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Private student loans

A page within Financial Aid

Students who need additional funds for education, beyond what was awarded on their financial aid offer, might consider a private student loan. These loans are from a lender and are not guaranteed by the federal government. Approval of a private student loan is based on creditworthiness. Most students will require a co-signer.

The student should file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility for federal and state aid before applying for a private student loan.

  • Students may choose any lender for their private student loans. The entire process, from application to disbursement, will generally take three weeks.
  • Applications for student loans will require a loan period. For Fall only, put September through December. For the entire academic year, put September through May. For academic year loans, half will disburse in Fall and the other half will disburse in Spring.
  • Most private student loans require borrowers to apply with a co-signer, who promises to repay the loan if the student borrower fails to do so. There are times that PLUS and Graduate PLUS borrowers will need an endorser, which is much like a co-signer.
  • Only borrow what is needed. Borrowing the maximum amount available can often result in the student receiving a rather large refund after paying their university charges. For assistance with determining a precise amount to borrow, use our "Calculating how much you need to borrow for college" handout. The maximum that can be borrowed is indicated on the student's offer as "Your Other Loan Eligibility".
  • Tutorial Video: Determining How Much to Borrow
  • Tutorial Video: What is "Other Loan Eligibility"

Choosing a lender


FASTChoice is a free tool that provides information about 20+ lenders that UWL students have utilized. Students and their co-signers will find information about the range of interest rates offered, available borrower benefits, and other relevant information for each lender listed. Each lender will have an "apply" button that will take users directly to the application on the lender's website.

The lenders and loan options presented in FASTChoice were selected for the excellent terms and benefits they provide to borrowers. Our institution has worked with these lenders in the past, and previous borrowers had positive experiences working with them. You are free to choose any lender, including those not presented. 


Sparrow allows you to search and compare real, personalized private student loan rates at over 17 lenders through one simple, three-minute application. (Think of Sparrow as an Expedia for private student loans.) Sparrow can help you determine which private student loan best meets your unique financial situation.

Using Sparrow is free and does not impact your credit score.

How does Sparrow work? Watch a video demonstration here.

Helpful Information

Important Information to consider when choosing a private student loan
  1. Private student loans may have a variable interest rate, usually with no cap on how high the interest rate can go.
  2. Interest accrues while the student is in school and during their grace period. 
  3. The loan is in the student's name but usually a co-signer is required. The co-signer bears equal responsibility for loan repayment. 
  4. Not all lenders offer deferment or forbearance options once the loan has entered repayment. 
  5. If a student chooses a private student loan offered by a credit union, they typically must be a member of the credit union to receive this loan. Some credit unions require a small deposit in order to be a member (usually from $5 to $25). 
  6. Contact the lender if there are additional questions. 
Part-time enrollment
  • Most lenders who offer private student loans require the student to be at least half-time (six credits for undergraduate students, five credits for graduate students).
  • Several lenders typically used by UWL students allow students to be less than half-time when applying. Those lenders include Sallie Mae, College Ave., and Altra Federal Credit Union.
Health professions private student loans
  • Certain private student loans are only available to students who have been ADMITTED to an approved allied health program (PT, PA, OT, RT, NMT, NA, Clinical Lab Science).
  • Pre-professional majors do NOT qualify.
  • The UWL Financial Office will not be able to certify a health professions loan for students not admitted to one of these programs.
Minnesota Student Educational Loan FUND (SELF) Program
  • The Minnesota SELF Loan helps students who need assistance in paying for education beyond high school. Loan eligibility is not based on need.
  • To be eligible for the SELF program, a student must be a Minnesota resident who maintains satisfactory academic progress, is enrolled at least half-time in a degree seeking program, and is attending an eligible institution.
  • In addition, the student must have a credit worthy co-signer and not be delinquent or in default on a SELF or other outstanding student loans.
  • Borrowers are required to pay interest quarterly while in school. After graduating or leaving school, the student enters repayment.
  • SELF Loan applicants are required to complete SELF Loan Entrance Loan Counseling.
  • For more information visit the Minnesota Higher Education Coordinating Board (

    Minnesota SELF Loan Annual Loan Limit: 
    Undergraduate $20,000 per grade level 
    Graduate $20,000 per year 
    Minnesota SELF Loan Cumulative Loan Limit: 
    Undergraduate $100,000 
    Graduate $140,000 including undergraduate SELF
Tips for selecting a co-signer (or endorser)

Most private student loans require borrowers to apply with a co-signer, who promises to repay the loan if the student borrower fails to do so. 

  • Select an individual who you are close to and who is also financially stable. Many people will ask their immediate family members. Some people will ask extended family members, close friends, or even trusted colleagues who are supportive of your higher education goals.
  • Review the reasons for needing the loans. Talk with the potential co-signer about academic career plans. Review the cost of attending the chosen academic program and review other sources of financial aid, such as scholarships and grants, as well as sources of cash from savings or from income.
  • Review the loan amount. Does the amount seem too high or too low? Adjust where appropriate, and remember that borrowing less, whenever possible, is always a good decision.
  • Make sure the potential co-signer understands what is expected. Run some numbers to get a feel for what the monthly payments will be. Remember to account for additional borrowing over multiple years.
  • Discuss when payments will start. Many private student loans begin repayment six months after leaving school. Students may wish to contact the co-signer the month prior to when repayment begins to discuss the repayment plan.
  • Complete the loan application together. Co-signers may feel more invested in the process if they participate in the application process online or via phone. Applying at the same time can ensure  information provided directly to the lender are correct.
  • Talk about the potential of a co-signer release, if applicable. Some private student loans offer co-signer release options. For instance, some co-signers may be released from the financial responsibility of a loan if the borrower has successfully completed school and made 12-48 consecutive on-time principal and interest payments. Make certain to confirm the terms and conditions of the release with the lender.