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A Guide to Student Loan Interest Rates for the 2021-2022 School Year

June 16, 2021 · 5 minute read

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A Guide to Student Loan Interest Rates for the 2021-2022 School Year

Once a year, usually in June, the government announces interest rates for federal student loans that will be first disbursed after July 1. Whether you’re a freshman or, say, a junior, these rates apply to the loans you get for the academic year that starts in the fall.

For the 2021-2022 academic year, rates are up almost 1%, compared to 2020-2021. Specifically, for Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loans to undergraduates, the rate is 3.73% (up from 2.75%). For Unsubsidized Stafford Loans to graduate or professional students, the rate is 5.28% (up from 4.30%). And for PLUS Loans to parents and graduate or professional students, the rate is 6.28% (up from 5.30%). Perkins Loans are set at 5%.

Federal student loan interest rates are determined differently than private student loan interest rates. Here’s what you should know about federal and private student loan interest rates in 2021.

Federal Student Loan Interest Rates for 2021-2022

As just noted, interest rates on federal student loans for the upcoming academic year are set by the government. By federal law, they’re based on the 10-year Treasury note auction in May. The rates set for the 2021 to 2022 school year are for loans first disbursed from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022.

•  Undergraduate students borrowing Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans that are first disbursed for the 2021-2022 academic year, will pay a 3.73% interest rate for, up from 2.75% in the 2020 – 2021 school year.

•  Graduate or professional students borrowing Direct Unsubsidized Loans that begin for the 2021 – 2021 school year will pay an interest rate of 5.28%, up from 4.30% the previous school year.

•  Parents and graduate or professional students borrowing Direct PLUS Loans will receive a 6.28% interest rate for the 2021 -2022 school year, up from 5.30% the previous school year.

How Federal Student Loan Interest Rates Work

Interest rates on federal student loans are fixed for the life of the loan. That means that if you borrowed a Direct Subsidized Loan for the 2020 – 2021 school year, and your interest rate was 2.75%, that interest rate is locked in at 2.75% for the life of that loan.

But, if you qualify to borrow another Direct Subsidized Loan to pay for the 2021 – 2022 school year, your new loan will be disbursed with the 3.73% interest rate.

Since 2006, interest rates on federal student loans have fluctuated from anywhere between 2.75 to 8.50%, depending on the type of loan.

Difference Between Federal and Private Student Loan Interest Rates

Unlike federal student loans, interest rates for private student loans are set based on economic factors and underwriting unique to each lender that issues them. Lenders typically take into account a borrower’s credit history, earning potential, and other personal financial factors.

If you borrowed a private student loan, you may have applied with a cosigner to secure a more competitive interest rate. That’s likely because most college students don’t have much credit history or employment history, so interest rates on private student loans can be higher than those on federal student loans without a well-qualified cosigner.

While federal student loans have a fixed-interest rate, private student loans can have either a fixed or variable interest rate. Borrowing a variable rate loan means that the interest rate can change periodically.

If you find a lower rate for student loan refinancing –
SoFi will match it AND give you $100.*


How Private Student Loan Interest Rates Work

The frequency of changes in the interest rate will depend on the terms of the loan and on market factors; typically, private lenders adjust the interest on variable-rate loans monthly, quarterly, or annually. Interest rates on private student loans are typically tied to the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) or the 10-year Treasury yield.

So as the LIBOR changes, for example, interest rates on variable-rate student loans can change as well. Typically, lenders will add a margin to the LIBOR, which is determined based on credit score (and, the credit score of your co-signer if applicable).

Generally, the LIBOR tracks the federal funds rate closely. In June 2020, the Federal Reserve announced that it plans to keep the federal funds rate close to zero, likely through 2022.

This means that, so long as the federal funds rate remains low, the interest rates on private student loans are not likely to increase during that time period. However, it’s important to pay attention to interest rates, especially for borrowers with private student loans with a variable-interest rate, since these changes could cause fluctuations to the interest rate of the loan.

And given that LIBOR is scheduled to be discontinued around the end of 2021 , rates could change in other ways as new indices are chosen by lenders.

Lowering the Interest Rate on a Private Variable-Rate Loan

If you have a private variable-rate loan and are worried about interest-rate volatility, there are options available to protect against an interest-rate hike. One option is switching to a fixed-rate loan via student loan refinancing.

When you refinance your student loans, you take out a new loan (typically with a new lender).

The new loan effectively pays off your existing loans, and gives you a new loan with new terms, including a new interest rate. Private lenders, like SoFi, review personal financial factors like your credit and employment history, among other factors, to determine a new interest rate.

If you qualify to refinance, you’re then able to choose between a fixed or variable rate loan, so if you’re worried about rising interest rates in the future, you may have a chance to qualify to lock in a new (hopefully lower) fixed interest rate.

Monthly Payments and Private Loans

You should also have the opportunity to set a new repayment plan, either extending or shortening the term of the loan. If you extend your student loan repayment term, you’ll likely have lower monthly payments, but will pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

Shortening your repayment plan typically has the opposite effect. You may owe more each month, but will most likely spend less on interest over the life of the loan.

To get a general idea of how much refinancing your student loans could impact your repayment, take a look at SoFi’s student loan refinance calculator, where you can compare your current loan to current SoFi refinance student loan rates.

Refinancing Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans can be refinanced, too. Typically, a student wouldn’t do this while still in school, since the government is paying the interest on certain federal loans during this time. Also, federal student loan interest rates are generally lower than rates for private loans disbursed in the same time period.

It should be noted, however, that refinancing a federal student loan with a private lender means you’ll no longer be eligible for federal programs and protections like income-driven repayment, forbearance, or Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

The Takeaway

Interest rates for federal student loans reset every year in June for the upcoming school year. For the 2021-2022 school year, rates are up roughly 1% compared to the previous year, which saw the lowest rates in years.

If you refinance your student loans with SoFi, there are no origination fees or prepayment penalties. The application process can be completed online, and you can find out if you prequalify for a loan, and at what interest rate, in just a few minutes.

Ready to take control of your student loans in 2021 and beyond? See how refinancing with SoFi can help.



*Guaranteed Rate Match Offer: Your pre-qualified rate, and the rate match program itself, are conditional upon our verification of your application information, including verification of sufficient income to support an ability to repay. Eligible documentation of a competitor’s rate offer, issued within 30 days of your SoFi pre-qualified rate, will be determined at SoFi’s sole discretion and must be for the same loan amount and term. SoFi will only match rate offers for private student loan refinance products. The match will be on the rate, exclusive of all discounts. The $100 Rate Match Bonus is not available to residents of Ohio. To receive the $100 Rate Match Bonus, you must: (1) register and/or apply for a student loan refinance (2) provide documentation of an eligible competitive rate offer; (3) call at (855) 456-SOFI (7634) or chat on SoFi.com and follow the instructions to send in your proof of lower rate; (4) have and provide a valid US bank account to receive bonus; (5) complete Form W-9; (6) and meet SoFi’s underwriting criteria and book a student loan refinance with SoFi. Once conditions are met and the loan has been disbursed, you will receive your Rate Match bonus via automated clearing house (ACH) into your checking account within 30 calendar days. Bonuses that are not redeemed within 180 calendar days of the date they were made available to the recipient may be subject to forfeit. Bonus amounts of $600 or greater in a single calendar year may be reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as miscellaneous income to the recipient on Form 1099-MISC in the year received as required by applicable law. Recipient is responsible for any applicable federal, state or local taxes associated with receiving the bonus offer; consult your tax advisor to determine applicable tax consequences. Additional terms and conditions may apply. SoFi may discontinue this program at any time.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF JANUARY 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

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Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

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