Student Loan Comparison Sites
The following student loan comparison sites and directories of education lenders may accept paid placement for their listings. The loans may initially be ranked according to criteria that maximize profit to the directory and not necessarily criteria that minimize cost to the borrower. Some of the least expensive loans may be excluded from such directories because the lenders may be unwilling to pay for placement.
Some of the directories rank loans by the best advertised rates or average rates, as opposed to the actual rates. These comparisons are of limited utility, since few borrowers obtain the best advertised rates. Advertised rates are not necessarily predictive of the actual rates offered to typical users, so the prospective borrower cannot rely on the information provided by the site. You still have to shop around.
Best Student Loan Comparison Sites
The most useful student loan comparison sites need to satisfy the following minimal standards:
To date, none of the loan comparison sites satisfy all of these standards, although all satisfy some of them.
Student Loan Comparison Sites (Live)
The following student loan comparison sites are live and list more than one lender. The student loan marketplaces built by Overture Technologies are listed first because they come closest to satisfying all of FinAid's criteria. The other student loan marketplaces are listed in alphabetical order.
Overture Technologies has built student loan marketplaces that allow borrowers and cosigners to compare private student loans from multiple lenders based on actual personalized rates and terms, not "as low as" teaser rates. Credit reports are pulled only once to minimize the impact on credit scores, and only shared with the lenders selected by the prospective borrower. The loan listings can be sorted by total cost, APR and monthly payment. Overture Technologies operates student loan marketplaces in partnership with several state nonprofit organizations. Overture Technologies also operates a student loan marketplace under its own brand for students in other states, the Overture Student Loan Marketplace. The state student loan marketplaces include:
ElmSelect is a school-specific tool that lists the college's preferred lender list. The loan comparison information does not include repayment examples and is unstructured, without consistent information about all lenders. It also does not adequately distinguish between federal and private loans. ELMSelect is owned by ELM Resources, a not-for-profit mutual benefit company established by federal education lenders, guarantors and servicers.
Graduate Leverage offers a loan comparison tool called Insight that ranks FFELP lenders according to "effective APR", which takes into account the industry-wide or school-specific likelihood of qualifying for a loan discount. They provide comparisons for Stafford, PLUS, consolidation and private student loans. Their undergraduate site is called Collegiate Leverage. For more information, call 1-781-547-4100 (1-888-350-8488 graduate students, 1-877-552-9910 undergraduate students, 1-877-552-9904 financial aid administrators), fax 1-813-249-9039, write to Graduate Leverage, 880 Winter Street, Suite 320, Waltham, MA 02451 or send email to email@example.com.
Greentree Gazette provides a student loan buying guide that provides comparisons for Stafford, PLUS, Consolidation and Private student loans. The interest rates and fees listed are the "lowest possible" taking all possible discounts into account. As such they do not reflect the actual cost experienced by most borrowers.
SimpleTuition offers loan comparison tools for Stafford, PLUS, Consolidation and Private education loans. The private student loans include both school-certified and non-school-certified loans. The results are initially in random order, but with the paid placement lenders ("Simple Tuition Partners") listed first. Prospective borrowers may have to take an action to see an expanded list of lenders or to sort the loans. Ranking by cost is based on best advertised rates, not actual rates. The expanded list of lenders appears to be limited to larger well-known lenders. Most Simple Tuition partners are listed with a logo, bold type, and an Apply button. No contact information is listed for the other lenders. For more information, call 1-617-630-1009, write to SimpleTuition Inc., 255 Washington Street, Newton, MA 02458, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student Lending Analytics provides star ratings for private student loans for undergraduate students. They do not receive any compensation from lenders for the ratings or referrals.
Student Loan Network provides a list of six private student loan programs without any analytical comparison of the loan programs. The comparison chart does not list interest rates side-by-side or provide any kind of feature-by-feature comparison.
TuitionBids is a startup firm that plans on offering a common application form for federal (Stafford and PLUS) and private education loans. Up to 6 lenders will submit bids for the prospective borrower's loans. It bases initial "bids" on the prospective borrower's approximate rating of his/her own credit history, but displays only the best and worst rates. Prospective borrowers can also supply their social security number for more precise bids, where each lender will be pulling a credit report. Bids are not immediate. For more information, call 1-866-289-9566 or 1-201-301-6000, fax 1-201-301-6001, or write to TuitionBids.com, 180 Sylvan Ave, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 07632.
Tuition Management Systems (TMS) BorrowSmart is a tuition payment plan. On their web site they include a school-specific loan comparison tool. The comparison tool displays monthly payments for each lender, but is a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison since it allows each lender to specify a different loan term. TMS is owned by First Marblehead.
The following comparison chart highlights key differences among the various loan comparison tools. Loan comparison sites that are not yet live are listed at the end of the table.
Loan Comparison Sites (Not Yet Live)
The following loan comparison sites are either not yet live or refer borrowers to a single lender.
College Advance LLC is a startup firm that plans on offering a loan comparison tool called Student Loan Scout for private student loans based on actual rates. In effect the prospective borrower will submit a single credit application which will be used to obtain actual interest rate and fee offers from lenders instead of just the advertised best rates. [According to the company web site, launch of Student Loan Scout has be put on hold due to the credit crisis.]
College Loan Market LLC is a startup firm that plans on offering a loan comparison tool for private student loans based on actual rates. In effect the prospective borrower will submit a single credit application which will be used to obtain actual interest rate and fee offers from lenders instead of just the advertised best rates.
eStudentLoan Inc. previously offered a loan comparison tool called LoanFinder that displayed matches with up to a half dozen loan programs. Comparisons were based on the best advertised rates and fees ("as low as"), not actual rates, although one can also look at worst case rates and fees ("up to") by clicking on the lender logo. They are owned by Goal Financial, an education lender. Currently, however, the site refers visitors to a single lender. For more information, send email to email@example.com.
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