Federal student loans offer a number of advantages when compared to private loans, but are limited to U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens. That means for many international students, a private student loan is the best way to pay for college.
International students have more options than ever to choose a loan that's right for their unique needs. We've compiled the best international student loans to help you narrow down the choices. These loans don't require borrowers to have a Social Security number (SSN), collateral, and a couple of them don't even require a cosigner.
Best International Student Loans of April 2021
Best for Undergrads Without a Cosigner : MPOWER Financing
Many international students don't have the option of having a U.S.-based cosigner and borrowing in their own country may require collateral. There are a couple of major financing companies filling this gap by offering private student loans that don't require a cosigner. The more widely available of the two is MPOWER Financing.
MPOWER private student loans are available to international undergraduate and graduate students who are within 2 years of graduating (including those about to begin a 1- or 2-year program) from 1 of 350 approved schools in the U.S. or Canada.
Students make interest-only payments while in school and for 6 months after graduation. After this time period, borrowers make full repayments (interest and principal) until the loan is paid off. And while there's no application or prepayment fees, there is a 5% origination fee on every loan. Borrowers can also take advantage of up to 3 interest rate discounts for a total discount of 1.5%.
MPOWER discounts include:
- 0.50% for enrolling in autopay
- 0.50% after 6 on-time payments with autopay
- 0.50% for reporting proof of graduation and employment
MPOWER international student loan details:
- Undergraduate fixed APR: 14.98% (13.63% with all discounts)
- Graduate fixed APR: 12.94% (11.59% with all discounts)
- Repayment terms: 10 years
- Loan amounts: $2,000 to $50,000
What makes MPOWER the best student loan for borrowers without a cosigner is the availability of loans for undergraduate students and access to free visa support letters, immigration resources, and scholarship opportunities.
Read the full review: MPOWER Financing Student Loans
Best for Grad Students Without a Cosigner : Prodigy Finance
Prodigy Finance is the other company offering private student loans to international students without a cosigner. It has more than 750 approved schools, but it's only available to students seeking a graduate degree in business, science, technology, engineering, math, law, public policy, or healthcare.
Students can choose from 4 repayment term lengths. Payments are automatically deferred while in school and for 6 months after graduation for full-time students (3 months after final disbursement for part-time students), but you can make payments anytime without penalties. There are no application or prepayment fees, however, Prodigy does charge a 5% administration fee on every loan.
Prodigy Finance international student loan details:
- Variable APR: Starting at 6.7% (fixed margin rate plus base rate)
- Repayment terms: 7, 10, 15, or 20 years
- Loan amounts: Minimum $15,000, up to 80% of cost of attendance (COA) at most U.S. schools (certain programs can be extended to cover 90% or 100% COA for eligible applicants)
What makes Prodigy attractive for eligible students is the simple interest rates it offers—interest doesn't compound throughout the life of the loan which saves borrowers money. Prodigy also reports payments to credit bureau Experian and this helps students build credit in the U.S.
Prodigy uses a variable interest rate model that consists of a fixed margin rate (5.6%) plus a variable base rate determined by the 3-month LIBOR—currently around 0.2%—so your interest rate may fluctuate throughout the life of your loan. The average annual percentage rate (APR) for Prodigy student loans is 10%.
Read the full review: Prodigy Finance Student Loans
Best for Undergrads With a Cosigner : Ascent Student Loans
Ascent student loans are available to international students with a cosigner who is either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. There are no application, origination, or prepayment fees, and your in-school repayment options include interest-only, $25 payment, and deferred repayment. Ascent offers 5 term lengths, with a maximum term of 15 years for variable rate loans and 12 years for fixed rate loans. The grace period for undergrads is up to 5 years in-school plus 9 months post-graduation.
Ascent cosigned loan details:
- Variable APR: 2.14% to 12.37%
- Fixed APR: 3.43% to 14.00%
- Repayment terms: 5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years
- Loan amounts: $2,000 up to the total COA or $200,000 total aggregate, whichever is lower
Cosigned loans are eligible for a 0.25% interest rate reduction for enrolling in autopay, and borrowers can get a 1% cashback reward once they graduate from the degree program for which the loan was used to fund. Ascent also provides a free interactive financial literacy course that students are required to take before their loan is funded.
Unfortunately, Ascent offers some features that international students aren't eligible for including cosigner release, monthly scholarship drawings, and a referral program.
Read the full review: Ascent Student Loans
Best for Grad Students With a Cosigner : Citizens One
Citizens One offers loans to international students who have a creditworthy cosigner who is either a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. There are no application, origination, or prepayment fees, and borrowers can choose from 3 in-school repayment options—full payments, interest-only payments, or total deferment while in school—in addition to 3 different term lengths.
Citizens One international student loan details:
- Graduate Variable APR: 1.36% to 11.11%
- Graduate Fixed APR: 4.39% to 11.40%
- Repayment terms: 5, 10, or 15 years
- Graduate loan amounts: Minimum of $1,000 and up to the total COA (with a maximum amount of $150,000 for graduate degrees; $225,000 for MBA and law degrees; and $180,000 or $350,000 for healthcare degrees, depending on your specific degree)
Citizens One offers some of the lowest interest rates out there, especially for its graduate and professional loans. The lender also offers medical residency and bar study loans, making it a more affordable choice for many graduate students who have a cosigner.
Borrowers can lower their rates with a 0.25% interest rate discount for enrolling in autopay and another 0.25% reduction if the student or cosigner already has a Citizens Bank account or loan. Unfortunately, international students can't take advantage of other features Citizens One offers, like multi-year approval or cosigner release.
Read the full review: Citizens Bank Student Loans
Best for DACA Recipients : Discover
Discover offers private student loans to international students who are attending an approved U.S. college or university and have a creditworthy cosigner who is either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Loans are fee-free, and students can choose between 3 in-school repayment options—full payments, interest-only payments, or total deferment while in school—but there is only 1 term length.
Discover international student loan details:
- Undergraduate Variable APR: 1.24% to 11.99% (includes all discounts)
- Undergraduate Fixed APR: 4.24% to 12.99% (includes all discounts)
- Repayment terms: 15 years
- Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the total COA
Students who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients are unique in that they live in the U.S. and can apply for a Social Security Number, but aren't eligible for federal financial aid. This means many are already building credit but still have to turn to private student loans to fund their education.
Discover is one of the only lenders offering multi-year approval to students with or without a SSN. This helps students avoid multiple hard credit inquiries so they can continue to build credit. Discover also offers a 1% cash reward for good grades and a 0.25% interest rate discount for enrolling in autopay.
Read the full review: Discover Student Loans
Can International Students Get Loans?
Before applying for a private student loan, non-U.S. citizens should check to see if they are eligible for certain types of federal financial aid. Certain groups of people are considered "eligible noncitizens" and may qualify for federal student loans:
- U.S. nationals (including natives of American Samoa or Swains Island)
- U.S. permanent residents with a permanent resident card, resident alien card, or alien registration receipt card, also known as a green card
- Anyone with an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) showing that you're a refugee, asylum seeker, Cuban-Haitian entrant, conditional entrant (before April 1, 1980), or parolee
- Anyone with a T non-immigrant status (T-visa) or who has a parent with a T-visa
- Anyone considered a “battered immigrant-qualified alien”
If you don't fall into one of these categories, you can check with your country’s embassy or consulate in the U.S., or with the appropriate government office in your country to see if they offer any scholarship or aid opportunities.
You may also be eligible for financial aid from the state or college in which you're studying. Only when you've exhausted those options should you look into private student loans.
Where Can You Get an International Student Loan?
Private student loans for international students are available from 2 types of lenders: banks and lending companies.
Student loans from banks offer international students the convenience of doing their banking and student loans all in one place. Additionally, banks like Citizens give an 0.25% interest rate discount to borrowers who bank with them. The downside is that, as an international student, you'll need a cosigner to be eligible.
Non-bank lending companies offer international students more flexibility. For example, MPOWER and Prodigy Finance look at your career path and income potential to qualify you for a student loan without a cosigner or collateral. And because these companies operate completely online, they tend to have very user-friendly websites.
Who Qualifies for An International Student Loan?
International students must meet the eligibility requirements required by the lender. In most cases, this includes being enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school and having a creditworthy cosigner.
DACA recipients with a Social Security Number have more options than students without one. Student loan companies like College Ave and Earnest offer competitive rates and terms, but require international borrowers to have a cosigner and SSN.
A Recap of Our Picks for Best International Student Loans
There is no overall best international student loan. The loan that is right for you will depend on your program of study, access to a creditworthy cosigner, and your residency or visa status.
- MPower Financing: Good for students without access to an eligible cosigner, but only available at 350 schools and at higher than average interest rates.
- Prodigy Finance: Good for students without access to an eligible cosigner enrolled in a STEM, healthcare, or public policy graduate program, and available at more than 600 U.S. schools. No fixed-rate loan option (variable rate only), which means this loan could get expensive over time.
- Citizens One: Competitive interest rates, in addition to a variety of professional degree loans, make this a good option for graduate students with access to an eligible cosigner.
- Ascent Student Loans: Competitive interest rates for international students with an eligible cosigner, but lack of options when it comes to choosing in-school repayments and terms.
- Discover: One of the only student loan lenders to make multi-year approval available to international students who meet standard eligibility requirements. That's good for DACA recipients looking to avoid annual hard credit inquiries to build their credit score.
How We Chose the Best International Student Loans
Research for this article encompassed more than 15 private student loan lenders of undergraduate student loans (as well as companies that refinance student loans) narrowed down from national banks, credit unions, and lenders. The criteria for measuring each lender included all available APR ranges for these loans, fees charged, repayment plans and hardship options offered, and the inclusion of additional features such as cosigner release, the availability of a parent loan, and the ability to refinance.