Ways to Avoid Student Loan Fees

By Kayla McCormack · July 20, 2023 · 11 minute read

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Ways to Avoid Student Loan Fees

Many students rely on student loans to help them pay for college. In addition to charging interest, student loans may also have additional fees associated with them. Fees charged may include origination fees — a fee charged by the lender for processing the loan — or late payment fees.

When students sign up for loans or are in the midst of repayment, they may not even be aware of fees that accompany many private and federal student loans. But by learning about these fees, they can better prepare themselves financially and avoid headaches.

What Are Student Loan Fees?

As briefly mentioned, student loan fees are charged to borrowers and are not the same as the interest rate. Interest rates on student loans are fixed or variable, and will increase the cost of the loan over time.

Student loan fees may include:

•   Origination fees

•   Late payment fees

•   Returned-check fees (aka insufficient-funds or non-sufficient-funds fees)

•   Loan collection fees

•   Forbearance and deferment fees

Can a Student Loan Fee Be Waived?

For the most part, student loan fees cannot be waived. In some instances, lenders may be willing to waive late payment fees for borrowers who have not previously made a late payment. Fees and policies may vary by loan type and lender, so contact your lender with specific questions. Continue reading for an explanation of different types of fees that may be associated with a student loan.

Origination Fees

Origination fees cover the cost of processing the loan. They are typically a small percentage of the loan amount.

What Is an Origination Fee on a Student Loan?

An origination fee on a student loan functions similarly to origination fees on other types of loans. Origination fees are generally charged as a percentage of the loan.

How Are Student Loan Origination Fees Assessed?

Student loan origination fees are charged as a percentage of the loan amount. Federal student loans do have an origination fee, and the information will be included in the master promissory note. For federal student loans, the origination fee is deducted from the amount borrowed, so when you receive the loan it will actually be for less than the amount you borrowed.

Private student loans may or may not charge an origination fee, the policy will depend on the lender.

How Much Are Student Loan Origination Fee?

For federal student loans, the origination fee (also known as disbursement fee) is dependent on the loan type. Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans disbursed between October 1, 2020 and October 1, 2024 have a 1.057% origination fee. During the same timeframe, Direct PLUS Loans have a ​​4.228% origination fee. Direct Unsubsidized and Subsidized Loans are types of student loans for undergraduate programs. Unsubsidized loans and Direct PLUS Loans are student loans for graduate programs.

The origination fee on private student loans will vary based on the lender, and not all private lenders charge an origination fee. Review the terms and conditions closely and contact your lender with any questions.

Late Payment Fees

Making a loan payment past the due date for a federal student loan can result in a late fee. After 30 days, the late fee may be up to 6% of the loan amount due. Review your Master Promissory Note or contact your loan servicer with questions.

The late fee for a private student loan depends on the lender and loan program. Some private student loan lenders do not charge late fees.

Returned-Check Fees

If a borrower pays using a check that bounces, the student loan servicer could charge a returned-check fee.

Loan Collection Fees

If a borrower defaults on a loan by not making payments for a certain amount of time (270 days for most federal student loans), the loan may be placed with a collection agency and be subject to loan collection fees. Any fees incurred will be in addition to the outstanding principal balance, interest, and fees.

Private student loan companies may charge even higher loan collection fees. Generally private student loans also enter default sooner than federal student loans. The default period is described in the loan contract.

Forbearance and Deferment Fees

Borrowers who cannot make payments temporarily can request student loan forbearance or deferment. Typically, loan holders can avoid a fee, but they will need to contact their loan provider.

Forbearance and deferment are available for most federal student loans. Private lenders are not obligated to offer either program, but may offer some forms of deferment. If you are struggling to make payments on a private student loan, contact your lender to evaluate the options available to you.

Federal Student Loan Fees

When students want to apply for a loan, they can do it through the federal government or a private company, depending on their circumstances. The loan providers charge different types of fees.

Students will pay an origination fee for a federal student loan. As mentioned previously, for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, the fee is about 1.057% of the loan amount. For Direct PLUS Loans (including Grad PLUS and Parent PLUS Loans), the fee is about 4.228% of the loan amount.

A late payment fee will typically be charged within 30 days after the payment is due. The late fee could be up to 6%. At that rate, if your monthly minimum payment is $250, your fee would be $15.

Private Student Loan Fees

Loans for students from private lenders may not charge origination fees, though there may be an origination fee for a specialty loan, like a loan for medical school.

Some lenders charge late fees — generally a percentage of the late payment amount or a flat fee. They also typically charge for returned checks.

Additionally, most private student loan companies charge a fee for forbearance, a flat fee determined by the lender.

Collection fees will vary from lender to lender. If there is a collection fee on a private student loan, it will typically be included in your loan agreement.

A lender like SoFi® has staked its reputation on no fees: no late fees, insufficient-funds fees, or origination fees for private student loans.

Avoiding Student Loan Fees

If students need to take out private or federal student loans, they can at least avoid some of the fees.

Federal student loan origination fees are pretty unavoidable. With other loans, even if a student can persuade a company to take off the origination fee, that could mean a higher interest rate, which is usually not worth it.

Paying on time is always recommended, not only to avoid late fees but to keep a credit report healthy. To avoid late fees, returned-check fees, and collection fees, borrowers can set up automated payments from a bank account. Otherwise, they can set up reminders on their phones and calendars that go off when their payments are about to come due.

In terms of deferment fees, borrowers having trouble making payments on time can call their student loan servicer and ask for extensions or other options so that they don’t go into default.

Going into default can cause a credit score to drop significantly and hurt the chances of getting a mortgage, other loan, or credit card in the future. (Student loan deferment or forbearance do not hurt an overall credit score.)

Students shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to their loan servicer as soon as they can’t make a payment.

Plenty of borrowers end up in a tough spot financially and need a little help. Even if borrowers have to pay more interest over time by extending the loan term, that is almost always better than defaulting.

Some student loan companies don’t charge fees. Signing up for a loan with one of these companies could put money back into your pocket that could go toward repaying the loan.

Fee-Free Student Loans

Undergraduate and graduate school loans. Law school and MBA loans. Parent loans. SoFi offers all of those private student loans with no fees — no origination fees, returned-check fees, or late fees.

A loan comes with a fixed or variable rate and a flexible term. And there is no prepayment penalty.

As a bonus, SoFi members can access perks like financial advice, career coaching, and Edmit Plus, a tool that helps estimate financial aid, compare cost of attendance, and highlight merit aid and scholarships available.

Paying for College

Paying for college may require a combination of resources. One of the first places for students to start their financial aid journey is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) every year. This application allows students to find out if they are eligible for federal financial aid, including federal private loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study.

When comparing your options, it’s important to understand the difference between grants vs. scholarships vs. student loans from a private lender. Continue reading for information on these three categories of aid and additional strategies for paying for college in addition to federal student loans.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans, as mentioned, are offered by private lenders such as banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. To apply, potential borrowers will need to file applications with individual lenders.The interest rate and loan terms are generally determined based on the applicant’s personal information such as their income and credit score, among other factors. It’s generally worth shopping around to find the best rate and loan terms for your personal situation.

Private student loans can be helpful tools to pay for college. However, when comparing private student loans vs. federal student loans, it’s important to note that private student loans lack the borrower protections afforded to federal student loans – things like income-driven repayment plans or deferment options. For this reason they are generally considered an option after all other financial resources have been depleted.

Credit Card

It can be possible to pay for college tuition using a credit card. While schools may accept payment by credit card, there is generally a fee associated. This fee can be between 2.5% to 3% depending on the school, which likely offsets the rewards you may be earning on your credit card.

Credit cards could be helpful for students while they are paying for other college related expenses, like textbooks, food, or other living expenses. Credit cards, when used responsibly, can be tools to help individuals build or establish their credit history. If you plan on using a credit card to pay for expenses, aim to pay off the card each month to avoid accruing interest. Credit card interest rates can be very high — the average interest rate for new credit cards was 22.45% as of July 2023, according to WalletHub.

Personal Savings

Some students may have the money saved to go to college, or someone in their family might be able to finance their education. For instance, perhaps their parents or grandparents opened a 529 savings plan for them when they were younger and funded it with money to put toward college.


Grants are a type of funding for school that typically don’t need to be repaid. Grants are generally awarded based on financial need and can be found from sources such as the federal or local government, college, or even nonprofit organizations.

Each grant application may have different application and eligibility requirements so be sure to read the instructions closely.


Scholarships are another type of aid that recipients are not required to repay. Often, they are awarded based on merit though can be awarded based on other criteria as well.

Students can look for scholarships in a variety of places, schools, nonprofit and community organizations, companies, and more all offer scholarships.

Take a look at your school’s financial aid website to see what scholarships are available at your school. There are also online databases like Scholarships.com that aggregate information on available scholarships, including basic eligibility criteria. Some scholarships can be quite competitive, so it may be worth applying to a variety of scholarships.

The Takeaway

Student loan fees like an origination fee or late payment fees can increase the total cost of borrowing the loan. The types of fees on student loans will vary based on the loan type. For example, federal student loans do charge an origination fee which varies based on the type of federal loan and there are late payment fees associated with payments that are 30 or more days late.

Private loans may or may not have an origination fee or late payment penalties. The policies will vary by lender. If you’re interested in a private student loan, be sure to shop around and compare fees in addition to interest rate and loan terms to fully understand the cost of the loan.

Private student loans with SoFi have no fees, including no origination fees or late payment penalties. Qualifying borrowers can secure a competitive interest rate and SoFi members are eligible for other benefits like career coaching and member events.

Check your rate on a SoFi private student loan in a few clicks.


How much is the origination fee for student loans?

The origination fee on a student loan will likely vary depending on the loan type and lender. For federal student loans, the origination fee from October 1, 2020 through October 1, 2024 is 1.057% for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans and ​​4.228% for Direct PLUS Loans.

The origination fee on a private student loan will vary by lender.

Do unsubsidized student loans have an origination fee?

Yes, unsubsidized loans through the federal government’s Direct Loan Program do have an origination fee of 1.057% for loans disbursed between October 1, 2020 and October 1, 2024.

Can a student loan origination fee be waived?

Federal student loans have an origination fee and it’s unlikely to have this fee waived. Some private student loans may not charge an origination fee and lenders that do may be willing to negotiate with borrowers.

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