Where to Find California Student Loan Refinancing Programs

The Institute For College Access and Success found that less than half of California students (47%) who graduated in 2019 had student debt. The average debt load for these students was $21,485, which ranked fourth-lowest in the country.

Although these student loan averages are encouraging, they aren’t representative of every California student’s experience. For example, if you’re pursuing a graduate degree or are enrolled in a private California university, your tuition costs (and student loan needs) might be higher than average.

If high education costs have caused you to hit your federal student loan limits, you might’ve turned to private student loans for help. Private lenders can also help you refinance your existing student loans. Below is a breakdown of the best California student loan refinancing programs and private student loan options.

California Student Loan Refinancing Programs

Where to find California student loan refinancing programs

It’s important to point out that refinancing federal student loans carries more risk than private student loan refinancing. After you refinance federal student loans, they’re no longer eligible for federal benefits.

This means that you won’t have the option to join an Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan after refinancing your federal loans. You also can’t pursue federal forgiveness programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or Teacher Loan forgiveness.

If you weren’t planning to take advantage of any of these programs, refinancing could be a smart financial move. Since private loans don’t qualify for federal benefits anyway, it nearly always makes sense to refinance them if you can lower your rate or improve your terms.

Here are a few options to refinance student loans in California, from community banks and credit unions, to national refinance lenders.

Community banks and credit unions

There are a number of regional banks and credit unions that exclusively serve residents of California and/or surrounding states. Some of these lenders offer student loan refinancing products.

One benefit of using a community lender is that you might have a local branch near you. If you prefer to work with a banker face-to-face, local banks can be a great option. Here are two places to find local California student loan refinancing programs.

First Republic

First Republic is unique in that it doesn’t offer traditional student loan refinance loans. Instead, it offers a personal line of credit that can be used to refinance your existing student loans. The funds can also be used for other purposes, such as buying a car or paying for home repairs.

Here are the key details of the First Republic personal line of credit:

  • Rate type: Fixed
  • Interest rates: 2.25% to 3.50%
  • Terms: 7, 10 and 15 years
  • Loan amounts: $60,000–$350,000
  • Origination fee: None
  • Prepayment penalty: None

With the First Republic line of credit, you can draw against your credit line for up to two years. And you can also choose to make interest-only payments during that two-year draw period.

To qualify for a First Republic line of credit, you’ll need to live near one of its local offices. Currently, it has locations in the following cities:

  • San Francisco
  • Palo Alto
  • Los Angeles
  • Santa Barbara
  • Newport Beach
  • San Diego
  • Portland (Oregon)
  • Jackson (Wyoming)
  • Boston
  • Palm Beach (Florida)
  • Greenwich or New York City

Student Loan Planner readers who refinance with First Republic can also earn a $300 referral bonus.

Related: Learn more about First Republic in our full review.


Small banks and credit unions often don’t have the manpower or technical know-how to create online applications that can rival large banks and lenders. That’s why many of these smaller financial institutions partner with LendKey to offer student loan refinancing.

As not-for-profit institutions owned by their members, some credit unions offer California residents lower rates on student loan refinancing than national banks or online lenders.

If you’re a member of a credit union in California (or are eligible to join one), consider checking to see if it’s a LendKey partner. Here are two examples of California credit unions that offer student loan refinancing through LendKey:

  • California Credit Union: Refinance up to $175,000 with rates as low as 4.34% APR
  • Financial Partners Credit Union: Refinance up to $175,000 with rates as low as 1.97% APR

Regardless of the credit union that you choose, you’ll start the loan process with the same streamlined application on LendKey’s site. You also won’t pay origination fees, and can check your prequalified rates without impacting your credit.

Check your LendKey rate through Student Loan Planner to get up to a $750 bonus.

National lenders

Community banks and credit unions can provide a strong personal touch and offer competitive rates, but they won’t always be the best choice.

In some cases, you might still be better off refinancing with one of the top national student loan refinancing companies. Here are a few of Student Loan Planner’s favorite refinancing lenders that lend to California residents:

  • Earnest. Earnest is a great choice if you’re looking for flexible repayment options. Get up to a $500 bonus when you refinance with Earnest through Student Loan Planner.
  • Laurel Road. Laurel Road is an especially strong option for medical professionals. It offers residency and fellowship refinancing and an extra 0.25% rate discount for certain professions. Get up to a $750 bonus when you refinance your student loans with Laurel Road.
  • Education Loan Finance (ELFI). If you value strong customer service, consider getting a quote from ELFI. Also, get up to a $775 bonus when you refinance with ELFI.
  • CommonBond. CommonBond is a must-check if you have Parent PLUS loans or you have a six-figure loan balance. Get up to a $550 bonus when you use our CommonBond refinancing offer.

Interest rates are obviously an important factor when comparing refinancing companies. But other factors to consider include terms, borrowing limits, payment flexibility and customer service.

Related: Survey: Borrowers Compare Student Loan Refinancing Companies

Where to find private student loans for California residents

It’s more difficult to find local banks and credit unions that offer private student loans to Californians. But there are many national lenders that will lend to eligible students in any state.

Some graduate students may qualify for a private student loan on their own. But the vast majority of undergraduate students will need a creditworthy cosigner to join them on the loan application.

Students should exhaust their federal loan options before turning to private student loans. If you’ve reached your federal loan limits and still need money for education costs, here are a few private loan lenders worth considering.

Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae is a private student loan lender that owns 1.4% of today’s outstanding student loans. Here are the details of their undergraduate loan program:

  • Rate type: Variable or fixed
  • Interest rates: 1.25% to 12.35%
  • Terms: 5-15 years
  • Loan amounts: Up to the full cost of attendance
  • Origination fee: None
  • Prepayment penalty: None

In addition to its undergraduate loans, Sallie Mae also offers parent loans and a wide variety of graduate loans. Their in-school payment options include interest-only payments, $25 flat monthly payments or full deferment.

Sallie Mae private loan borrowers can lower their interest by 0.25% by signing up for auto-debit. And they can apply to have a cosigner released after 12 on-time principal and interest payments.

Related: Learn more about Sallie Mae in our review.


One of the key features that sets Earnest apart from other lenders is its “Precision Pricing.” Instead of forcing borrowers to choose from a few repayment terms, Earned offers over 180 options from five to 20 years (in one to three month intervals).

Here are the key details of their private loans:

  • Rate type: Variable or fixed
  • Interest rates: Starting at 1.24% (variable rate) or 3.49% (fixed rate)
  • Terms: 5-20 years
  • Loan amounts: Up to the full cost of attendance
  • Origination fee: None
  • Prepayment penalty: None

Other benefits of Earnest student loans include a nine-month grace period, a 0.25% autopay discount and the option to skip a payment once per year. It also offers a variety of in-school repayment plans. However, it should be noted that Earnest doesn’t currently offer a cosigner release option for private student loans.

Related: Earnest Private Student Loan Review


If you’re looking to take out a private student loan without a cosigner, Ascent could be a strong choice. It offers three types of undergraduate loans, two of which are non-cosigned. These are:

  • Cosigned Credit-Based Loan
  • Non-Cosigned Credit-Based Loan
  • Non-Cosigned Future Income-Based Loan (for eligible juniors and seniors)

To qualify for one of the first two loan options, you (or your cosigner) need to meet Ascent’s credit score requirements. But you might qualify for the future income-based loan without any credit score whatsoever.

Ascent also offers custom repayment terms for graduate students who are enrolled in the following programs:

  • Business School (MBA)
  • Dental School (DMD, DDS)
  • Law School (JD, LLM)
  • Medical School (MD, DO, DVM, VMD, DPM)
  • General Graduate School (Health Professionals, Nursing, Pharmacy, MA, MS, PhD), etc.)

Here are some of the key details that apply to all of their loans:

  • Rate type: Variable or fixed
  • Interest rates: 2.69% to 14.50%
  • Terms: 5, 7, 10, 12, 15 or 20 years
  • Loan amounts: Up to the full cost of attendance
  • Origination fee: None
  • Prepayment penalty: None

Ascent offers borrowers flexible in-school payment options and automatic payment discounts of 0.25% to 2.00%. Also, after you’ve made at least 24 consecutive payments, you can apply to have a cosigner released

Related: Check out our full review of Ascent student loans.


Like LendKey, Credible is a lender marketplace that can save you time on shopping for rates. With Credible, you fill out just one loan application that’s sent to all of its lending partners. In minutes, you’ll have multiple quotes to compare from local and national lenders.

Once you’ve received your rate quotes, dig deeper into each lender’s details. For a full comparison of the top private lenders, consider reading our guide to the best private student loan companies.

How to reduce student loans for California residents

There are several options available to California students who want to minimize their student loan borrowing. First, you can search for area-based scholarships on scholarship search sites. You can also apply for a California grant program such as:

If you already have California student loans, know that you might qualify for state-specific forgiveness programs. Check out our guide to California student loan forgiveness to learn more about your options.

Refinance student loans, get a bonus in 2020

1For Commonbond, if you refinance loans above $100,000 through our site, $500 of the $1,050 cash bonus comes directly from Student Loan Planner. To claim this reward, you need to send an email to rewards AT studentloanplanner DOT com, and we will send you a $500 cash bonus within 30 days of the end of the month that we are able to confirm your loan disbursed and was refinanced through our site.

Not sure what to do with your student loans?

Take our 11 question quiz to get a personalized recommendation of whether you should pursue PSLF, IDR forgiveness, or refinancing (including the one lender we think could give you the best rate).

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