can fund his or her college education strictly on federal loans, as the amount you can borrow is capped. Do your research to find a private lender willing to offer you rates as close as possible to the rates offered on federal loans.

[How to Find All Your Student Loans]

Eligibility Requirements

There are a few eligibility requirements borrowers need to meet to apply for the loan:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Borrower needs to be age of majority in the state where they reside, otherwise they need to apply with a cosigner who is at least the age of majority
  • Borrower has to be enrolled at least half time in an eligible program in an eligible school
  • Borrower must have at least two years of employment, otherwise, the cosigner must
    • If you or your cosigner are self-employed, you’ll need to have been in business for two years

PNC takes debt-to-income ratio and credit history into account as well, though it doesn’t specify what debt-to-income ratio or score it looks for.

[18 Common Loan Terms Explained]

Application Process and Documents Needed

The application process is quick – you can receive an answer in just a few minutes. When applying with a cosigner, the borrower will complete the application first. There will be a place to enter the cosigner’s contact information. Once complete, a link to the application will be emailed to the cosigner so he or she can fill it out.

Information you should have ready includes:

  • Personal information, including Social Security number, address, Driver’s License number, etc.
  • The school you’re attending, your major, and expected graduation date
  • How much you need to borrow
  • Employment information (if applicable)
  • Proof of income

If approved and you accept the loan, the funds will be sent directly to the school.

[6 Things to Know Before Taking Out a Student Loan]

The Fine Print

There’s no application or origination fee associated with the loan. If you’re late making a payment, the late fee will be 5% of your past due amount, or $5.00, whichever is less.

Repayment Assistance Options

Forbearance is available if you can prove an inability to pay back your loans. It’s available for a total of 12 months over the life of your loan, and you can enter into a period of forbearance for up to two months. Keep in mind that interest will continue to accrue while your loans are in forbearance, meaning you’ll end up paying more for the loan if you use this option.

Pros and Cons of the Solution Loan

Pro: In the event the borrower dies, the outstanding balance will be forgiven. Not all private lenders offer this benefit.

Con: The interest rates on the Solution Loan are some of the highest of the private lenders we’ve covered. The 0.50% discount only applies if you have a checking or savings account with PNC, and some borrowers may not want to open additional accounts to receive this benefit.

Pro: In case you have any questions, there’s a live chat option as well as a phone number (1-800-762-1001) you can call to contact an education loan specialist.

Con: There’s not as much emphasis placed on repayment assistance, even though forbearance is offered. It’s wise to look for private lenders who are willing to work with borrowers in case of financial hardship.

Con: The annual $40,000 limit on how much you can borrow is low compared with lenders who allow you to borrow up to the cost of attendance.

For Graduates, Health Professionals, and Law Students

Aside from offering the Solution Loan to undergraduates, PNC also offers graduate and professional loans, a health professions loan, and a bar study loan. These loans all have the same APRs as undergraduate loans.

[Why You Should Make Bi-Weekly Student Loan Payments]

Private Student Loan Alternatives

Are the interest rates on the Solution Loan too high for your liking? There are other alternatives to choose from as there’s no shortage of private lenders offering student loans.

Sallie Mae’s Smart Option Student Loan offers variable APRs ranging from 4.00% to 9.04%, and fixed APRs ranging from 6.25% to 9.16%. There’s no cap on how much you can borrow, and a Graduated Repayment Plan is offered. You have 10 years to repay the loan, and can choose to defer payments, make interest-only payments, or make monthly payments while attending school.

Sallie Mae Bank


on Sallie Mae Bank’s secure website

Citizen’s Bank also offers a private student loan solution. Variable APRs range from 6.14% to 11.19% for a 10-year term and 6.34% to 11.40% for a 15-year term. Fixed APRs range from 6.39% to 11.44% for a 10-year term and 6.59% to 11.65% for a 15-year term. You can borrow up to $90,000, though your combined federal and private student loan debt can’t exceed $120,000. Repayment terms of 5, 10, and 15 years are available.
Citizens Bank (RI)


on Citizens Bank (RI)’s secure website

While your first stop in financing your education should be maximizing federal loans, make sure you shop around for the best deals if you have to resort to private loans. As you can see, lenders offer a variety of interest rates, and it’s important to secure the lowest rates possible. If you shop around within a 30-day period, the credit bureaus will count all inquiries as one, meaning your credit won’t take a huge hit. While you’re at it, you might want to check with your local credit union or the bank you use to see the rates on loans they offer.

Customize Your Student Loan Offers with MagnifyMoney Comparison Tool

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at [email protected]


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College Students and Recent Grads

College Ave Private Student Loans Review: Accessible Eligibility Criteria, Flexible Repayment

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.


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.

Graduate students

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.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Andrew Pentis
Andrew Pentis |

Andrew Pentis is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Andrew here

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Building Credit, College Students and Recent Grads, Credit Cards, Earning Cashback

How You Can Have a Good FICO Score Just One Year After Opening a Credit Card

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.


When I moved to the U.S. from my hometown of Hangzhou, in China, to pursue my undergraduate degree, the thought of establishing a credit history wasn’t even on my radar. I was, after all, an international student from China, where day-to-day credit card use had only recently caught on.

It wasn’t until I returned to the U.S. a few years later to pursue my master’s degree in Chicago that I realized I’d need to establish credit if I planned to launch my career in the States.

Just one year after I opened the card, I already had a solid FICO score – 720, to be exact. This score landed me safely in the “good” credit range, meaning I probably would not have trouble getting approved for new credit. I still had work to do if I wanted to get into the “very good” credit category, which starts at 740. But as a credit card newbie, I was not disappointed in my progress. 

Here’s how I did it.

I selected the right card for my needs

I wish I could say I diligently researched credit cards to choose the best offer and best terms, but honestly, I just got lucky.

Shortly before graduate school started, I visited friends in Iowa. When we were about to split the bill after dinner at a Japanese restaurant, I noticed that all my friends had a Discover card with a shimmering pink or blue cover. The Discover it® Student Cash Back was known for its high approval rate for student applicants, and had been popular among international students.

I thought, “Oh, maybe I should get this one, too.”

One of the friends sent me a referral link that very night. I applied and got approved quickly. We both received a $50 cash-back bonus after I made my first purchase — an iPhone — using the card through Discover’s special rewards program. I even received 5% cash back from the purchase.

Besides imposing no annual fee, the card had other perks, such as rewarding me with a $20 statement credit when I reported a good GPA (up to five consecutive years), letting me earn 5% cash back on purchases in rotating categories and matching the cashback bonus I earned over the first 12 months with my account. For me, it was a great starter card, but there are plenty of other options out there.

Check out our guide on the best credit cards for students.

I also could have explored other options of establishing credit, like opening a secured card, for example, which would have been a smart option if I hadn’t been able to qualify for the Discover it student card.

I never missed a payment

Despite my very limited financial literacy at the time, I attribute my strong credit score to the old, deeply ingrained Chinese mentality about saving and not owing.

I never missed payments, and I always paid off my balance in full each month, instead of just making the minimum payment. I didn’t want to pay a penny of interest.

Credit cards carry high interest rates across the board, but student credit cards generally have some of the highest APRs. This is because lenders see students like me — consumers without much credit history — to be risky borrowers, and they charge a higher interest rate to offset that risk.

Best Student Credit Cards June 2019

It wasn’t until much later that I learned payment history is critical to good credit. In fact, it is the biggest factor there is, accounting for 35% of my FICO score.

A Guide to Getting Your Free Credit Score

I was careful not to use too much of my available credit

My friends with more experience advised me to use as little of my available credit as possible. They warned me that overuse had hurt their credit scores in the past. This didn’t much sense to me, but I followed their advice, for the most part diligently.

I later learned this is almost as important as paying bills on time each month. Your utilization rate is another major factor in your FICO score. Credit experts urge cardholders to keep their credit utilization ratio below 30%. The lower, the better.

That means if you have three credit cards with a total available limit of $10,000, you should try to never carry a total balance exceeding $3,000, and you really should aim for much lower than that.

A Guide to Build and Maintain Healthy Credit

I beefed up my score with on-time rent payments

Keeping in mind the importance of not maxing out my credit card, I never considered paying my rent with the card. In fact, some landlords charge credit card fees for tenants who try to pay with plastic.

But I did find a way to establish credit by paying rent using my checking account.

I paid rent to my Chicago landlord through RentPayment, an online service. RentPayment gave me the option of having my payments reported to TransUnion, one of the three major credit-reporting agencies (the other two are Experian and Equifax). Because I knew I’d always pay bills on time, I signed up for the program.

This likely helped me improve my credit mix, another key factor influencing a credit score. The more types of accounts you show on your report, the better your score can be — if you make all your payments on time.

Yes, I made mistakes. This was my biggest one

My first foray into the world of credit wasn’t completely blip-free.

The only thing that hurt my credit, besides my short credit history, was that I had tried signing up for a Chase credit card, along with other ways to finance my iPhone, just a few days before I applied for my Discover card.

None of the other banks approved my applications, and my score went down at the very beginning, due to the number of “hard inquiries” against my credit report. Hard inquiries occur when lenders check your credit report before they make decisions regarding your application. Having too many inquiries in a short period of time can result in a ding to your credit score.

I’ve learned my lesson, though, and I’ll be cautious in the future when it comes to applying for a lot of credit in a short time period. Overall, it should be noted that you should not be afraid to apply for new credit — even when hard inquiries do hurt your score in the short term, it typically isn’t disastrous, and your score should recover fairly quickly as long as you are a responsible user of credit. Having more available credit can also help your utilization rate — as long as you don’t increase your charges, of course.

You can also check to see if you have prequalifed for any credit cards without triggering a hard inquiry.

If you’re new to the world of credit cards, consider taking the steps I outlined above, and you, too, may have a healthy credit score before you know it.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Shen Lu
Shen Lu |

Shen Lu is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Shen Lu at [email protected]


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