What’s the Average Student Loan Interest Rate?

By Ashley Kilroy · May 20, 2022 · 7 minute read

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What’s the Average Student Loan Interest Rate?

With college tuition on the rise, students may take out student loans as they pursue their education. Student loans come with interest and sometimes other loan fees. As you repay student loans, that interest can add up.

While there are options like scholarships, grants, and work-study, sometimes student loans can be necessary to help students fill the gaps as they finance their education. Before borrowing student loans, it’s important to understand how they work, what the average student loan interest rates are like, and how interest rates impact your loan.

What Is The Average Student Loan Interest Rate?

So, what is the average student loans interest rate?

The interest rate on a student loan varies based on the type of student loan. Federal student loans have a fixed interest rate, meaning it is set for the life of the loan.

For the 2022-2023 school year, the interest rate on Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized loans for undergraduates is 4.99%, the rate on Direct Unsubsidized loans for graduate and professional students is 6.54%, and the rate on Direct PLUS loans for graduate students, professional students, and parents is 7.54%. The interest rates on federal student loans are fixed and are set annually by Congress.

Private student loan interest rates vary by lender and each has its own criteria for which rates you qualify for. Private lenders also may offer different interest rates if you have a cosigner on your student loan. Private student loans also may offer variable interest rates, meaning they can start lower than a fixed interest rate but then go up over time, based on market changes.

The interest rates on private student loans can vary anywhere from 1% to 13%, depending on the lender, the type of loan, and on individual financial factors including the borrower’s credit history.

Recommended: Types of Federal Student Loans

Average Interest Rate for All Federal Student Loans
Source: Studentaid.gov

How Are Interest Rates Determined?

As mentioned previously, the interest rates on federal student loans are set annually by Congress. The rates are tied to the financial markets—Congress sets them based on the 10-year Treasury note. Since 2006, all federal student loans have fixed interest rates. Although federal student loans are serviced by private lenders selected by the federal government, the private lender has no say in the interest rate offered.

For private student loans, the lenders set their own rates, though they often take cues from federal rates. Each lender has their own algorithm and credit standards. The rates quoted for student loans vary based on each applicant’s individual situation—though generally the better a potential borrower’s financial history is, the better rate they may be able to qualify for. When considering a private student loan, shop around with a few different lenders to find the best rate and terms for your personal needs.

To learn more about private and federal student loans check out our student loan help center.

How Is Student Loan Interest Calculated?

The interest on federal student loans accrues daily. To calculate the interest as it accrue, the following formula can be used.

Interest amount = (outstanding principal student loan balance × interest rate factor) × days since last payment

In other words, you will multiply your outstanding loan balance by the interest rate factor. Then, multiply that result by the days since you last made a payment.

To calculate that interest rate factor you can divide the interest rate by the number of days of the year (365).
For example, let’s say you have an outstanding student loan balance of $10,000, an interest rate of 3.73%, and it’s been 30 days since your last payment. Here’s how to calculate your interest:

$10,000 x (3.73%/365)=1.02
1.02 x 30 days=$20.66

Interest amount $20.66

Many private student loans will also accrue interest on a daily basis, however, the terms will ultimately be determined by the lender. Review the lending agreement to confirm.

What to Look for in a Student Loan Interest Rate

When you take out a federal student loan, you’ll receive a fixed interest rate. This means that you’ll pay a set amount for the term of the student loan. In addition, all of the terms, conditions, and benefits are determined by the government. And, federal student loans provide some additional perks that you may not find with private lenders like income-driven repayment plans.

On the other hand, private loans tend to have higher interest rates since the lender sets them. Private lenders review your credit score, income, and other factors to determine the rate you receive. This way, they can ensure you’re financially stable and can repay your loan before loaning you the funds.

Because of the higher interest rates and potentially fewer perks, you should first take advantage of all federal student loans you qualify for before comparing private loan options.

Federal Student Loan Rates by Borrower Type
Source: Studentaid.gov

Average Interest Rates for Student Loans FAQ

Here are some common questions about the average interest rates of student loans.

What Is a Good Fixed Interest Rate for Student Loans?

When it comes to cost, the lower the interest rate, the better. The lower the interest rate, the less a borrower will owe over the life of the loan, which could help individuals as they work on other financial goals. If you’re taking out federal loans, the student loan interest rate is set by federal law, so you don’t have a choice for what is and isn’t a reasonable interest rate.

When it comes to private student loans, it’s wise to shop around and compare your options to find the most suitable financing solution. Since every lender offers different terms, rates, and fees, getting quotes from multiple lenders may help you select the best option for your personal needs. But, keep in mind, private student loans do not have the same borrower protections as federal student loans, including income-driven repayment plans or deferment options, and should be considered only after all federal aid options have been exhausted.

Is 30k In Student Loans Bad?

If you owe $30,000 in student debt, you’re right in line with the outstanding balance of most borrowers. Roughly 42.9 million Americans have federal student loan debt, and each owes about $36,406.

Is a 4.75% Interest Rate Good?

With interest rates on private student loans ranging anywhere between 1% and 13%, a 4.75% interest rate is not too bad. But, when it comes to federal average student loan interest rates, you can expect to pay more than 4% for undergraduate direct subsidized loans and direct unsubsidized loans.

How Can I Reduce the Interest Rates on my Student Loans?

The interest rate on federal student loans, while fixed annually for the life of the loan, does fluctuate over time. For example, for the 2021-2022 school year, Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans for undergraduates increased to 3.73% from 2.75% for the 2020-2021 school year.

To adjust the rate on an existing student loan, borrowers generally have two options. They can refinance or consolidate the loans with hopes of qualifying a lower interest rate.

Refinancing a federal loan with a private lender eliminates them from federal borrower protections such as income-driven repayment plans or Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The federal government does offer a Direct Consolidation loan, that allows borrowers to consolidate their federal loans into a single loan. This will maintain the federal borrower protections but won’t necessarily lower the interest rate. When federal loans are consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan, the new interest rate is a weighted average of your original federal student loans’ rates.

Refinancing student loans with a private lender may allow qualifying borrowers to secure a lower interest rate or preferable loan terms. Note that extending the repayment term will generally result in an increased cost over the life of the loan.

To see how refinancing could work for your student loans, take a look at the student loan refinance calculator.

The Takeaway

The average student loan interest rate varies depending on the type of loan. The interest rate for federal Direct Unsubsidized and Subsidized loans is set annually by Congress and fixed for the life of the loan. The interest rate on private student loans is determined by a variety of factors including the borrower’s credit history and may range anywhere from 1% to up to 13%.

Refinancing with a private lender may allow borrowers to qualify for a lower interest rate, which could help them save money over the life of the loan. Remember that choosing to refinance with a private lender means the borrower will lose the protections of a federal loan (such as Income Based Repayment, Income Contingent Repayment, or PAYE), but if you don’t think you will use those programs, refinancing may be an option to consider.

There are absolutely no fees when refinancing with SoFi. See your interest rate in just a few minutes—with no pressure to sign up.

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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended beyond December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since the amount or portion of your federal student debt that you refinance will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave unrefinanced the amount you expect to be forgiven to receive your federal benefit.

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.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
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