Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience, but it often comes with a hefty price tag. International students may find themselves exploring various funding options to finance their education. One such option is international student loans. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the world of international student loans, from understanding the types and eligibility criteria to navigating the best private loan providers and alternative funding options.

In this article:

  • Why understanding international student loans is essential for financing an education abroad.
  • Private student loan options vary and may require a creditworthy cosigner, enrollment in an eligible program and satisfactory credit history to be approved.
  • Tips for successful management include creating a budget, exploring refinancing options and maintaining good credit.

Types of international student loans

There are two main types of student loans: federal and private student loans. Federal loans typically require permanent residency status, making them inaccessible to international students. This leaves private student loans as the primary option for international students. Private loans are offered by banks and other lending institutions.

Selecting a private student loan isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. It’s crucial to consider factors such as the interest rate, repayment terms, fees and other factors when comparing loan options. By carefully evaluating these aspects, you can choose a loan that best fits your financial needs and long-term goals.

Eligibility criteria for private international student loans

International student loans often require a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosigner, enrollment in a qualified program and a satisfactory credit history. This means that finding a suitable cosigner can be crucial for international students, as it can improve the chances of loan approval and securing better loan terms.

There are also lenders like MPOWER Financing, that do not require a cosigner for international student loans.

The specific eligibility criteria for private student loans may vary between private loan lenders and depend on factors such as:

  • Credit history.
  • Course of study.
  • Future earning capacity. 

It’s important to research different lenders and their requirements to ensure you meet the criteria and maximize your chances of securing the best international student loan for your unique situation.

It is possible to check your eligibility across multiple lenders in one place: the international student loan comparison tool.

Finding private student loans for international students

This can be a complex and overwhelming process with numerous lenders offering a variety of loan products. It’s easy to feel lost in a sea of options. The key is to approach this with a clear understanding of your financial needs and goals when comparing lenders.

Key factors to consider in choosing an international student loan

When comparing private student loans, there are several key factors to consider: 

  • Interest rates and fees.
  • Loan terms.
  • Repayment options.
  • Lender reputation. 

It’s essential to weigh these factors against your personal financial situation and long-term goals. For example, if you prioritize lower monthly payments, you may want to opt for a loan with a longer repayment term. However, if minimizing overall cost is your primary concern, you may prefer a loan with a shorter term.

Finding a cosigner, if one is required

A cosigner is an individual who is willing to accept responsibility for the loan in the event that the primary borrower is unable to fulfill their repayment obligations. As mentioned, some private lenders require cosigners. For international students, finding a cosigner with a solid credit record can improve the probability of loan acceptance and secure more advantageous loan provisions.

This is particularly important, as many private student loans for international students require a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosigner. Having a reliable cosigner can improve your chance of loan approval and help you to potentially secure better interest rates and loan terms.

Top private student loan providers for international students

Now that you have a better understanding of international student loans and the factors to consider, it’s time to explore some of the top private student loan providers for international students. MPOWER Financing, Prodigy Finance, Earnest and Sallie Mae are among the leading providers in the market, each with unique features and requirements.

By familiarizing yourself with these providers, you can gain valuable insight into the various loan products available and make an informed decision based on your financial needs and educational goals. 

MPOWER Financing

MPOWER Financing is a private student loan provider specifically designed for international students and offers loans without the need for a cosigner, collateral or credit history. 

MPOWER assesses applicants using an array of criteria. These may include:

  • School attended.
  • Intended graduation date.
  • Grade point average. 
  • Applicable work or internship experience in your intended profession.
  • Future earning potential based on industry salary data.

MPOWER Financing loans can be managed online, and there are no prepayment penalties. Founded by international students, MPOWER provides various flexible repayment options for student loan borrowers and a 0.25% reduction on your interest rate if you set up automatic payments from your bank account. Interest-only loan payments are available while in school and during the six-month grace period post graduation.

Prodigy Finance

Prodigy Finance is another private student loan provider that caters to international students and offers loans without the need for a cosigner or collateral. Instead of relying solely on credit history, Prodigy Finance, like MPOWER, assesses applicants based on their career trajectory and earning potential. This approach allows them to provide loans to students who may not qualify for traditional loans due to a lack of credit history or cosigner.

Prodigy Finance offers flexible repayment terms ranging from seven to 20 years, with a six-month grace period. Additionally, there are no penalties associated with paying off loans ahead of schedule. However, it’s essential to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of Prodigy Finance loans, such as high and variable interest rates, administrative fees and limited eligibility.


Earnest is an online lender offering private student loans and refinancing options for both U.S. and international students intending to study in the country. They provide flexible private loans for college with competitive interest rates, no fees and a longer-than-average repayment period. However, to be eligible for Earnest’s private student loans, international students must have a cosigner, a U.S. address and a Social Security number.

Earnest offers flexible repayment options, including the ability to make interest-only payments, skip payments and adjust the repayment term. They also offer a 0.25% reduction on your interest rate if you set up autopay. This can make loan management more streamlined, reducing the cost of borrowing, including origination fees.

Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae is a well-known private student loan provider offering loans for international students with an approved cosigner. Sallie Mae provides various repayment options, such as deferred payments or fixed monthly payments and the potential for cosigner release after 12 consecutive on-time payments.

The repayment options for Sallie Mae loans range from 10 to 20 years, and, while the repayment terms may not be as accommodating as those of other lenders, a few options are available for borrowers to explore. By considering Sallie Mae as a potential loan provider, international students can gain access to valuable financial resources to help fund their education.

Alternative funding options for international students

While private student loans can be a valuable resource for international students, students will likely also need additional funding sources such as scholarships, grants and employment. 

By considering these additional funding options, you can potentially reduce your reliance on loans, minimize your debt and create a more financially stable future for yourself. So let’s take a closer look at some of these alternative options and how they can support your international education journey.

Scholarships and grants

Scholarships and grants are forms of financial aid that do not require repayment, making them an attractive option. These awards are typically based on academic excellence, financial need or other criteria.

International students can find scholarships and grants through online databases like, educational institutions and government programs.

By carefully researching and applying for scholarships and grants, you could potentially secure the funds you need to finance your education without incurring significant debt.


Getting a job can also help international students fund their education while gaining valuable work experience. On-campus and off-campus employment options are available, with certain restrictions on the number of hours worked per week. In addition to traditional employment, international students may also be eligible for internships or co-op programs related to their field of study.

On completion of their studies, international students may even have the opportunity to continue their employment in the United States with the assistance of employer-sponsored work visas. 

Family Support

Family support can play a critical role in helping international students cover their education expenses. Receiving money from family members can significantly reduce the reliance on loans and minimize debt, but this depends on the ability of family members to offer that support.

Tips for successfully managing international student loans

Successfully managing international student loans is crucial for maintaining financial stability and ensuring a smooth repayment process. By creating a budget, exploring refinancing options and maintaining good credit, you can set yourself up for success and minimize the financial stress associated with repaying your loans.

Following these tips and staying proactive in managing your loans can help you pay for your education and build a strong financial foundation for your future.

Creating a budget

Creating a budget is a critical step in managing international student loans. It helps you monitor your expenses and ensure payments are made on time. Additionally, a well-constructed budget can aid in identifying areas where funds can be conserved and allocated towards paying off loans more quickly.

To create a budget:

  • Determine your monthly expected income.
  • List all your expenses.
  • Categorize each expense.
  • Assign a budget amount to each expense. 

It’s essential to review your budget regularly to ensure you’re sticking to your financial plan and making any necessary adjustments to stay on track. If you can stick to a solid budget, you can better manage your loan repayments and work towards financial freedom.

Refinancing options

Refinancing your international student loans can potentially help you secure better interest rates and loan terms, reducing the overall cost of borrowing. MPOWER Financing, Earnest,, Prodigy Finance and Sallie Mae offer loan refinancing options, but it’s essential before making a decision to compare these in terms of eligibility criteria and loan terms.

By exploring refinancing options, you can potentially secure a reduced interest rate allowing you to lower your monthly payments and/or shorten your loan term, making it easier to manage your loans and achieve financial stability.

Maintaining good credit

Maintaining good credit is essential for future borrowing opportunities and overall financial stability. To ensure a healthy credit score, make sure your payments on your loans are always on time and manage other financial obligations responsibly. Some strategies for maintaining good credit include keeping credit utilization low, retaining existing credit cards and monitoring credit reports consistently.

By staying proactive in managing your credit and making responsible financial decisions, you can build a strong credit score and a solid financial foundation for your future.

Understanding and managing international student loans is an essential aspect of financing your education dreams. By exploring the various types of loans, eligibility criteria and loan providers, you can make informed decisions that best suit your financial needs. Remember, the key to successfully navigating the world of international student loans is staying proactive, informed and committed to your financial goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get a loan as an international student?

Yes, international students can apply for student loans. The loan funds are usually sent directly to the school’s financial aid office, which will apply them to tuition and fees.

How can I get a student loan as an international student without a cosigner?

Private international student loans without a cosigner can be accessed by attending an approved school, coming from a qualifying country and being enrolled in an eligible degree-granting program for at least half the semester hours. Additionally, applicants must have a student visa to enter the U.S., complete the program within two years and live in the U.S. while attending school.

Private lenders such as Stilt, MPOWER and Prodigy Finance provide these loans, though scholarships and personal savings may also be options. Finding a loan cosigner is possible through friends, family, university alumni associations and online platforms.

What types of student loans are available to international students?

Private student loans are a great option for international students who are not eligible for federal student aid or federal student loans. This is a common form of loan for international students and can be secured through various banks and financial institutions.

What are the key factors to consider when comparing private student loans?

When comparing private student loans, it is essential to consider interest rates, loan terms, repayment options and lender reputation.

Are there alternative funding options for international students besides loans?

Yes, there are alternative funding options for international students besides loans, such as scholarships and grants, employment opportunities and family support.

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