View and compare our preferred alternative loan lenders
Note that you are not limited to only using these lenders. You can chose to borrow an alternative loan through any lender even if they are not on our list.
What is an alternative/private loan?
- Loans for education that are not secured or guaranteed by the Federal government
- Lenders generally provide funding based on credit approval and other factors
- Typically the student is the borrower
- For most loans, the student must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
- Repayment may begin while the student is enrolled, or may be deferred until she ceases enrollment
- Interest rates of alternative loans may be higher than the Federal loan programs
We strongly recommend borrowing through the Federal Direct Student loan program first, and at least considering the Federal Direct PLUS loan option before using alternative loans. If your parent applies for a PLUS loan and is denied, you may be eligible for additional Direct Unsubsidized Stafford loan funds.
Do I need a co-borrower?
You will usually need a credit-approved co-borrower to secure an alternative loan. The decision to require a co-borrower is up to your lender. However, even if your lender does not require one, in most instances, adding a co-borrower will secure a better interest rate and/or fees for your loan.
Who can co-sign?
Any adult with acceptable credit can co-sign for your loan. Although parents are often a good choice, a grandparent, other relative, or friend may apply. In most instances, the co-borrower must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen with acceptable credit. Some loans have income requirements as well.
Many lenders offer a "co-borrower release" option, where the co-borrowers' responsibility for repayment can be removed after the student borrower meets certain criteria. In most instances, the student borrower must meet credit approval on her own at the time of the release request.
How do I apply?
Most lenders encourage students to apply online. When you do, the lender will conduct a credit screening to determine if you are approved for the loan. Complete the application in full. If you are adding a co-borrower, make sure he or she completes the application as well. When your credit has been approved, Saint Mary's College will be notified by your lender that the application is ready to be certified by the school.
Which alternative loan is right for me?
Only you can truly answer that. There are many alternative loans available, so please research your options thoroughly before applying. Typically, interest rates are based on the current prime rate, LIBOR, or T-bill. These different "base rates" may vary. To check current interest rates, please click here.
Applying for a 2016-2017 Alternative Loan:
- Select a lender and complete the application process with that lender. You may use any participating lender that offers alternative loans; however, we have a Preferred Lender List with six suggested lenders. Visit our FASTChoice web page for information on all six lenders.
- Complete your alternative loan application and Master Promissory Note (MPN) directly with your lender. Most lenders allow you to e-sign an MPN online, although you may request that a paper MPN to be mailed to you. We strongly recommend completing the application and MPN online when possible to expedite loan processing.
- Your lender should provide you with a "Self Certification" form. You will be asked to provide your cost of attendance and your estimated financial aid for the 2016-17 academic year. Both of these figures may be located by checking PRISM. This form must be completed and returned to your lender before your loan funds can be disbursed.
How did we choose the lenders for our 2015-16 preferred list?
We surveyed a number of private student loan lenders and asked them to describe their loan products. We reviewed and rated the lenders by their loan features including, but not limited to:
- Interest rates
- Deferment and forbearance options
- Co-signer release option availability
- Option to process loan for a previous enrollment period (or "past due balance")
- Customer service
- Student services
- Efforts to reduce student loan delinquency and defaults
The criteria was scored, and the lenders with the top six scores were chosen.
This page was last updated on December 18, 2015.