As a nonprofit organization, the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) has been in operation since 1981. Previously, RISLA only worked with borrowers who lived or attended school in Rhode Island. Now, the lender issues student loans to borrowers nationwide. According to its annual report, RISLA issued $113.4 million in fixed-rate loans in 2019.  

RISLA offers undergraduate loans, graduate loans, and parent student loans. You can also refinance any current federal or private student loans through RISLA.

RISLA offers some unique benefits, such as forbearance and income-based repayment options if you face a financial hardship. However, the lender has only a couple of repayment options, and there are limitations on how much money you can borrow.

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Before submitting your application, here’s what you need to know about RISLA student loans and answer the question: is RISLA a good lender for student loans?

Pros

  • No origination or application fees

  • Forbearance and income-based repayment available in some cases

  • Loan forgiveness with internships

Cons

  • Limited repayment options

  • No prequalification

  • Limited loan amounts

Pros Explained

  • No Origination or Application Fees – RISLA doesn’t charge any application or origination fees. That’s a big advantage over some federal loans, which charge disbursement fees as high as 4.236% and add to your loan’s overall cost. 
  • Forbearance and Income-Based Repayment – If you can’t afford your monthly payments, RISLA may in some cases allow you to temporarily postpone payments or reduce your payments through an alternative payment plan. Not all private lenders offer these options, so having access to these benefits is a significant perk.
  • Loan Forgiveness With Internships Students who complete an internship can qualify for a reduction of up to $2,000 in their loan balance.

Cons Explained

  • Limited Repayment Options – RISLA only has two repayment options for borrowers: immediate repayment and deferred repayment. If you are looking for more terms and payment options, you’ll likely need to apply for a loan from another lender. 
  • No Prequalification – Many lenders offer loan prequalification, where you can get a quick rate quote without affecting your credit score. RISLA doesn’t have this feature. The only way to find out if you’ll qualify for a loan is to submit a loan application and undergo a hard credit inquiry, which can impact your credit. 
  • Limited Loan Amounts – RISLA imposes some strict loan maximums. The most you can borrow is $45,000 per year, and there is an aggregate limit of $150,000 per borrower or $175,000 per family. If you need more than that to pay for your program, you’ll need to use another lender.

Available RISLA Student Loans 

Undergraduate Student Loans

RISLA’s undergraduate student loans are a low-cost option that can supplement federal student loans or even be a useful alternative to federal education debt. There are no application or origination fees, and you can pay off your loan early without incurring a prepayment penalty.

Fixed Rates 3.64% to 5.64% (the lowest rate includes a 0.25% automatic payment discount and payments begin while you’re in school)
Loan Amounts $1,500 to $45,000 per year
Loan Terms 10 years for immediate repayment or 15 years for deferred payment

Graduate Student Loans

If you are attending graduate school and need help covering your tuition, room and board, and other expenses, a RISLA graduate student loan can help. They have no application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties.

RISLA graduate loans can be a cost-effective alternative to federal Grad PLUS Loans, which have the highest interest rate of any federal student loan. Grad PLUS Loans disbursed after July 1, 2019, and before July 1, 2020, have an interest rate of 7.08% and a disbursement fee of 4.236%, so opting for a RISLA graduate loan to pay for your education could help you save money.

Fixed Rates 3.64% to 5.64% (the lowest rate includes a 0.25% automatic payment discount and payments begin while you’re in school)
Loan Amounts $1,500 to $45,000 per year
Loan Terms 10 years for immediate repayment or 15 years for deferred payment

Parent Student Loans

Parents frequently take out loans to finance a child’s post-secondary education. RISLA’s parent student loans have lower interest rates than federal Parent PLUS Loans. Plus, RISLA loans don’t have origination or application fees, and there are no prepayment penalties.

However, with RISLA parent loans repayments start immediately; you can’t defer them until after the student graduates. By immediately, we mean 15 days after the final disbursement. 

Fixed Rates 4.64% (includes 0.25% automatic payment discount)
Loan Amounts $1,500 to $45,000 per year
Loan Terms 10 years

Loan Eligibility

RISLA loans have the following criteria for qualification: 

  • Students can be full-time, half-time, or less than half-time.
  • Students can be matriculated or nonmatriculated.
  • Borrowers or their cosigners must earn at least $40,000 per year.
  • Borrowers and their cosigners must pass a credit check.

Is Loan Prequalification Available? 

Some private student loan lenders offer prequalification tools, which allow you to answer a few simple questions and get a rate quote from a lender without having to undergo a credit check.

Unfortunately, RISLA doesn’t offer loan prequalification. To find out if you qualify for a loan, you’ll have to submit a loan application and undergo a hard credit inquiry, which can affect your credit score, at least temporarily.  

Loan Fees

RISLA doesn’t charge origination or application fees. However, it does charge a late fee. If you miss a payment, you’ll be charged 6% of the late payment amount. If a payment is returned to you, you’ll be charged a $10 returned check fee. 

Loan Discounts 

RISLA offers an automatic payment discount. When you sign up for automatic payments, your interest rate will be reduced by 0.25%.

Repayment Options

RISLA has two repayment options for undergraduate and graduate student loans: 

  1. Immediate Repayment You begin making payments against the principal and interest that accrues while you’re still in school. The first payment is due 15 days after the final loan disbursement. Loans issued with immediate repayment have the lowest interest rate and a 10-year repayment term. 
  2. Deferred Payment – If you don’t want to repay the loan while in school, you can choose to defer paying until you get your degree. Deferred repayments begin six months after graduation. With this option, the interest rate is higher, and the loan term is 15 years. 

Rewards

RISLA operates a unique program for in-state nurses. Eligible nurses will have their interest rates on their qualifying loans lowered to 0% for 48 months of loan repayment following their acceptance into the program. Their entire loan payments are applied to the loan principal rather than interest, helping them pay off their debt faster and save money.

To qualify for the program, you must have a RISLA student loan—formerly known as a Rhode Island Family Education Loan—or a RISLA parent loan, be a registered nurse, live in Rhode Island or attend a Rhode Island school, and be employed by a licensed health care facility within the state and work at least 20 hours per week.

Other Benefits

RISLA has two major benefits that can benefit student borrowers: 

  1. Loan Forgiveness for Qualifying Internships – Students can earn up to $2,000 in loan forgiveness by completing a qualifying internship. The internships can be paid or unpaid, but they must count for credit and be certified by a college or university. They can be located in Rhode Island or out of state. The $2,000 will be applied to your loan after graduation. 
  2. Income-Based Repayment – RISLA offers eligible borrowers an income-based repayment option for those who are finding their monthly payments unaffordable. With income-based repayment, your repayment term is extended to 25 years, and your payment is capped at 15% of your discretionary income. If you have a balance after 25 years of making payments, the remaining amount is discharged. 

Are Cosigners Required? 

RISLA doesn’t require cosigners for all applicants. However, borrowers must have a minimum income of $40,000 and pass a credit check. As most students won’t have sufficient income or credit history to qualify for a loan on their own, they will need a cosigner to get approved.

If you do have a cosigner, you may be eligible for a cosigner release, meaning your cosigner is removed from the loan after 24 months of consecutive, on-time payments. 

Forbearance and Loan Discharge Options

If you lose your job or become ill, you may be eligible for forbearance. With RISLA, the maximum amount of forbearance over the length of your loan is 12 months. If the student dies or becomes permanently disabled, RISLA will forgive the remaining loan balance. 

Length of Time for Loan Approval and Disbursement

The amount of time it takes for loan approval and disbursement can vary. Once you submit your application and supporting documentation, RISLA’s loan origination team will review your information and decide whether or not to approve you for a loan. 

Once approved, you’ll receive a disclosure on how to accept the loan and complete a self-certification. RISLA will contact your college or university to certify the loan. Your school will provide RISLA with a date for loan disbursement. 

The lender typically sends the funds directly to the school, and the school will apply the loan money toward your tuition, fees, and any room-and-board costs if you live on campus. Whatever is left over comes to you via a check or a direct deposit to a linked bank account, so you can use it for books, living expenses, etc.

Is Student Loan Refinancing Available? 

RISLA offers student loan refinancing for undergraduate, graduate, and parent student loans. You can refinance both federal and private student loans, and residents in any state are eligible. 

  • Loan Amounts $7,500 to $250,000
  • Interest Rates – 3.49% to 8.14% (including automatic payment discount) 
  • Loan Terms Five, 10, or 15 years

Customer Service

RISLA is its own student loan servicer. That means you directly make payments to them and contact them if you have questions about your account.

No complaints mentioning RISLA appear in the Annual Report of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Student Loan Ombudsman. And, according to TrustPilot, RISLA has excellent reviews.

If you have questions, you can email RISLA at customerservice@RISLA.com. If you’d prefer to call, use the following contact information: 

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

Apply for a RISLA Student Loan

If you decide that a RISLA student loan is right for you, you can apply for a loan online. According to the company, the online application should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. To complete the application, you’ll need: 

  • Social Security Number
  • The Name of Your Chosen School
  • Loan Amount Requested
  • Your Expected Financial Aid
  • Financial Information (including rent or mortgage payments and income)
  • Permanent Address 

After you submit your application, RISLA will review it and likely ask you to submit supporting documentation. If approved, you’ll receive an email asking you to accept and self-certify your loan, and you’ll have to e-sign your application. 

Paying for College

When thinking about how to pay for college, it’s always a good idea to use all of the available gift aid—such as grants and scholarships—before you borrow money. It’s also a good idea to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before applying for any other financing, including student loans. 

Conclusion

While RISLA is considered a private student loan lender, not a federal one, it offers very competitive interest rates and generous repayment benefits. In some cases it may be a more cost-effective option than federal loans, and you can still take advantage of perks, such as income-based repayment and loan forbearance, if needed. 

However, RISLA does have strict limitations on how much you can borrow, and it has few repayment options. If you need more flexibility, consider comparing offers from multiple lenders to find a loan that fits your needs.

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.