While SunTrust—now known as Truist—was a top choice for borrowers who needed private student loans to pay for school, especially for international students, the lender discontinued its private loan program on May 31, 2020. However, Truist will continue to provide resources on its existing loans.
- Key Takeaways
- Pros and Cons
- Company Overview
- SunTrust merged with BB&T to form Truist in December 2019
- It discontinued its loan program in May 2020
- No more loan applications for student loans or student loan refinancing will be accepted
- Existing student loans are serviced by American Education Services
- If you’re experiencing a financial hardship, you may be eligible for an alternative payment plan
Very competitive interest rates
Extra discounts and rewards
Options for international students
Not available to borrowers in all states
Limits on how much you can borrow
Short repayment terms for graduate and MBA students
- Year Founded 1891
- Official Website www.suntrust.com
As of May 31, 2020, SunTrust discontinued its private student loan program and is no longer accepting loan applications.
For undergraduate and graduate students with established credit histories or that have a co-signer, SunTrust may be a good choice for private student loans with their low-interest rates and up to 0.75% interest rate discounts.
Before taking out any student loan, it's wise to shop around and look at multiple lenders, including federal options, to find the best rates and terms. Depending on your credit, you could be eligible for low-interest loans that can make college more affordable.
SunTrust isn’t available to all borrowers, and it does limit how much you can take out each year. Here’s what else you need to know before applying for a SunTrust student loan.
- Very competitive interest rates – SunTrust’s student loans have competitive rates when compared to other lenders and federal student loans. For example, SunTrust’s Custom Choice and Union Federal loans have fixed interest rates as low as 4.30% for undergraduate students. That’s lower than the current interest rate on federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans—4.53%—and if you qualify for rate discounts, you could lower the rate even more.
- Extra discounts and rewards – Depending on which of SunTrust’s loans you choose, you can qualify for extra discounts, rewards, and benefits. You could be eligible for up to 0.75% in interest rate discounts, receive a 2% principal reduction when you graduate, or enjoy a 0% annual percentage rate (APR) for the first six months after loan disbursement.
- Options for international students – With most private student loans, you have to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to qualify for a loan. However, international students are eligible for a student loan through SunTrust if they opt for a Union Federal Private Student Loan and have a cosigner who is a permanent resident or U.S. citizen.
- Not available to borrowers in all states – Unfortunately, SunTrust student loans aren’t available in all 50 states. Applicants cannot be permanent residents of Iowa or Wisconsin.
- Limits on how much you can borrow – With many private student loan lenders, you can borrow up to the total cost of attendance. However, SunTrust sets limits on how much you can borrow. Depending on the loan you choose, the limit can be as low as $65,000.
- Short repayment terms for graduate and MBA students – If you’re a graduate student or pursuing your MBA, SunTrust’s Graduate Business School Loan has limited repayment options. You can 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 has four student options for undergraduate and graduate borrowers. Notably, SunTrust does not offer parent student loans.
BB&T Corporation and SunTrust Bank merged in December 2019 to form Truist.
Custom Choice Loan
The Custom Choice Loans is for undergraduate and graduate borrowers enrolled at least half time attending an approved school. How it stands out from SunTrust’s other loans is that you have more options. You can decide to defer payments until you graduate, or you can make payments while you’re in school. You can also choose which loan term works for you: seven, 10, or 15 years.
A unique perk of the Custom Choice Loan is the graduation reward. When you graduate, the principal of your loan balance will be reduced by 2%. For example, if you had a $20,000 student loan and graduated, your loan balance would be reduced by $400. There are 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||Seven, 10, and 15 years|
Start Student Loan
Like the Custom Choice Loan, SunTrust’s Start Student Loan is for undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at least half time. What makes the Start Student Loan unique is that borrowers get a 0% APR for the first six months after their loan is disbursed. During that time no interest will accrue on your loan, helping you save money. Once that introductory period expires, your approved interest rate will apply.
The Start Student Loan has only one repayment term—15 years—and one repayment option. Your payments are deferred while you’re in school, though you can make extra payments if you wish.
|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 is also for undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at least half time. However, it’s the only one of SunTrust’s student loans available to international students.
The Union Federal Private Student Loan has four different repayment options:
- In-School Deferred – While in school, your payments are deferred.
- Partial Interest – You pay $25 per month while you’re in school.
- Interest Only – You pay only the interest while in school.
- Immediate Repayment – As soon as the loan is disbursed, you begin making payments against the principal and interest.
The Union Federal Private Student Loan is eligible for SunTrust’s on-time payment benefit, on top of automatic payment and SunTrust customer discounts. If you sign up for automatic payments, make them from a SunTrust account, and make all of them on time for 36 months, you can reduce your interest rate by 0.75%.
|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||Seven, 10, or 15 years|
Graduate Business School Loan
SunTrust’s Graduate Business School Loan is designed for students enrolled at least half time in a graduate or professional degree program. To be eligible, the student must attend a school accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Business Schools.
This loan can be a cost-effective alternative to federal Grad PLUS Loans, which have an interest rate of 7.08%. If you have good credit or a cosigner who does—and if you qualify or SunTrust’s interest rate discounts—you could get a significantly lower rate with a Graduate Business School Loan.
The Graduate Business School Loan has four repayment options:
- In-School Deferment
- Immediate Repayment
- Partial Interest
- Interest-Only Repayment
Upon graduation, you could qualify for a 1% principal reduction.
|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|
To qualify for a private student loan from SunTrust, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must be enrolled at least half time at an eligible school.
- You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a Social Security number.
- If applying for a Union Federal Student Loan, international students can qualify if they have a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
- You must be the age of majority in your state, or be at least 17 if applying with a cosigner who meets the age-of-majority requirement.
- Either the cosigner or the student must have an income source.
- You and your cosigner, if applicable, will undergo a hard credit inquiry.
- Applicants cannot be permanent residents of Iowa or Wisconsin.
Is Loan Prequalification Available?
Unfortunately, SunTrust does not offer a prequalification tool. To find out if you qualify for a loan, you have to complete the application and go through a hard credit inquiry, which will temporarily affect your credit score.
SunTrust does not charge application or origination fees, and there are no prepayment penalties if you decide to pay off your loan ahead of schedule. However, SunTrust does charge a late fee if you miss your payment due date.
SunTrust offers two discounts to all loan borrowers:
- Automatic Payment Discount – When you sign up for automatic payments, you can reduce your interest rate by 0.25%.
- SunTrust Payment Discount – If you make automatic payments from a SunTrust bank account, you can qualify for an additional 0.25% reduction.
The Union Federal Private Student Loan is also eligible for an on-time payment discount. If you make all of your payments on time for 36 months, you’ll lower your interest rate by another 0.25%. If you take advantage of all three discounts, you could lower your rate by 0.75%.
The repayment options available to you are dependent on what type of loan you have. Custom Choice, Union Federal, and Graduate Business loans provide these four repayment options:
- In-School Deferment – Your loan payments are deferred until after you graduate or leave school.
- Immediate Repayment – You begin making payments right after the loan is disbursed.
- Partial Interest – You pay $25 per month while you’re in school.
- Interest Only – You make payments only toward the interest on your loans while you’re in school.
The Start Student Loan, however, only has the in-school deferment option.
Some of SunTrust’s loans offer special rewards.
- Principal Reduction – With Custom Choice and Graduate Business School loans, your loan principal will be reduced when you graduate. With Custom Choice, the principal is reduced by 2%. With Graduate Business School it’s reduced by 1%.
- 0% APR – With the Start Student Loan, you get a 0% APR on the first six months after your loan is disbursed. No interest will accrue on your loan during this period.
Are Co-signers Required?
SunTrust does not require borrowers to have a co-signer when they apply. However, if you don’t meet the income or credit requirements on your own, you may not get approved for a loan. You better your chances of qualifying for a loan—and securing a competitive interest rate—by adding a co-signer to your application. Depending on the type of loan you have, you can apply for a co-signer release after making 36 to 48 monthly payments on time.
Forbearance and Loan Discharge Options
On its website, Suntrust encourages borrowers who experience financial hardships to call its loan servicer—American Education Services—to discuss repayment options. You may be eligible for an alternative payment plan, where you only make payments on the interest on your loan for 12 to 24 months. You may also be eligible for a temporary deferment, which allows you to postpone payments altogether. You can call the loan servicer at 800-233-0557.
If the student borrower dies or becomes totally and permanently disabled, SunTrust will forgive the remaining balance of the loan.
Length of Time for Loan Approval and Disbursement
The application itself only takes about 15 minutes to complete. Once finished, you’ll receive an instant credit decision. Then you’ll have to submit additional documentation online, by fax, or through the mail. You’ll be prompted to sign a loan packet, and SunTrust will reach out to your school to certify the loan.
Once the school certifies the loan, SunTrust will contact you with a final loan disclosure. You have three days to cancel if you no longer want the loan. If you miss that deadline, the loan will be disbursed to the school. The entire process can take several weeks, so be sure to apply well in advance.
Is Student Loan Refinancing Available?
SunTrust only offers in-school refinancing, and it’s only for existing private student loans. If you have federal student loans or have already graduated, you are not eligible for refinancing through SunTrust. If you’d like to refinance your loans, check out our best student loan refinancing companies.
SunTrust’s student loans are serviced by American Education Services (AES). Unfortunately, many borrowers have had issues with AES.
In the 2019 Annual Report of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Private Education Loan Ombudsman, the CFPB listed the number of complaints it received about different private lenders. From Sept. 1, 2018, to Aug. 31, 2019, it received 2,900 complaints about private student loan lenders. Of those, 180—or about 7%—were about AES.
However, you can reach customer support by phone. Which number you should call is dependent on the type of loan you’re interested in.
- For Custom Choice and Graduate Business School loans, call 866-232-3889
- For the Start Student Loan, call 877-808-4852
- For the Union Federal Private Student Loan, call 866-513-8445
Apply for a SunTrust Student Loan
Before applying for any private student loan, make sure you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s what the federal government and your school use to determine your eligibility for financial aid, including grants and federal student loans. If you need additional funding, then you can proceed with your SunTrust student loan application.
To apply, you’ll need to provide the following information:
- Social Security Number
- Date of Birth
- Permanent Address
- Employer Name and Address (if applicable)
- Loan Amount Requested
- School Information (including cost of attendance)
- Estimated Financial Aid
- Income Information
SunTrust was previously an excellent choice for people looking for supplemental loans for their education. However, the lender ended its loan program, so it’s no longer an option for private student loans, and 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.
SunTrust. "Student Loans for College." Accessed September 3, 2020.
Truist. "BB&T and Suntrust Complete Merger of Equals to Become Truist." Accessed September 3, 2020.
SunTrust.com. "Custom Choice Loan." Accessed April 10, 2020.
SunTrust.com. "Start Student Loan." Accessed April 10, 2020.
SunTrust.com. "Union Federal Private Student Loan." Accessed April 10, 2020.
SunTrust.com. "MBA & Graduate Business Student Loans." Accessed April 10, 2020.
SunTrust.com. "Student Loan FAQ: Who is eligible to apply?" Accessed April 10, 2020.
SunTrust.com. "Compare Private Student Loans: Repayment Options." Accessed April 10, 2020.
SunTrust.com. "Custom Choice Loan: Footnote 13." Accessed April 10, 2020.
SunTrust.com. "Custom Choice Loan: The SunTrust Student Loan Process at a Glance." Accessed April 10, 2020.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Annual Report of the CFPB Private Education Loan Ombudsman." Accessed April 10, 2020.
SunTrust.com. "Compare Private Student Loans: Contact." Accessed April 10, 2020.