Current Student Loans Rates

By Jill Gardiner , last updated January 9, 2012

Whether you have a child who’s getting ready to go to college or you’re considering going back to school to finish your degree, chances are you’re interested in knowing what the current rates are for student loans. For the vast majority of students, loans are one of the primary methods for financing their higher education, which in recent years has gotten so expensive you may even require more than one loan to cover the costs of your tuition. Without a doubt, student loans issued by the government are your best bet. They have fixed interest rates that are fairly reasonable, as well as very flexible repayment plans. Private student loans, on the other hand, aren’t quite as great a deal, but may be a necessary evil. There are limits as to how much you can borrow from the government, and anything beyond that may require turning to a private lender. Here are the current student loan rates for federal student loans, as well as some information about those offered by private lenders.

Subsidized Stafford

Subsidized Stafford loans are the best loans out there for students at all levels. They have a low fixed rate of 3.4 percent for undergraduate students, 6.8 percent for graduate and professional students, and while you’re in school or during qualified grace periods the interest doesn’t accrue. Subsidized Stafford loans are federal student loans that are only available to those who qualify based on financial need. You must fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA for short, to find out if you’re eligible.

Unsubsidized Stafford

Most students are eligible for unsubsidized Stafford loans and many of them will indeed end up taking them. Although the interest rate isn’t as low for undergraduates as with the subsidized Stafford loan, it’s still a respectable fixed rate of 6.8 percent. The interest rate on unsubsidized Stafford loans for graduate and professional students is also a fixed 6.8 percent, just as with the subsidized Stafford loan. Interest on all unsubsidized loans does accrue, however, whenever you’re not paying it.

Perkins

Like subsidized Stafford loans, Perkins loans are available to students based on their financial need. Rather than coming from the federal government, however, these loans are issued from the school at a low fixed rate of 5 percent.

Direct PLUS

PLUS loans are available to the parents of dependent students and to graduate students as a way to bridge the gap between what’s covered by the Stafford and Perkins loans and the rest of the educations costs. While there is a minor credit check involved in qualifying for this loan, it won’t affect the interest rate you pay if you qualify, which is a fixed 7.9 percent.

Private Loans

Most private student loan rates, when compared against those issued by the government, may at first glance look reasonable, but you should know that these are generally not fixed rates. Instead they are actually variable, which means they can, and likely will, go up. In addition, you won’t actually know what rate you’ll receive until you apply. If your credit is anything less than stellar, expect a higher rate.

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