Ascent Student Loans Review

Offering loans to borrowers with limited credit histories

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Ascent

 Ascent

Our Take

While other lenders have a simple structure for lending, Ascent offers a variety of combinations of loan options, terms, and discounts available. It can seem confusing at first but it results in more borrowers getting an almost customized student loan experience that ultimately saves them more money.

  • Key Takeaways
  • Pros and Cons
  • Company Overview
Key Takeaways
  • Ascent offers a co-signed student loan option and two non-cosigned options, one based on credit and the other based on future income potential.
  • Offers four in-school repayment options and up to six loan terms depending on type of loan.
  • Longer grace periods of 9 to 36 months depending on the type of loan.
  • Ascent offers a 2.00% automatic payment discount on non-cosigned, future income-based loans.
  • Borrowers who graduate within five years of their loan’s disbursement can get 1% cash back on the original amount of their loans. 
Pros and Cons
Pros
  • Borrowers may qualify for a loan without a co-signer and with no credit history.

  • Up to 24 months of hardship forbearance is avaiable.

  • There is a 1% cash back graduation reward.

Cons
  • Loans without a co-signer aren’t available to freshmen and sophomores.

  • 15-year loan terms aren’t available on fixed-rate loans.

Company Overview
  • Year Founded 2016
  • Official Website www.ascentstudentloans.com
  • Loans Offered Undergraduate, Graduate, Refinance
  • Customer Service M-Th: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PST), Fri: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. (PST)

If you need to borrow money to pay for school, qualifying for a student loan without a co-signer can be difficult, but Ascent Student Loans aims to change that. It offers student loans to undergraduate and graduate students and allows borrowers to get approved without a co-signer or an established credit history.

Ascent also offers benefits, such as a graduation reward and a significant automatic payment discount for select borrowers. If you’re thinking about applying for a loan, here’s what you need to know about Ascent student loans. 

Pros Explained

  • Getting a loan with no co-signer or credit history—with most lenders, the borrower has to have a strong credit history or a co-signer to qualify for a student loan. However, Ascent allows juniors, seniors, and graduate students without sufficient credit histories to take out loans on their own without requiring them to have a cosigner. 
  • Up to two years of hardship forbearance—if you’re experiencing financial hardship, such as job loss or a medical emergency, Ascent allows you to enter into forbearance. You can postpone your payments for up to three months at a time, for up to 24 months over the life of your loan. Being able to enter into forbearance for two full years is much longer than many other lenders offer, so it’s a significant benefit. 
  • Cashback graduation award—if you graduate from your program within five years of your loan’s disbursement, you may be eligible for Ascent’s 1% cashback graduation reward. You’ll receive 1% of your original principal balance sent to you either through direct deposit or by check. For example, if your original loan was $10,000, you’d get a $100 reward. 

Cons Explained

  • Loans without co-signers aren’t available to freshmen and sophomores—while Ascent allows borrowers with limited credit histories to take out loans on their own without a co-signer, only juniors, seniors, and graduate students are eligible for them. Freshmen and sophomores require a co-signer to qualify for a loan. 
  • Fixed-rate loans not available for 15-year terms—if you want a longer-term loan to get a more affordable payment, you should know that there is a restriction on the interest rate type. On most Ascent loans you can choose between a fixed-rate loan and a variable-rate loan. However, with a 15-year loan term, you can only have a variable interest rate, which means your rate can fluctuate over the life of your loan. As your rate changes, your monthly payment can change too. 

Student Loans Offered by Ascent

Ascent provides student loans to undergraduate and graduate students, but your eligibility for a loan is dependent on your year in school and whether or not you have a cosigner. 

Every borrower is required to take a free interactive course on financial wellness as part of the application process.

Co-signed Student Loans

If you have a co-signer—a person with good credit and steady income who applies for the student loan with you—you can qualify for an Ascent student loan as an undergraduate or graduate student, regardless of what year you’re in. 

You can borrow up to a maximum of $200,000, and you can choose between a variable or fixed interest rate on your loan. There are no application or origination fees, and no prepayment penalties.

Fixed Rates 3.53% to 14.50%
Variable Rates 2.69% to 12.98% (only available on loan terms of five or 10 years)
Loan Amount $1,000 up to $200,000 (aggregate)
Loan Terms 5, 10, or 15 years

(Rates are for undergraduate loans. Lowest rates shown include an auto-debit discount)

The repayment options for co-signed loans include deferred repayment until after graduation or interest-only payments while in school.

Student Loans Without a Co-signer

If you don’t have a co-signer, you may still qualify for a student loan with Ascent—even if you don’t have an established credit history. That’s a major benefit that sets Ascent apart from other private student loan lenders. 

Student borrowers with no credit score, as well as borrowers who don’t meet the minimum income requirements, can be eligible for a loan based on other factors, such as their school, program, and potential salary (i.e. future income) after graduation.

However, the ability to qualify for a loan without a co-signer isn’t available to everyone; freshman and sophomores aren’t eligible. To get a loan without a co-signer, you must be a college junior, senior, or graduate student enrolled full time or have a graduation date within nine months of the date the loan application is submitted. 

Ascent offers loans that are credit-based and future income-based to borrowers without co-signers. For credit-based student loans without a co-signer, the terms available are 5, 10, or 15-year loans (same as those without a co-signer. However, future income-based loans without a cosigner only have terms of 10 or 15 years.

With non-co-signed loans that are credit-based, you can choose to defer payment or make interest-only payments. Future income-based loans only have a deferred repayment option.

The maximum you can borrow is dependent on your credit. If your credit is sufficient, you can borrow up to $200,000. If you don’t have an established credit history and have to take out a future income-based loan, the most you can borrow is $20,000.

Only juniors, seniors, and graduate students can qualify for a loan without a cosigner.

Loan Eligibility

In general, you need to meet the following criteria to qualify for a loan from Ascent: 

  • You must be the age of majority in your state.
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; if you are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you may be able to qualify for a loan if you have a creditworthy co-signer who is.
  • You must be enrolled at an eligible institution full time or half time.

However, Ascent has different eligibility requirements depending on if you have a co-signer or not. 

For Borrowers With a Co-signer

  • You must be enrolled at least half-time.
  • Your co-signer must have a gross annual income of at least $24,000.
  • You must undergo a credit check and meet Ascent’s minimum credit requirements.
  • Your co-signer must have more than two years of credit history and meet Ascent’s minimum credit score requirements.

For Borrowers Without a Co-signer 

  • For credit-based loans, you must have more than two years of credit history and meet Ascent’s minimum credit score requirements. As well, you must be enrolled at least half-time.
  • For future income-based loans, you must be enrolled full-time or graduating within the next six months. As well, you must maintain a GPA of at least 2.9 and meet your school's satisfactory academic performance.

Is Loan Prequalification Available? 

Ascent does have a prequalification tool. You can check what rates you prequalify for by completing four steps. There’s no impact on your credit score, so you can shop around and compare offers from different private student loan lenders. 

Loan Fees

With Ascent, there are no application or origination fees. There are also no prepayment penalties if you decide to pay off your loan early. 

However, there is a late fee if you miss a payment. According to the company, the fee can be as high as $35. 

Loan Discounts 

When you take out a loan from Ascent, it’s a good idea to sign up for automatic payments. Not only does autopay reduce your chances of missing a payment and incurring late fees, but it can also help you save money. Ascent will give you an interest rate reduction of 0.25% or 2.00%, depending on your loan terms. 

The only loans eligible for the 2.00% automatic payment discount is non-co-signed future income-based loans. Loans without a co-signer that are credit-based and co-signed loans only qualify for a 0.25% discount. 

Repayment Options

There are four repayment options with Ascent student loans.

  1. Deferred repayment—you don’t start making payments until six months after leaving school. 
  2. Fixed repayment—you make monthly payments of $25 while you’re in school at least half time. 
  3. Interest-Only repayment—while you’re enrolled at least half time in school, you make payments only toward the interest. 
  4. Graduated repayment—you start with lower payments after graduation. Over time they slowly increase until the loan is paid off. 

Benefits 

There are two main benefits to being an Ascent borrower. 

  • Referral program—if you refer a friend to Ascent, and he or she applies for a loan and is approved, you can earn up to $525 per person. There’s no limit to how much you can earn. 
  • Graduation reward—when you graduate from the program you borrowed money to pay for, you may be eligible for a 1% cashback reward. You could get 1% of your original loan principal, so if you borrowed $20,000, you could get up to $200 in cashback rewards. 

Are Cosigners Required? 

Unlike some lenders, Ascent doesn’t require co-signers. Even if you don’t have established credit, you can qualify for a student loan on your own, making Ascent a good option if you don’t have a family member to act as a co-signer. 

Ascent also allows you to remove the co-signer from the loan. After making 24 consecutive, on-time monthly payments, you can request a co-signer release, eliminating the co-signer’s obligation to repay the loan. 

Forbearance and Loan Discharge Options

When you’re shopping for a private student loan, pay attention to lenders’ forbearance and discharge terms, as they can vary widely from lender to lender. 

Ascent has one of the longest forbearance options. If you’re experiencing a financial hardship, you may be granted a forbearance for one to three months at a time. During this time you don’t have to make payments on your loan. You can apply for up to four consecutive periods of forbearance, with a maximum of 24 months of forbearance over the life of your loan.

Interest continues to accrue on the loan during forbearance, and unpaid interest is capitalized when the forbearance ends. Entering into forbearance does extend your loan term, but that tradeoff can be worth it to get some time to get back on your feet without worrying about student loan payments.

When it comes to loan discharges, Ascent will forgive the remaining loan balance if the borrower dies or becomes totally and permanently disabled. However, the loan discharge does not apply if the co-signer becomes disabled or dies; the borrower would still be responsible for repaying the loan in that circumstance. 

Length of Time for Loan Approval and Disbursement

With Ascent, you can submit a loan application online and receive a preliminary decision within a few minutes. Once you choose a loan term and repayment option, you can complete the full application and upload any necessary documentation.

Ascent will review your documents and issue a decision. Typically, this process takes one to two business days to complete. From there Ascent sends the loan to your school for certification. Every school is different; while some are quick to certify, others can take weeks. If you need the money quickly, contact your financial aid office. 

Is Student Loan Refinancing Available? 

No. Ascent does not offer student loan refinancing or consolidation. If you’re looking to refinance federal or private student loans, these are our picks for the best student loan refinance companies

Customer Service

Ascent student loans are funded by Richland State Bank, but they are serviced by Launch Servicing, and that is the entity you contact to make payments or for questions about your account.

Neither Ascent nor Launch Servicing are included in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Student Loan Ombudsman Report of student loan complaints. Considering that Ascent Student Loans was only launched in 2017, that’s not surprising. It’s a very new company, and many borrowers may not have entered into repayment yet.

Ascent’s customer service team is based in the U.S. and available by phone or by emailing help@ascentprogram.com. You can call 877-216-0876 during the following hours: 

  • Monday through Thursday: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PST)
  • Friday: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. (PST)

We contacted Ascent’s customer support via email to ask questions about late fees and discharge policies. We found them very responsive, emailing them during normal business hours, and receiving answers within five minutes. 

Apply for an Ascent Student Loan

Before applying for a loan from Ascent or any private student loan lender, make sure you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and exhaust your federal financial aid options first.

If you still need help paying for school, then private loans can help fill the gap. You can use Ascent’s prequalification tool to get a rate estimate and choose a repayment term that works for you. 

To complete the application, you’ll need the following information:

  • Social Security Number
  • Selected school information
  • Desired loan amount
  • Expected financial aid 
  • Current rent or mortgage payments
  • Income and employer information (if applicable)
  • Permanent address 

Is an Ascent Student Loan the Right Fit?

While federal student loans tend to have lower interest rates and better repayment options than private loans, they also have stricter limits on how much you can borrow. With the high cost of school, you may need more money than you can borrow in federal loans. If that’s the case, taking out a loan from a lender like Ascent can help you pay for college. 

In many cases, private lenders require you to have a co-signer. If you don’t have a relative or friend with good credit, that can make it difficult to qualify for a loan. However, with Ascent you can get approved entirely on your own, without needing a cosigner. That’s a significant plus for Ascent over other lenders. 

Nevertheless, Ascent has some drawbacks. It has limited repayment options—especially for loans without a co-signer—and its 15-year loan term isn’t eligible for a fixed interest rate. For people who want a set monthly payment and steady interest rate, that’s a major disadvantage. And to qualify for the lower end of its interest rate ranges, you’ll likely need excellent credit.

It’s wise to look at loan offers from multiple lenders to ensure you get the best rates and loan terms. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the best student loans available today.

Final Verdict

Ascent is definitely a lender all students looking for a private loan should see if they prequalify for. Still, even with up to six options, some loans still have restrictive terms. You can only get a 15-year term on a variable-rate loan and future-based loans only qualify for 10-year terms. So any, especially undergraduates, will have to check with their own numbers to see if they can afford the terms they qualify for.

Methodology

Investopedia is dedicated to providing consumers with unbiased, comprehensive reviews of student loan lenders. We collected over 45 data points across more than 15 lenders—including interest rates, fees, loan amounts, and repayment terms—to ensure that our content helps users make the right borrowing decision for their education needs.

Article Sources

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