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Brazos is an excellent option for most types of student loans. Unfortunately, the company's restrictive requirements mean that most people in the country won't be eligible.
- Pros and Cons
- Key Takeaways
- Company Overview
Available to DACA recipients and international students
Parent loans not limited to dependents
Internship and medical residency deferment
Only available to Texas residents
Cannot check rate with a soft pull
Refinancing only available to bachelor’s degree holders or higher
Deferment automatically ends in four and a half years for in-school borrowers
Steep qualification requirements for parent student loans and refinances
- Brazos Higher Education was founded in 1980.
- You can use a Brazos student loan to study out of state as long as you remain a Texas resident while you're in school.
- Brazos offers a wide range of student loans, covering just about everything from a bachelor's degree up to graduate study.
- There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties, and no caps on the amount you're able to borrow to finance your education.
Brazos is a nonprofit student loan company first formed in 1980. Since then, it's given out over two million student loans. The main company—the Brazos Higher Education Service Corporation, Inc.—actually houses nine other companies underneath it, each of which handles a different aspect of the business, such as underwriting and financing the loan.
Even with all of these individual companies, it still farms out the actual loan servicing to larger companies you might be more familiar, includingNelnet and Firstmark. Brazos is only available to Texas residents, however it does partner with other companies that do offer student loans to out-of-state residents.
- Year Founded 1980
- Official Website www.studentloans.com
- Loans Offered Undergraduate, parent, graduate (including MBA, doctoral, medical, dental, law, and veterinary school loans), refinance
- Customer Service By email: email@example.com. By phone: (800) 453-0841. By mail: Brazos Education Lending, 5609 Crosslake Parkway, Waco, Texas, 76712
Brazos Student Loans: Quick Look
|Loan Type||Variable APR||Fixed APR|
|Graduate loan||MBA students: 4.34%–8.75% Law school students: 4.34%–8.54% Other graduate students: 4.34%–8.39%||MBA students: 2.84%–7.27% Law school students: 2.84%–7.27% Other graduate students: 2.84%–7.27%|
|Student loan refinance||4.32%–8.12%||4.40%–6.00%|
Brazos offers lower rates than most other student loan lenders, but it's still important to shop around. Each lender has its own formula for pricing your loan, so opting for the first lender you're approved with (even Brazos) is never recommended.
- Excellent rates: At the low end of the scale, Brazos student loans are even cheaper than federal student loans. Even at the high end, Brazos has a lower maximum rate than many other lenders.
- Available to DACA recipients and international students: If you're able to find an eligible co-signer, you can still qualify for Brazos student loans even if you're a DACA recipient or international student living in Texas.
- Parent loans not limited to dependents: As long as you meet eligibility requirements, you can take out a Brazos parent student loan to pay for just about anyone's education—even if they're not your dependent or if they live in another state.
- Internship and medical residency deferment: Interns and medical residents don't earn much, so Brazos allows you to defer your payments while you're in these programs the same as when you were in school.
- Only available to Texas residents: Only Texas residents are eligible for Brazos student loans, although you can use them to fund your own out-of-state education or to pay for another non-resident's education.
- Cannot check rate with a soft pull: Brazos does not offer the option of a soft credit check to get pre-qualified. You'll need to undergo a hard credit check from the very start, which most other lenders avoid because it can cause a temporary dip in your credit score.
- Refinancing only available to bachelor's degree holders or higher: If you're refinancing student loans used to pay for an associate degree or you dropped out of school before finishing at least your bachelor's degree, you're not eligible for a Brazos refinance loan.
- Deferment automatically ends in four and a half years for in-school borrowers: Ready or not, your deferment will end in 54 months from when you started school. If you're still working on your degree after these four and half years, you'll need to begin making payments while finishing your studies.
- Steep qualification requirements for parent student loans and refinances: Parents looking to borrow for a child's or someone else's education and those looking to refinance will need an income of at least $60,000 per year and a credit score of 720 or higher in order to qualify for these two student loan types. If you have a cosigner that meets these requirements, the requirements for the primary borrower become a bit lower. That's a higher bar than most people can pass, given that 716 is the average credit score nationwide, and the average Texas resident earns about $55,000 per year.
Student Loans Offered by Brazos
Undergraduate Student Loans
Brazos allows you to borrow up to your school-certified cost of attendance. This also includes living expenses, even for off-campus students. However, be aware that you have a four-and-a-half year runway (assuming you don't graduate or drop below half-time status first) before your deferment automatically ends, unless you meet the requirements for another deferment. If you hit the 54 months while still studying, your payments will begin immediately. If you graduate in four years or less you'll have a six-month grace period before payments start. Your period without payments cannot exceed a total of 54 months. This could be an important point for people who might be taking a bit longer to complete their degree.
|Terms for Undergraduate Student Loans|
|Loan Amounts||$1,000 – total cost of attendance|
|Loan Terms||5–20 years|
Graduate Student Loans
Brazos' graduate student loans feature basically the same terms as its undergraduate loans, although the upper limit on interest rates for some degree programs can be a touch higher. Brazos offers a nice perk for students doing post-graduate internships or medical residencies: You can defer your payments for up to a year at a time as long as you reapply annually and provide proof. After it ends, you can request a six-month grace period as well.
|Terms for Graduate Student Loans|
|Variable APR||MBA students: 4.34%–8.75% Law school students: 4.34%–8.54% Other graduate students: 4.34%–8.39%|
|Fixed APR||MBA students: 2.84%–7.27% Law school students: 2.84%–7.27% Other graduate students: 2.84%–7.27%|
|Loan Amounts||$1,000 – total cost of attendance|
|Loan Terms||5–20 years|
Parent Student Loans
Brazos allows Texas residents (if they have the means) to take out student loans to pay for someone else's education, even if that person is a resident of another state. And they will need the means—Brazos requires a higher credit score and income than the average Texas resident, as mentioned above. Interestingly, you can also use a "parent" loan to pay for anyone's education (as long as it qualifies). It's not limited to your own dependents.
|Terms for Parent Student Loans|
|Loan Amounts||$1,000 – total cost of attendance|
|Loan Terms||5–20 years|
Student Loan Refinance
If you're looking to combine all of your student loans together and change up your current terms, you can apply for a student loan refinance with Brazos. As per Brazos' parent student loans, however, the qualification requirements are higher than your average lender. In addition, you can only refinance your own student loans—you can't combine loans from multiple people together, such as you and your spouse, or student loans that your parents took out for your education.
|Terms for Student Loan Refinance|
|Loan Amounts||$10,000–$150,000 (for bachelor's degrees) or $400,000 (for graduate and professional degrees)|
|Loan Terms||5–20 years|
Be careful when refinancing federal student loans, because this will cause you to lose a lot of benefits and protections. For example, as of January 2023, federal student loan payments are currently paused, but if you refinance, you'll start repaying that loan right away.
Loan Eligibility and Approval
Brazos is a much more restrictive student loan lender than most. Here are the main eligibility requirements you'll need to be aware of:
- Residency requirements: Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents living in Texas are eligible. Non-citizens and DACA recipients living in Texas are eligible as long as they have a co-signer who does meet residency requirements. Parent student loans can be used to fund education for non-Texas residents.
- School requirements: Must be attending or have attended one of over 2,000 Title IV colleges nationwide. For-profit schools are not eligible.
- Degree requirements: Must be making "satisfactory progress" in a degree-seeking program for in-school loans. For refinance loans, you must have completed at least a bachelor's degree.
- Employment requirements: For refinance loans, you must be actively employed or self-employed, or have an official job offer that starts within 60 days. Unemployed borrowers and stay-at-home spouses are not eligible.
- Minimum credit score: 680 for in-school student loans. 720 for parent student loans and student loan refinance, or 690 if you're applying with a co-signer who has a 720 credit score.
- Minimum annual income: $45,000 for in-school student loans. $60,000 for parent student loans and student loan refinance, or $30,000 if you're applying with a co-signer who has an annual income of $60,000 or higher.
Are Co-Signers Required?
No, Brazos doesn't require co-signers on any of its loans. However, the loan eligibility requirements are higher than most young people can meet on their own (and even the average person in general, in the case of parent student loans and refinances), so it's quite common for applicants to need a co-signer in order to be approved for a loan.
Is Loan Pre-Qualification Available?
There is no option to prequalify. The only option is to begin the loan application. During this process you'll see your rate before accepting the loan, but not without first having a hard pull done on your credit which normally impacts your credit score. As long as you complete your loan rate shopping within a short period of time, however, the negative impact will be relatively minor. Other lenders normally offer the option to check your rate with a soft pull before fully applying.
Length of Time for Loan Approval and Disbursement
You'll know pretty quickly whether you're approved for a loan or not. According to Brazos, most people receive instant decisions. The process from there can take a lot longer, however, including the full loan application, school certification (for those still in school), and loan disbursement. You can expect this process to take a few weeks.
For in-school student loans, Brazos will coordinate with your school on when and where to send the funds. Your school will receive the loan funds and apply them toward your bill. If there's anything left over, such as if you're borrowing for off-campus living expenses, your school's billing department will send you the remainder of the loan amount.
Loan Fees and Repayment Options
Brazos does not charge many fees. There's no origination fee, application fee, or prepayment penalty. If you pay late, however, you will owe a late fee: either 5% of the overdue payment or $7.50, whichever is more. If you make a payment and it's returned by your bank, Brazos will charge a $5 returned payment fee.
Like many other lenders, Brazos offers a small discount if you sign up for autopay: 0.25% off of your loan rate. This discount only applies when you're actively repaying the loan, however, so you won't get the discount while you're in deferment or forbearance.
Your repayment options depend on your personal preferences and which type of loan you're taking out:
- Immediate repayment: Parent student loans and student loan refinancers will begin repayment immediately, with full first loan payments being due 30 or 45 days after loan disbursement, respectively. If your income can support it, you can also begin full repayment right away with in-school student loans.
- Deferment: If you're currently in school (or you return to school later), you can opt to totally defer your payments until later. After graduating or dropping below half time you'll enter a six-month grace period after which you'll begin paying. If you hit the cap of 54 months of deferment, you'll begin paying even if you're still studying full time.
- Interest-only repayment: If you can afford it and want to keep interest from accruing while you're in school, you can opt for an interest-only repayment plan. You'll begin full payments six months after graduation.
If you choose the deferment or interest-only repayment plan, you'll have a six-month grace period before full payments begin, starting from when you graduate or drop below half-time status. However, there is a 54-month cap on deferment.
If you return to school full-time, you can apply for another loan deferment. You can also apply for a special deferment in one-year intervals at a time if you're in an internship program or medical residency.
Brazos offers a unique refer-a-friend program. If anyone successfully takes out a Brazos parent or refinance loan using your individual referral link, Brazos will send you $200. Interestingly, you do not need to have a Brazos loan yourself—anyone is eligible for the referral bonus.
Thus, if you're thinking about applying on your own for either a parent or refinance loan, it's a good idea to find a close friend or family member who can send you a referral link just before you apply.
Loan Forbearance and Discharge Options
If you run into problems making your payments, Brazos offers three options for loan forbearance to give you a temporary pause in payments:
- Military forbearance: If you're an active-duty military member, you can opt to defer your payments for up to 36 months.
- Economic hardship forbearance: If you have a temporary setback, like losing your job or dealing with a medical problem, you can apply for forbearance in three-month intervals at a time, up to a maximum of one year.
- Natural disaster forbearance: If you're a victim of a natural disaster, you'll have the same forbearance options as for an economic hardship.
The way Brazos handles loan discharge is a bit scattershot. There is no loan forgiveness if you become permanently disabled, unfortunately. The way a loan is handled if someone dies varies:
- Student loans: If you die, the loan is discharged, even if you have a co-signer.
- Parent student loans: If the student you took the loan out for dies, the loan is forgiven. If you die, the loan is forgiven, unless you have a co-signer—in that case, they'll have to take over repayment on the loan.
- Student loan refinances: As per parent loans, if you die, the loan will be forgiven if you were the only one on the loan. But if you had a co-signer, they would then take over loan repayment.
Is Student Loan Refinancing Available?
Yes. As mentioned above Brazos also refinances student loans, including parent student loans, federal loans, and other private loans.
Has your credit improved since you took out your student loans? Check your student loan refinance rates with Brazos here.
There aren't a ton of complaints about Brazos from customers. The company only has 12 complaints on file with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with the most recent one from 2015.
- By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- By phone: (800) 453-0841
- By mail: Brazos Education Lending, 5609 Crosslake Parkway, Waco, Texas, 76712
Applying for a Brazos Student Loan
Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to get as much free financial aid as you can or consumer-friendly federal loans first is always an important step before you apply for a student loan from a private lender like Brazos. But if you still need to pay for any gaps in funding, it's relatively simple to apply for a loan with Brazos.
You'll start the application by verifying your eligibility on its website. If you're pre-approved, you can move forward with the rest of your application. You'll need to provide additional supporting documents to verify your income and residency.
If you're applying for in-school loans, you'll need to provide a letter from your school showing the cost of attendance. If you're refinancing loans, you'll need to provide a current loan payoff statement.
|Loan Types Offered||Undergraduate; graduate; professional, parent||Undergraduate; graduate; professional; technical; career training||Undergraduate; graduate; professional, professional training|
|Undergrad Fixed APR||2.84%–7.27%||4.50%–14.83%||4.49%–12.24%|
|Undergrad Variable APR||4.34%–8.39%||5.37%–15.70%||5.14%–12.89%|
|Repayment Options||Immediate repayment; deferred repayment; interest-only||Deferred repayment; Low fixed payment while in school; interest-only||Deferred repayment; interest-only; immediate repayment|
Brazos offers some of the best student loan rates in the business—lower even than for federal student loans, if you qualify. That's the kicker, though: Most people aren't eligible for a Brazos student loan. It's only available to Texas residents, and even then, the required income and credit score may be difficult for students to meet. But if you do, it's an excellent option.
If you don’t qualify for a Brazos loan or you’re a Texas resident who wants to keep shopping around, browse our picks for the best student loans here, most of which have nationwide acceptance.
Investopedia is dedicated to providing consumers with unbiased, comprehensive reviews of student loan lenders. We collected thousands of data points across 30 lenders—including loan types, interest rates, fees, loan amounts, and repayment terms—to ensure that we help readers make the right borrowing decision for their education needs.