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Published: Dec 04, 2023 12 min read

Many families have to turn to private education loans when college scholarships and federal student loans do cover all their bills. Getting a private student loan is typically a straightforward process. Even so, you shouldn't just borrow from the first lender you come across. Considering all of your options for the best student loans will ensure you sign on the dotted line with the right company.

One such lender is Earnest student loans. This review will help you understand the lender’s offerings, advantages and drawbacks to help you make your final decision.

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  • Undergraduate fixed APRs from 4.19%-14.83% (with autopay)1
  • No fees ever
  • Flexible terms and repayment options
  • Students with cosigners are 5x more likely to be approved*

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  • Variable rates 5.37% - 15.70% 
  • Fixed rates 4.25% - 15.49% 
  • Lowest rates shown include 0.25 percentage point interest rate discount with auto debit payments.¹
  • Applying online is easy - you could receive a credit result in about 10 minutes.
  • Multiple repayment options from in-school payments to deferred.¹ No origination fee or prepayment penalty.²
  • Borrow up to 100% of school-certified expenses, whether you're online or on campus.³
  • Last year, students were 4x more likely to be approved with a cosigner.⁴

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  • Submit online application in minutes
  • No application fees, origination fees, and/or prepayment penalty
  • Flexible repayment terms to fit your needs and goals
  • Student Loan Advisor to guide you through the application process

Best private student loans for parents

Earnest is a private student loan lender offering multiple financial products, including student loans and student loan refinancing. It offers student loans for undergraduate and graduate students, but parents, guardians and sponsors can also take out loans.

Because of Earnest’s 100% rate match guarantee, parents who take out private student loans can receive the lowest possible rates.

Earnest student loans pros and cons

Pros
  • No fees at all, including late fees
  • Nine-month grace period
  • Student loan rate match guarantee
Cons
  • Must have a 650 credit score
  • No option for students pursuing an associates degree
  • No cosigner release option

Pros explained

No late fees

Earnest doesn’t charge application or origination fees, or prepayment penalties. But those are fairly standard; the vast majority of student lenders offer the same. What is more unique is that Earnest also does not charge fees for late payments. Plus, it has a unique feature where borrowers can skip a payment once a year with no penalty.

Nine-month grace period

A grace period gives you time to get on your feet financially before beginning loan repayment. Grace periods start once you've graduated, left school or dropped below half-time enrollment. Most student loan providers offer a standard six-month grace period. However, Earnest offers an additional three months for its student loans with its nine-month grace period.

Student loan rate match guarantee

When you apply for a student loan through Earnest and find a lower rate from one of its competitors, you can submit that information to Earnest’s student loan rate match guarantee. That’s a critical advantage, because different lenders have different underwriting models, which means you may qualify for a slightly lower rate with one of Earnest’s competitors. If so, Earnest will match the lower rate you find and give you a $100 Amazon gift card. To be eligible for the Student Loan Origination Rate Match Guarantee, you must meet several requirements, including:

  • Submit a completed student loan application
  • Submit documentation of a competitive rate offer that doesn't include discounts
  • Provide a valid email address

Cons explained

Must have a 650 credit score

To meet eligibility requirements, you must have a credit score of at least 650 and three years of credit history. If you don't have at least a 650 credit score, you can get a cosigned student loan. Earnest will then only take your cosigner's credit score into account. However, your cosigner must also have at least a 650 credit score.

No options for pursuing an associates degree

Earnest only offers loans for students who are pursuing bachelor’s and graduate degrees, and their parents. If you want to borrow for a two-year degree, you’ll have to find another lender. (You should start with the federal government, as federal loans will cover the costs of most two-year programs.)

No cosigner release option

Cosigners take on a lot of risk when they decide to help someone take out student loans. If you have a cosigner and can't pay back your loans, your cosigner will take on the responsibility.

Some lenders provide an option for a cosigner release. When you can demonstrate the capability of paying back your loans without needing a cosigner, the lender can remove the cosigner from the loan agreement, relieving them of responsibility.

Earnest doesn't provide a student loan cosigner release option. The only way to get a cosigner released from the loan is for the borrower to refinance their student loans. If Earnest approves the refinance, it can put the new loan entirely in the student's name.

Earnest student loans offerings

Earnest offers multiple private student loan products. Undergraduate, graduate, MBA, medical, law and international students can all apply for loans through Earnest. Parents can apply for student loans for their children as well. Earnest offers repayment options of 5-, 7-, 10-, 12- and 15-year terms, though not all borrowers are eligible for every term length.

You can apply and upload your documents on your computer or mobile device. Usually, you will hear back about the approval of your loan in as little as one day. Earnest will send the money to your school once you sign.

Earnest services all of its own loans, which means after you take out a loan, attend school, then enter repayment and pay down your debt, you’ll be dealing with Earnest the entire time. (Many other lenders hire a separate company to manage the repayment process.)

Undergraduate loans

Earnest's undergraduate loans can cover any college-certified expenses, including books, laptops, tuition and study abroad costs. The undergraduate loans have several benefits available, including:

  • Multiple in-school repayment options, including a flat $25 per month bill
  • Eligibility check with a soft credit inquiry
  • 0.25% autopay discount
  • No fees, including application fees, late fees or prepayment penalties
  • Ability to skip a payment once a year with no penalty
  • A nine-month grace period
  • 100% rate match guarantee

Graduate student loans

Graduate student loans contain all of the same benefits as undergraduate student loans. But while undergraduate borrowers must be enrolled at least half-time, there is no enrollment requirement for graduate student loans. That means you can borrow through Earnest if you’re completing your graduate degree in a more part-time, piecemeal approach.

MBA student loans

Students pursuing an MBA can apply for a loan through Earnest. These MBA student loans have the same benefits as graduate student loans.

Medical school student loans

For students looking to attend medical school, Earnest can provide funding to qualified applicants. The pricing and terms of these loans are the same as the graduate student loans. Medical residents can defer their loan payments while they’re completing their residency or internship.

Law school student loans

Earnest offers private student loans to law school students. These loans are in line with the graduate student loans package.

Cosigned loans

Applying for student loans with a creditworthy cosigner can help you get a lower interest rate. Earnest says adding a cosigner also makes getting approved five times likelier. Students who don't meet some eligibility requirements, like a minimum credit score of 650, can still get financing with a cosigner.

Parent loans

Parents who want to take out student loans for their children can do so through Earnest. Parents, guardians and sponsors can take out private parent student loans for a prospective student.

International student loans

International students can apply for loans through Earnest. Currently, these loans are available without a cosigner to students getting a master’s of business administration, a master’s in engineering or a law degree. Borrowers must be a citizen of Canada, India, Mexico or South Korea. Earnest plans to expand their international student loans program in the future.

Earnest student loans pricing

Earnest's private student loan terms and rates will vary depending on the type of loan you're applying for and your credit history. Applying with a cosigner can help reduce your rates. Earnest provides both variable and fixed rates for its private student loans, and as mentioned, there are no fees associated with the loans.

As of December 2023, Earnest offers fixed rates ranging from 4.29% to 16.49%. Variable rates range from 5.62% to 16.85% (both excluding any autopay discount).

Earnest student loans financial stability

Founded in 2013, Earnest is a private student loan lender that has worked with 200,000 students and parents. In 2017, Earnest was acquired by student loan giant Navient, and today Earnest is an independent subsidiary of Navient. Earnest itself acquired scholarship application platform Going Merry in 2021, and it recently partnered with Nova Credit to launch its international private student loans.

Earnest student loans accessibility

Earnest is an online lender, so anyone with internet access can apply through its site or mobile app. To determine if you are eligible for private student loans through Earnest, it offers a quick eligibility check that takes two minutes to complete on its site.

Availability

Earnest offers student loans to individuals who meet its eligibility requirements in every state and Washington, D.C., with the exception of Nevada.

Contact information

Earnest provides multiple lines of communication if you need to speak with a representative. You can email the customer service team at hello@earnest.com or call a representative at 1-888-601-2801 between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. PST, Monday through Friday.

If you cannot find answers to your questions in the Help Center section of its website, the Earnest site has a virtual team member help bot. It can help with FAQs or connect you to a customer service representative.

User experience

Online reviews for Earnest are positive. Many satisfied customers cite excellent customer service and an application process that is simple and fast. Unhappy customers noted representatives not following up on their issues and getting denied loans or low rates after a hard credit inquiry.

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Earnest student loans customer satisfaction

Earnest is accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). For responding to customer complaints listed on its site, the BBB gives Earnest an A+ rating. Complaints on the site range from trouble modifying payments to getting denied for a loan after being preapproved.

Customer reviews on the BBB site have averaged 1.67 out of 5 stars, though that’s based on only 15 reviews.

Earnest student loans FAQs

Is Earnest student loans legit?

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Earnest is a legitimate company that offers private student loans to those who qualify. Its site notes it has served over 200,000 clients. In addition to student loans, you can also apply for student loan refinancing opportunities and search for scholarships.

Is Earnest a federal student loan?

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No, Earnest is not a federal student loan. Federal student loans are loans issued by the federal government. Earnest issues private student loans to those who meet its eligibility requirements. It also offers other financial products.

Is Earnest good for student loans?

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Earnest provides private student loans for students in multiple degree programs. It has a rate match guarantee, doesn’t charge any fees on its loans and offers several repayment options, but whether Earnest is a good fit for you depends on your personal needs and financial situation.

Will Earnest student loans be forgiven?

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No, Earnest loans cannot be forgiven. They are private student loans, and forgiveness programs pertain to government-funded loans. Private student loan borrowers can discharge their debt in bankruptcy, though it’s a difficult process.

How we evaluated Earnest student loans

We looked at various aspects of Earnest's student loans to compose this review. Some of the features we took into account include:

  • Offerings: We considered the types of student loans available and what students can get financing.
  • Pricing, fees and discounts: We checked the loan pricing, additional fees and available discounts.
  • Eligibility requirements: We looked into what it takes for an individual to qualify for a student loan.
  • Application process: We considered the complexity and speed.
  • Accessibility: We took into account where the loans are available.
  • Third-party rankings: We checked third-party ranking sites like the BBB to determine the lender's quality.
  • Customer service: We considered the effectiveness of the customer service representatives and how easily you can contact them.
  • Customer reviews: We read online customer reviews to understand how previous customers rated their experiences.

Summary of Money's Earnest student loans review

Earnest offers many student loan products. Some of the lender’s highlights include having no fees at all, a longer-than-normal grace period and a student loan rate match guarantee. But Earnest doesn’t offer cosigner release, and it doesn’t lend to students pursuing associates degrees.

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