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SunTrust was a top choice for borrowers who needed private student loans to pay for school, especially for international students. But the lender discontinued its private loan program on May 31, 2020, after it merged with BB&T Corporation to form Truist.
Truist will continue to provide resources on its existing loans.
- Key Takeaways
- Pros & Cons
- Company Overview
- SunTrust merged with BB&T to form Truist in December 2019.
- It discontinued its loan program in May 2020.
- Applications for student loans or student loan refinancing are not being accepted as of 2023.
- Existing student loans are serviced by American Education Services.
- You may be eligible for an alternative payment plan if you have a SunTrust loan and you're experiencing financial hardship.
Very competitive interest rates
Extra discounts and rewards
Options for international students
Not available to borrowers in all states
Limits on how much you could borrow
Short repayment terms for graduate and MBA students
SunTrust Bank merged with BB&T Corporation on Dec. 9, 2019, to form Truist Financial Corporation. Truist is a top 10 U.S. commercial bank with headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. It serves more than 15 million clients across the U.S. with more than 2,000 branches and 3,000-plus ATMs. It holds $574 billion in total assets. However, the SunTrust loan program was discontinued in 2020.
- Year Founded 1891
- Official Website www.suntrust.com
SunTrust discontinued its private student loan program and is no longer accepting loan applications as of May 31, 2020.
SunTrust may have been a good choice for private student loans for undergraduate and graduate students with established credit histories or those who had a co-signer. It offered low-interest rates and up to 0.75% interest rate discounts.
SunTrust wasn't available to all borrowers, and it limited how much you could take out each year.
- Very competitive interest rates: SunTrust’s student loans had competitive rates when compared to other lenders and federal student loans. Its Custom Choice and Union Federal loans had fixed interest rates as low as 4.3% for undergraduate students. That’s lower than the interest rate on federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans at 4.99%, and you could lower the rate even more if you qualified for rate discounts.
- Extra discounts and rewards: You could qualify for extra discounts, rewards, and benefits depending on which of SunTrust’s loans you chose. You could have been eligible for up to 0.75% in interest rate discounts, received a 2% principal reduction when you graduated, or enjoyed a 0% annual percentage rate (APR) for the first six months after loan disbursement.
- Options for international students: You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to qualify for most private student loans, but international students were eligible for a student loan through SunTrust if they opted for a Union Federal Private Student Loan. They must also have had a cosigner who was a permanent resident or U.S. citizen.
- Not available to borrowers in all states: SunTrust student loans weren't available in all 50 states. Applicants couldn't be permanent residents of Iowa or Wisconsin.
- Limits on how much you could borrow: You could borrow up to the total cost of attendance with many private student loan lenders but SunTrust set limits on how much you could borrow. The limit could be as low as $65,000 depending on the loan you chose.
- Short repayment terms for graduate and MBA students: SunTrust’s Graduate Business School Loan had limited repayment options if you were a graduate student or pursuing your MBA. You could only choose either a seven- or 10-year loan term. That’s fairly short for a loan for graduate students. Many other lenders offer loan terms as long as 15 years, making your payments more affordable.
Student Loans Offered by SunTrust
SunTrust had four student options for undergraduate and graduate borrowers. It didn't offer parent student loans.
BB&T Corporation and SunTrust Bank merged in December 2019 to form Truist.
Custom Choice Loan
The Custom Choice Loan was for undergraduate and graduate borrowers who were enrolled at least half time at an approved school. It stood out from SunTrust’s other loans because it gave you more options. You could defer payments until you graduated or you could make payments while you were in school. You could also choose which loan term worked best for you: seven, 10, or 15 years.
A unique perk of the Custom Choice Loan was the graduation reward. The principal of your loan balance would be reduced by 2% when you graduated. Your loan balance would be reduced by $400 if you had a $20,000 student loan. There were no application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties.
|Custom Choice Loan Terms and Rates|
|Variable Rates||1.750% to 8.800%|
|Fixed Rates||4.301% to 11.050%|
|Loan Amounts||$1,001 up to $65,000 ($150,000 lifetime limit)|
|Loan Terms||7, 10, and 15 years|
Start Student Loan
Like the Custom Choice Loan, SunTrust’s Start Student Loan was for undergraduate and graduate students who were enrolled at least half-time. What made the Start Student Loan unique was that borrowers could get a 0% APR for the first six months after their loan was disbursed. No interest would accrue on your loan during that time, helping you to save money. Your approved interest rate would apply after the introductory period expired.
The Start Student Loan had only one repayment term of 15 years and one repayment option. Your payments were deferred while you were in school, but you could make extra payments if you wished.
|Start Student Loan Terms and Rates|
|Variable Rates||3.725% to 8.460% (0% APR for the first six months)|
|Fixed Rates||5.762% to 10.353% (0% APR for the first six months)|
|Loan Amounts||$5,001 up to $65,000 ($150,000 lifetime limit)|
|Loan Terms||15 years|
Union Federal Private Student Loan
SunTrust’s Union Federal Private Student Loan was also for undergraduate and graduate students who were enrolled at least half time. It was the only one of SunTrust’s student loans that was available to international students.
The Union Federal Private Student Loan had four repayment options:
- In-school deferred: Your payments were deferred while you were in school.
- Partial interest: You paid $25 per month while you were in school.
- Interest only: You paid only interest while you were in school.
- Immediate repayment: You began making payments against principal and interest as soon as the loan was disbursed.
The Union Federal Private Student Loan was eligible for SunTrust’s on-time payment benefit, on top of the automatic payment and SunTrust customer discounts. You could reduce your interest rate by 0.75% if you signed up for automatic payments, made them from a SunTrust account, and made all of them on time for 36 months.
|Union Federal Private Student Loan Terms and Rates|
|Variable Rates||1.750% to 10.750%|
|Fixed Rates||4.301% to 13.000%|
|Loan Amounts||$1,001 up to $65,000 ($150,000 lifetime limit)|
|Loan Terms||7, 10, or 15 years|
Graduate Business School Loan
SunTrust’s Graduate Business School Loan was designed for students who were enrolled at least half time in a graduate or professional degree program. The student must have attended a school accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Business Schools to be eligible.
This loan could be a cost-effective alternative to federal Grad PLUS Loans, which have an interest rate of 7.54%. You could get a significantly lower rate with a Graduate Business School Loan if you had good credit or you had a cosigner who did and you qualified for SunTrust’s interest rate discounts.
The Graduate Business School Loan had four repayment options:
- In-school deferment
- Immediate repayment
- Partial interest
- Interest-only repayment
You could qualify for a 1% principal reduction upon graduation.
|Graduate Business School Loan Terms and Rates|
|Variable Rates||1.750% to 6.853%|
|Fixed Rates||4.301% to 8.890%|
|Loan Amounts||$1,001 up to $95,000 (lifetime limit of $175,000)|
|Loan Terms||Seven or 10 years|
You had to meet the following requirements to qualify for a private student loan from SunTrust:
- You must have been enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school.
- You must have been a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident with a Social Security number.
- International students could qualify if they had a cosigner who was a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident and if they applied for a Union Federal Student Loan.
- You must have reached the age of majority in your state or you were at least 17 years old if you were applying with a cosigner who met the age-of-majority requirement.
- Either the cosigner or the student must have had an income source.
- You and your cosigner, if applicable, would undergo a hard credit inquiry.
- Applicants couldn't be permanent residents of Iowa or Wisconsin.
Was Loan Prequalification Available?
SunTrust did not offer a prequalification tool. You had to complete the application and go through a hard credit inquiry that would temporarily affect your credit score to find out if you qualified for a loan.
SunTrust didn't charge application or origination fees, and there were no prepayment penalties if you decided to pay off your loan ahead of schedule. But SunTrust did charge a late fee if you missed your payment due date.
SunTrust offered two discounts to all loan borrowers:
- Automatic payment discount: You could reduce your interest rate by 0.25% when you signed up for automatic payments.
- SunTrust payment discount: You could have qualified for an additional 0.25% reduction if you made automatic payments from a SunTrust bank account.
The Union Federal Private Student Loan was also eligible for an on-time payment discount. You’d lower your interest rate by another 0.25% if you made all your payments on time for 36 months. You could lower your rate by 0.75% if you took advantage of all three discounts.
The repayment options available were dependent on what type of loan you had. Custom Choice, Union Federal, and Graduate Business loans provided four repayment options:
- In-school deferment: Your loan payments were deferred until after you graduated or left school.
- Immediate repayment: You could begin making payments right after the loan was disbursed.
- Partial interest: You could pay $25 per month while you were in school.
- Interest only: You made payments only toward the interest on your loans while you were in school.
The Start Student Loan offered only the in-school deferment option.
Some SunTrust loans offered special rewards:
- Principal reduction: Your loan principal would be reduced when you graduated with Custom Choice and Graduate Business School loans. The principal was reduced by 2% on Custom Choice loans. It was reduced by 1% with Graduate Business School loans
- 0% APR: You would get a 0% APR on the first six months after your loan was disbursed with the Start Student Loan. No interest accrued on your loan during this period.
Were Co-Signers Required?
SunTrust didn't require that borrowers have a co-signer when they applied but they may not have been approved for a loan on their own if they didn't meet the income or credit requirements. You would increase your chances of qualifying for a loan and securing a competitive interest rate by adding a co-signer to your application. You could apply for a co-signer release after making 36 to 48 monthly payments on time depending on the type of loan you had.
Forbearance and Loan Discharge Options
SunTrust encourages borrowers who experience financial hardships to call American Education Services, its loan servicer, to discuss repayment options. You may be eligible for an alternative payment plan if you still have an active loan with SunTrust. You would only have to make payments on the interest on your loan for 12 to 24 months. You may also be eligible for a temporary deferment that allows you to postpone payments altogether. You can call the loan servicer at 800-233-0557.
SunTrust will forgive the remaining balance of the loan if the student borrower dies or becomes totally and permanently disabled.
Is Student Loan Refinancing Available?
SunTrust offers only in-school refinancing for existing private student loans. You're not eligible for refinancing through SunTrust if you have federal student loans or have already graduated. Check out our best student loan refinanncing companies if you’d like to refinance your loans.
SunTrust’s student loans are serviced by American Education Services (AES). Unfortunately, many borrowers have had issues with AES.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Private Education Loan Ombudsman listed the number of complaints it received about private lenders in its 2019 Annual Report. It received 2,900 complaints about private student loan lenders from Sept. 1, 2018 to Aug. 31, 2019. Of those, 180 or about 7% were about AES.
You can reach customer support by phone. The number you should call is dependent on the type of loan you have:
- For Custom Choice and Graduate Business School loans: 866-232-3889
- For the Start Student Loan: 877-808-4852
- For the Union Federal Private Student Loan: 866-513-8445
SunTrust was previously an excellent choice for people looking for supplemental loans for their education, but the lender has ended its loan program. It’s no longer an option for private student loans. You’ll have to find another lender.
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.
Truist. "Fast Facts."
Federal Student Aid. "What Is the Current Interest Rate for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans?"
Truist. "BB&T and Suntrust Complete Merger of Equals to Become Truist."
Federal Student Aid. "Grad PLUS Loans."
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Annual Report of the CFPB Private Education Loan Ombudsman."