Rhode Island Student Loan Authority Student Loan Review

The non-profit offers generous relief options for struggling borrowers and perks for RI residents

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Rhode Island Student Loan Authority

 Rhode Island Student Loan Authority

Investopedia’s Rating
4.2

Our Take

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) stands out among private lenders for its generous forbearance program and income-based repayment plan for borrowers having trouble making payments.

  • Pros and Cons
  • Key Takeaways
  • Company Overview
Pros and Cons
Pros
  • Forbearance and income-based repayment available in some cases

  • Eligible Rhode Island residents and students can get special perks

  • Offers multi-year approval

Cons
  • Low loan limits

  • Limited repayment terms

  • No co-signer release for refinance loans

Key Takeaways
  • RISLA offers private student loans and refinance loans to borrowers nationwide.
  • Students and parents can borrow up to $45,000 per year or $150,000 in total per borrower ($175,000 per family).
  • Students can choose between 10 or 15 years for private student loan repayment, while refinance loans allow for five-, 10- or 15-year terms.
  • The lender offers rewards for students who complete qualifying internships and nurses who work in Rhode Island. 
Company Overview

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) is a non-profit, quasi-state authority based in Warwick, Rhode Island. The lender offers both in-school and refinance loans to borrowers nationwide.  

RISLA has a reputation for customer satisfaction, with few customer complaints. During the 2020–2021 academic year, the lender originated $128 million in student loans at low, fixed interest rates. 

  • Year Founded 1981
  • Official Website www.risla.com
  • Loans Offered Undergraduate, Graduate, Parent, Refinance, Certificate
  • Customer Service Phone: (800) 758-7562. Email: customerservice@risla.com. Secure message
Rhode Island Student Loan Authority

 Rhode Island Student Loan Authority

overall rating
4.2

RISLA Student Loans: Quick Look

Loan Type Variable APR  Fixed APR 
Undergraduate loan N/A 4.99%–6.94%
Graduate loan  N/A  4.99%–6.94% 
Certificate loan  N/A  4.99%–6.94% 
Parent loan  N/A  6.34% 
Refinance loan  N/A  5.29%–8.09% 

Compare student loan interest rates before applying to ensure you get the best offer available to you.

Pros Explained

  • Forbearance and income-based repayment are available in some cases: If you lose your job, become disabled, or experience other financial hardship, you may be able to get up to 24 months of forbearance. Additionally, borrowers and co-signers experiencing financial hardship may be eligible for income-based repayment, a rare feature among private lenders. 
  • Eligible Rhode Island residents and students can get special perks: If you're a Rhode Island resident or attending school in the state, you may qualify for $2,000 in forgiveness if you complete an eligible internship. Additionally, you can get an interest rate discount of 1% or more if you're a Rhode Island resident or attending a Rhode Island school. Finally, nurses working in Rhode Island after graduation can qualify to pay no interest for up to four years.
  • Offers multi-year approval: If you're planning to take out RISLA in-school loans more than once, you can take advantage of the multi-year program, which requires just one application during your first year. You can then renew your application each year without a new credit check unless your income, credit history, or co-signer has changed.

Cons Explained

  • Low loan limits: You can only borrow up to $45,000 each year and a total of $150,000 per borrower or $175,000 per family. If you're attending an expensive college and need more than that, you'll need to look elsewhere. 
  • Limited repayment terms: For in-school loans, you can only choose between 10 and 15 years for your repayment term. Some lenders offer both shorter and longer repayment options for more flexibility.
  • No co-signer release for refinance loans: You can release a co-signer from your in-school loans, but if you apply with someone in a refinance, you'll need to pay off the debt or refinance with another lender to remove their obligation.

Student Loans Offered by RISLA

RISLA offers five different types of student loans, including undergraduate loans, graduate loans, certificate loans, parent loans, and refinance loans. Here's a breakdown of the terms for each.

Undergraduate Student Loans

If you're an undergraduate student, you could qualify for interest rates comparable to federal student loan rates without an upfront loan fee. You'll also get higher loan limits compared to federal loans.

Terms for Undergraduate Loans
Fixed APR 4.99%–6.94%
Loan amounts  $1,500–$45,000 
Loan terms  10 or 15 years 

Graduate Student Loans

If you're pursuing a master's or doctoral degree, you could qualify for loans with a lower interest rate compared to federal graduate student loans, and there's also no upfront loan fee. However, loan limits are lower than Direct PLUS Loans.

Terms for Graduate Loans
Fixed APR 4.99%–6.94%
Loan amounts  $1,500–$45,000 
Loan terms  10 or 15 years 

Certificate Student Loans

If you're in a certificate program rather than a degree program, you may be eligible for a certificate student loan, which comes with interest rates that rival those offered by the federal government. You also don't have to worry about a loan fee.

Terms for Certificate Loans
Fixed APR 4.99%–6.94%
Loan amounts  $1,500–$45,000 
Loan terms  10 or 15 years 

Parent Loans

Parents can co-sign their student's in-school loans, or they can take out a loan on their own as the primary borrower. Parent loan interest rates are lower than the rates for Parent PLUS Loans (as of publication), and there's no costly upfront loan fee.

Terms for Parent Loans
Fixed APR 6.34%
Loan amounts  $1,500–$45,000 
Loan terms  10 years 

Refinance Loans

You can refinance both federal and private student loans with RISLA while you're still in school, but you'll get access to more repayment terms and lower interest rates if you wait until after graduation. Loan limits are based on your degree level and area of study. Note that institutional loans offered by colleges and universities are not eligible for refinancing.

Terms for Refinance Loans
Fixed APR 5.29%–8.09% 
Loan amounts  $7,500–$250,000 
Loan terms  5, 10, or 15 years 

Loan Eligibility and Approval

RISLA student loans are available to college students, graduates, and parents in all 50 states. While the lender doesn't publicly disclose all of its eligibility criteria, here's what it does share:

  • Students or their co-signers must earn at least $40,000 annually and meet certain credit, debt-to-income, and liquidity requirements.
  • The student must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Students can be enrolled full-time, half-time, or part-time.
  • Loans are available to both matriculating and non-matriculating students.

Are Co-Signers Required?

Co-signers aren't required if the student can meet the eligibility requirements on their own. Otherwise, they'll need to apply with a creditworthy co-signer.

RISLA's in-school loans offer co-signer release after the student makes their first 24 monthly payments consecutively and on time, and also meets the lender's other requirements. That said, co-signer release is not available in Colorado, Connecticut, or Maine.

Is Loan Pre-Qualification Available?

RISLA does not offer pre-qualification, so you'll need to submit an application and undergo a credit check to determine whether or not you qualify for financing. However, the lender's interest rates are more standardized than most private student loans, so it's easier to know what to expect if you do get approved.

Length of Time for Loan Approval and Disbursement

RISLA doesn't provide a timeline for approval, so the process can vary based on your situation and how quickly you provide the required information and documentation to the lender. Also, check with the lender to learn about the disbursement process.

Loan Fees and Repayment Options

Loan Fees

RISLA does not charge origination fees, administrative fees, or application fees. However, the lender does charge a late fee of 6% of the payment amount. There's also a $10 fee for returned checks. 

Loan Discounts

RISLA offers a 0.25% interest rate discount for borrowers who set up automatic payments. Additionally, Rhode Island residents attending college in another state and students from other states attending school in Rhode Island can get an additional 1% interest rate discount or more through the Rhode Island Advantage program. Parent loans and refinance loans are not eligible for the Rhode Island Advantage discount. 

Repayment Options

RISLA offers two basic repayment options: immediate and deferred repayment. Additionally, borrowers may qualify for income-based repayment if they're struggling financially.

  • Immediate repayment: College students can opt for this repayment plan, which begins full interest-and-principal payments 15 days after the final loan disburses, or 30 days for refinance loans. Immediate repayment is mandatory for parent loans and refinance loans after graduation.
  • Deferred repayment: Students taking out in-school loans or refinancing their loans while still in school can opt to defer their monthly payments until six months after they graduate. 
  • Income-based repayment (IBR): If you're experiencing financial hardship based on your current wages and family size, you may be eligible for an income-based repayment plan, which can reduce your monthly payment to 15% of your discretionary income, with a minimum payment of $10. It also extends your repayment term to 25 years, after which any remaining balance will be forgiven. However, both the borrower and co-signer must be eligible, and you must recertify your income each year to extend the plan beyond 12 months.

Rewards

Eligible college students who complete one three-credit internship or three one-credit internships can enjoy $2,000 in forgiveness. To qualify, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a Rhode Island resident or a student attending school in the state
  • Internship(s) not required to graduate
  • Apply within one year of graduation to receive the benefit

Forgiveness is only applied to one loan, and if the balance is below $2,000, the relief will match the balance. 

Additionally, nursing graduates who work in direct patient care in Rhode Island can enjoy no interest for up to 48 months. To be eligible, you must:

  • Have a RISLA loan issued on or after July 1, 2011.
  • Be a licensed registered nurse—but you're not eligible if you were licensed before you took out a RISLA loan.
  • Be employed by a licensed healthcare facility in Rhode Island and work at least 20 hours per week in direct patient care.

Loan Forbearance and Discharge Options

Students can defer their student loan payments if they return to school, but they must attend with at least half-time enrollment to qualify. The maximum term for in-school deferment is 36 months.

Additionally, if you're struggling to keep up with your payments and your loans were disbursed on or after July 1, 2021, you may be eligible for up to 24 months of forbearance. For loans disbursed prior to that date, review your loan agreement for forbearance options.

If the student who benefited from the loan dies or becomes permanently disabled, RISLA will discharge the debt. 

While RISLA's loan forbearance and income-based repayment plans stand out among private student loans, it is always worth trying for federal student loans first to take advantage of more flexible relief options.

Is Student Loan Refinancing Available?

RISLA offers student refinance loans, as mentioned above. However, the lender does not allow parents to refinance the debt in the name of their children.

Customer Service

RISLA services its student loans, so you don't have to worry about dealing with another company for your monthly payments.

If you have questions, you can email RISLA at customerservice@risla.com, fill out an online form, or call one of the following numbers: 

  • For new loans: (800) 758-7562
  • For student loan refinancing: (866) 268-9419
  • If you’re a current RISLA customer: (888) 897-4752 

RISLA has a good reputation for customer satisfaction. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau received just one complaint against the lender in 2021, related to credit reporting. 

Applying for a RISLA Student Loan 

Before you apply for a RISLA student loan—or any private student loan, for that matter—make sure you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see what you qualify for.

While RISLA's interest rates are competitive with the Department of Education's rates, and the lender doesn't charge upfront loan fees, you may still be able to receive Pell Grants and subsidized federal loans, which could save you more money in the long run. Additionally, federal loans offer more relief options for struggling borrowers.

If you've decided to apply for a RISLA loan, the lender says the process takes between 5 and 10 minutes to complete, and you'll need to provide the following information:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Permanent address
  • Email address and phone number
  • Social Security number
  • School name and state
  • Desired loan amount
  • Expected financial aid
  • Income information
  • Housing payments (including rent or mortgage payments)

After you submit your application, RISLA will request documentation to prove your identity, employment, income, bank account, and asset information. If you're approved, you'll get an email asking you to accept the loan, which you can do by e-signing the agreement. 

Alternative Choices

  Rhode Island Student Loan Authority Sallie Mae Earnest 
Loan types offered Undergraduate; graduate; certificate; parent Undergraduate; graduate; medical; technical; bootcamp  Undergraduate; graduate; parent; medical 
Undergraduate fixed APR  4.99%–6.94%  4.50%–14.83%  4.79%–13.03% 
Undergraduate variable APR  N/A  5.37%–15.70%  4.99%–11.69% 
Origination/administrative fee None  None  None 
Repayment options  Deferment; income-based repayment; full payment  Deferment; fixed; interest-only; full payment  Deferment; fixed; interest-only; full payment 
Refinancing available  Yes  No  Yes 

Final Verdict

RISLA offers competitive interest rates, even compared to the federal government, along with special perks for Rhode Island residents and students. The flexible options for forbearance and income-based repayment also make RISLA loans unique among private student loans. If you're from the Ocean State or you're attending school there, RISLA may be your first choice after federal student loans. Even if you're not, though, the lender should at least be on your radar.

RISLA is an excellent lender, but it always pays to explore your options. Browse the best student loans to find the lowest rates you can get.

Methodology

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.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. RISLA. "Contact Us." 

  2. RISLA. "Undergraduate Loans." 

  3. RISLA. "Graduate Loans." 

  4. RISLA. "Certificate Loans." 

  5. RISLA. "Parent Loans." 

  6. RISLA. "Refinance Loans." 

  7. RISLA. "Borrower Protections." 

  8. RISLA. "Rewards for Nurses and Internships." 

  9. RISLA. "Multi-Year Program." 

  10. Federal Student Aid, "Interest Rates and Fees for Federal Student Loans." 

  11. Federal Student Aid, "Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans." 

  12. Federal Student Aid. "PLUS Loans." 

  13. RISLA. "Application." 

  14. RISLA. "Loan Interest Rate & Fees." 

  15. RISLA. "Income-Based Repayment." 

  16. RISLA. "FAQ For Educational Loans." 

  17. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Rhode Island Student Loan Authority."