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Student loans in Utah are less prevalent than in any other state in the U.S., according to the Institute for College Access & Success. Only 36% of Class of 2018 graduates had student debt, and they had an average balance of $19,728, compared with the national average student loan balance of $29,200.
Utah students can thank low tuition costs for the lighter debt burden — still, nearly 4 in 10 Utahns need student loans to help cover their costs.
If you’re looking for better rates and terms on your Utah student loans — whether you’ve already borrowed or are considering it — first understand your options and how to compare them. Here are some topics to explore…
For current students:
For borrowers no longer on campus:
How to find student loans in Utah
Like residents of other states, there is access to both federal and private student loans in Utah. But depending on where you attend school, you might even have access to loans directly from your university.
Short-term university loans
The University of Utah, for example, offers short-term tuition loans for the amount of the upcoming semester’s tuition. Since this kind of loan typically requires repayment within months, not years, it’s a good option if you don’t have the money to pay for tuition now but expect to have it soon.
Check with your school about its loan terms. Here are the details of Utah’s student loans, for example:
|University of Utah short-term book and tuition loans|
Federal student loans in Utah
For undergraduates, it makes sense to apply for federal student loans first. Not only do they offer low interest rates, but you also might qualify for direct subsidized loans and get help from the Department of Education with your interest while you’re in school.
Here are your options, as of July 22, 2020:
|Loan Type||Designed For||Requires a Credit Check?||Interest Rates||Loan Fees|
|Direct Subsidized Loans||Undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need||No||2.75%||1.059%|
|Direct Unsubsidized Loans||Undergraduate, graduate and professional students||No||2.75% for undergraduate students, 4.30% for graduate and professional students||1.059%|
|Direct PLUS Loans||Graduate and professional students and parents of undergraduate students||Yes||5.30%||4.236%|
Private student loans in Utah
If federal loans aren’t enough to cover your cost of attendance, private student loans might be worth considering.
One caveat is that private student loans will require a credit check. If you have bad credit, or no credit history at all, you might need to ask a cosigner to help you get approved. Plus, private lenders typically don’t offer benefits similar to those of federal loans, such as income-driven repayment plans or student loan forgiveness.
That said, most private student loan companies offer competitive interest rates and terms. Here are just a few examples:
|Student Loan Company||Variable APRs||Fixed APRs||Origination Fees|
|CommonBond||3.18% – 6.06%||2.99% – 5.99%||None|
|SoFi||1.99% – 6.24%||2.99% – 6.24%||None|
|College Ave||3.64% – 8.99%||3.74% – 8.99%||None|
Compare these and other private student loans to determine if they’re the right choice for you.
‘Complete Student Loans’ in Utah
If you’d like a local option to compare with national lenders, you could also check rates and terms with the banks and credit unions operating in your own backyard. Also, don’t forget about Complete Student Loans, a nonprofit created by the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority.
Like with other private lenders, Complete Student Loans in Utah requires a credit check to gain approval for a student loan. Here are other details of the organization’s loans:
- Fixed rates of 5.50% to 6.75% for undergraduates, 5.75% to 7.00% for graduate students (as of August 10, 2020)
- Repayment terms of 10 and 15-year schedules available
- No application or origination fees
Before you borrow: 3 ways to avoid student loans in Utah
When I graduated from BYU in 2012, I had just $9,133 in student loan debt. While it was more than I wanted, my efforts to curb my dependence on student loans were mostly successful. Here are a few things I did to keep my Utah student loans to a minimum.
1. Stay in the state for college
One of the best ways to limit your student loan borrowing in Utah is to attend an inexpensive college. The good news is every major public college in the state has below-average tuition. In fact, the average in-state rate was $6,790 at last check, far lower than the national average of $9,970, according to ValuePenguin.
Keep in mind, though, that tuition doesn’t represent the full cost of attendance, which can also include expenses such as books and supplies, equipment, rent, groceries, transportation and other related costs.
2. Apply for scholarships and grants
If you’re an incoming freshman, an academic scholarship can go a long way, especially if it’s for multiple years. But don’t give up if you didn’t receive one.
When I transferred from the University of Utah to BYU after my freshman year, I qualified for a two-year, half-tuition academic scholarship. But after two years of good grades, the university upped its offer to a one-year, full-tuition academic scholarship.
Additionally, I found organizations and companies that offer scholarships and applied for as many as I could, getting a few small awards. Then, when I married my wife, we were eligible to apply for Pell Grants.
The point is there are countless opportunities to get money to help pay for college. Do your research and apply for as many as you can, including the Student Loan Hero $5K Scholarship.
3. Get a job
Getting a job can help you pay for a lot of the living expenses Utah student loans might not cover. And if you have a car, you can look for an off-campus job that might pay better.
For example, I found a job about 10 miles away that paid $10 an hour. Over the next few years, that rate went up to $14 an hour, and I was working full time while going to school full time.
Of course, I wouldn’t recommend that kind of schedule to someone who wants to have a social life — but the income helped me eliminate my need for student loans until I married my wife and switched to working part time.
Even a part-time job can help cover costs, so schedule your classes in a way that allows you to work at least a couple of hours a day.
Refinancing student loans in Utah
If you’ve already left school with education debt, it might be worth seeing if you can get a lower interest rate or monthly payment on your Utah student loans. Student loan refinancing companies typically offer both variable and fixed interest rates and can offer different repayment terms to give you some extra flexibility.
You can refinance both undergraduate and graduate student loans, usually at the same rates. But like private in-school student loans, these refinancing loans typically don’t offer access to income-driven repayment plans or student loan forgiveness. In fact, refinancing federal loans would strip them of their government-exclusive protections, so it’s wise to proceed cautiously.
|Before you rush to refinance…|
|Learn about student loan forgiveness programs in Utah. Your profession, employer or loan type could help you qualify for partial or full relief on your federal or private student loans.|
Here are a few student loan refinancing companies and some of the rates and terms they offer:
|Student Loan Company||Variable APRs||Fixed APRs||Minimum Loan Balance||Origination Fees|
|CommonBond||3.18% – 6.06%||2.99% – 5.99%||$5,000||None|
|Earnest||1.99% – 5.64%||2.98% – 5.79%||$5,000||None|
|SoFi||1.99% – 6.24%||2.99% – 6.24%||$5,000||None|
|Complete Student Loans in Utah||n/a||4.84% to 6.99% (As of July 22, 2020)||$10,000||None|
|Rates include 0.25% autopay discount|
Be sure to shop around and compare several private student loan companies to find the one that works best for your needs.
Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.
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