According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid, Florida has one of the highest total federal student loan debt balances in the U.S. with Floridians owing more than $100 billion in federal student loan debt.
There aren’t many unique Florida student loans to help students pay for college. However, there are federal student loans available to students who attend college in Florida, as well as private lenders that provide loans for students in all U.S. states.
We look at Florida student loans, where to get them, the best lenders for student loans in the U.S., and the federal loans that are available.
Private Student Loans in Florida
If you’re just looking for private student loan options, we recommend these lenders:
1. Sallie Mae
Why we chose it:
Best for borrowers with cosigners
Since its start in 1972, Sallie Mae has become one of the most recognized private student loan lenders in the US. It has a wide range of loan options for undergraduates, graduates, parents, and those pursuing career training.
Sallie Mae provides up to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance. For borrowers seeking cosigners, Sallie Mae stands out by offering the fastest route to cosigner release.
Their multiyear advantage ensures favorable approval chances for current borrowers who have cosigners. Starting at an interest rate of 4.50%, Sallie Mae’s loan options come with flexible repayment terms, which can extend up to 20 years.
Borrowers can also enjoy a 0.25% interest rate reduction for enrolling in automatic payments. Sallie Mae provides several deferment options, including full deferment, $25 monthly payments, or interest-only payments.
Students are granted a six-month grace period before repayment begins, and for those with cosigners, cosigner release is made available after making 12 payments.
Pros of Sallie Mae
- Multiple deferment options
- Fixed rates start at 4.50%
- Can cover 100% of your school attendance cost
- Part-time students are eligible
Cons of Sallie Mae
- Does not offer student loan refinance
- A strong credit score in the mid-600s
- Employment history
- Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Have a permanent U.S. address
- Have a Social Security Number
- Must have no open bankruptcies
- Deferred repayment – no payments while in school, and during the grace period
- Fixed repayment – $25 payments while in school, and during the grace period
- Interest-only payment while in school, and during the grace period
2. College Ave
Why we chose it: Best overall
College Ave, established in 2014 and headquartered in Washington, is known for its direct and individualized approach, which makes it an appealing choice for borrowers. This lender specializes in providing custom private student loans and refinancing options for undergraduate and graduate students as well as parents.
College Ave offers competitive interest rates, starting as low as 4.44% AOR, and they can cover up to the full cost of attendance certified by your school. The repayment terms are flexible, with options spanning up to 15 years. Borrowers have the choice of full deferment, $25 monthly payments, or interest-only payments.
After making 24 full and consecutive payments, borrowers can request a cosigner release, providing them with increased financial independence and autonomy.
Pros of College Ave:
- Soft credit check
- Fixed rates from 4.44%
- Flexible repayment terms
- Cosigner release policies
Cons of College Ave:
- No information regarding credit requirements on the website
- Should be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Must be at least 16 years old (18 years for refinancing loans)
- Must be attending at least part-time an accredited college or university
- Deferred payments – no payments for up to six months after graduation
- Flat $25 monthly payments during school and up to six months after graduation
- Interest-only payments while in school and up to six months after graduation
- Repay the full amount during school
Why we chose it: Best for international students
MPOWER Financing is based in Washington and offers private student loans to local and international students. Founded in 2014, their loans are popular with students as they don’t require borrowers to have a cosigner or a good credit history.
Another benefit of MPOWER is that borrowers can get a 1.5% interest rate reduction with six automatic on-time payments, proof of graduation, and proof of employment.
MPOWER loans come with fixed APRs starting at 14.75% and loan terms go up to 10 years. The maximum loan amount is $100,000 and there is a 5% origination fee.
Pros of MPOWER
- 0.25% interest rate discounts for enrolling in autopay
- Funds up to 100% of a borrower’s education expenses
- Available to international students
- Doesn’t require a cosigner
- Doesn’t require good credit history
- No prepayment penalty
Cons of MPOWER
- Charges a 5% origination fee
- Only fixed-rate loans are available
- Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, DACA recipient, refugee, or asylum-seeker
- Must be enrolled at an eligible school
- Should be an undergraduate or graduate student
- Be within two years of your graduation date
- Interest-only payments while in school with full payments after a six-month grace period
Why we chose it: Best for borrowers with fair credit
Founded in 2013, Earnest is a leading fintech lender that initially offered student loan refinancing, before expanding its products to include private student loans. One of Earnest’s notable strengths lies in its commitment to transparency regarding loan requirements, ensuring that students can easily determine their eligibility.
Earnest’s loan options feature flexible repayment periods, which can extend up to 15 years. Borrowers have the choice between full deferment, fixed repayments, or interest-only payments, providing them with versatility in managing their finances. The interest rates for their loans start at 4.45% APR, and students can secure loans covering up to 100% of their school-certified cost of attendance.
Although there is a nine-month grace period, Earnest does not offer a cosigner release option, which may be a drawback for some borrowers.
Pros of Earnest:
- Flexible repayment options
- Quick online eligibility check
- No late payment penalties
- Nine-month grace period
- AutoPay discounts
Cons of Earnest:
- No cosigner release policies
- A minimum credit score of 650
- Student or cosigner must earn at least $35,000 per year
- Three years’ worth of credit history
- Full-time enrollment at an accredited college or university
- Deferred payment while in school with a nine-month grace period after graduation
- Interest-only payments while in school with full payments after graduation
- Fixed $25 monthly payments while in school with full payments after graduation
- Full payments while in school
Why we chose it: Best for loans without cosigners
Founded in 2015, Earnest is an online lender that offers private student loans to graduate and undergraduate students. One of the benefits of Ascent’s student loans is that they don’t require a cosigner, making their loans more accessible to borrowers.
Applicants also don’t have to be U.S. citizens, making it an excellent option for international students looking for private student loans at competitive rates.
Ascent student loans have flexible repayment terms of up to 20 years, with fixed APRs starting at 4.62% and a 1% cash-back graduation reward when borrowers meet certain criteria.
Pros of Ascent
- Loans are available with or without a cosigner
- Early co-signer release after 12 consecutive repayments
- Two years of financial hardship forbearance
- International students are eligible
- 1% cash back graduation reward
- No application, origination, or disbursement fees
Cons of Ascent
- No cosigner release available for international students
- Available to U.S. citizens, international students, and other eligible non-citizens
- Must earn at least $24,000 annually
- International students must have a qualified co-signer
- Deferred payment while in school with a nine-month grace period after graduation
- Fixed $25 monthly payments while in school and during the nine-month grace period
- Interest-only payments while in school and during the nine-month grace period
The Cost of Education in Florida
There are 40 colleges and universities in Florida as well as around 30 private schools. Education in Florida is generally cheaper than the national average and here’s what education may cost you based on the National Center for Education Statistics’s 2022 data:
Public four-year, in-state: $15,543 per year, compared to the national average of $21,337.
Private non-profit: Education at private colleges and universities is around $28,860, which is $4,500 less than the national average.
Community college: The average cost of attending a two-year school is $3,501 per year, compared to the national average of $2,506 per year.
Federal Student Loans for Florida Students
The most common and generally recommended option is Federal Student Loans, provided by the U.S. government. The benefits of these loans include lower interest rates and flexible repayment terms. They are also not credit-based, which means you don’t need a strong credit history to qualify.
There are different types of Federal Student Loans:
Direct Subsidized Loans
Direct Subsidized Loans are aimed at undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. The federal government pays the interest while you’re in school at least half-time, during a six-month grace period after you leave school, and during periods of deferment.
Direct Unsubsidized Loans
Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of financial need. Unlike subsidized loans, you’re responsible for paying all the interest that accrues during any period. These loans are generally easier to get but can be more costly due to accumulating interest.
Direct PLUS Loans
Direct PLUS Loans are available for graduate or professional students as well as parents of dependent undergraduate students. They have higher interest rates and require a credit check. You can borrow up to the full cost of your education, minus any other financial aid received. Given their higher costs and credit requirements, these loans are typically recommended only if you’ve exhausted other federal loan options.
Federal Perkins Loans
As of September 2017, the Federal Perkins Loan Program has been discontinued. Previously, it was a need-based loan program for undergraduates and graduate students with exceptionally low incomes. If you have an existing Perkins loan, you can still repay it under the terms you agreed to.
A Direct Consolidation Loan allows you to combine multiple federal student loans into a single loan with a single loan servicer and repayment schedule. This is particularly useful for simplifying your payments, although it may extend your repayment period and slightly increase the amount of interest you’ll pay.
To apply for federal loans, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In my opinion, starting with federal loans is a wise choice because of their favorable terms and protections for borrowers.
Student Loan Alternatives in Florida
If you’re a Florida resident and already have student loans but are looking for alternatives, you can take a look at student loan forgiveness programs.
You can also look at refinancing your student loans and potentially lowering your payments while saving on interest. Check out our guides on student loan refinancing.
Here’s a list of scholarships in Florida along with tips on how to win a scholarship, eligibility requirements, and how to apply.
Does Florida offer student loans?
Florida does not currently offer its own state-based student loan program. Instead, the state provides a range of scholarships and grants which can significantly reduce the amount you may need to borrow. Students can also obtain private student loans to fund their education.
Who qualifies for financial aid in Florida?
Financial aid in Florida is generally available to residents of the state who are attending accredited schools, whether they are public or private institutions. The requirements can vary depending on the specific program. To qualify for most types of financial aid, you will likely need to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), as it is often used to determine eligibility for both federal and state aid.
How do I apply for a student loan in Florida?
To apply for a student loan in Florida, you’ll typically start with the FAFSA. This is the standard application for federal student loans, and it’s often used to determine eligibility for state and institutional aid as well. If you find that federal loans, scholarships, and grants aren’t sufficient, you may then consider private loans from banks or other financial institutions.