When looking for an undergraduate student loan, it’s important to pay attention to interest rates, loan terms, and lender perks that can improve your borrower experience. With those factors in mind, the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) stands apart as the best overall lender.
Despite its name, residents from any state can qualify for a RISLA loan. However, applicants who live, work, or attend college in Rhode Island may be able to get a lower interest rate than other borrowers.3
Applicants can borrow $1,500 to $45,000 per year to pay for their undergraduate degrees. There are no application, origination, or prepayment penalties.4
Unlike some other lenders, RISLA only offers fixed-rate loans. However, the fixed rate loans have fairly low interest rates. As of October 21, 2020, the interest rate on a loan with Student Immediate Repay is 3.99%, while a Student Deferred Repay loan has a rate of 6.24% (both of these rates include an autopay discount).4
As an undergraduate borrower, you have two main repayment options:
- Student Immediate Repay: With this option, you begin making payments 15 days after the final loan disbursement. You’ll repay the loan over 120 months, and you’ll get the lowest possible interest rate.
- Student Deferred Repay: If you opt for Student Deferred Repay, you’ll get a higher interest rate. However, you won’t have to start making payments until six months after you leave school. You’ll have 180 months to repay your loan.4
While RISLA offers low interest rates and different repayment plans, what really sets the lender apart is the benefits it offers to borrowers:
- Income-Based Repayment: If you’re facing a financial hardship and can’t afford your payments, you may qualify for RISLA’s Income-Based Repayment Plan. With this approach, your repayment term is extended to up to 25 years, and your payments are based on your income and family size.5
- Nursing Reward Program: Rhode Island resident or students attending eligible schools in Rhode Island may be eligible for the Nursing Reward Program. Under this program, RISLA will lower the interest rates on the loans of qualifying borrowers to 0% for 48 months. 6
- Loan Forgiveness for Interns: Students who complete an eligible internship can receive up to $2,000 in student loan forgiveness.7
- Autopay Discount: Sign up for automatic payments and receive a 0.25% discount on your interest rate.
- Forbearance: In some cases, you may be able to temporarily postpone your payments if dealing with financial issues.8
- Multi-year approval: Some borrowers will qualify for RISLA’s multi-year program. As long as your information and your cosigner’s income, credit score, and other key information remain consistent or improve, you can qualify for additional loans without having to submit another application. 9
RISLA provides families with information on how to find financial aid, including federal loans, grants, and scholarships. It also has programs that reward students for completing internships, helping them prepare for careers after graduation.