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Refinancing Student Loans Without a Degree

Refinancing Student Loans Without a Degree
Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman

Updated June 8, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Refinancing student loans without a degree is possible with certain lenders. Banks and private lenders can set their own eligibility criteria for student loan refinancing. Some lenders may require student loan borrowers to have graduated from an accredited postsecondary institution with at least an associate degree to qualify for refinancing. Other lenders may happily offer student loan refinancing to creditworthy borrowers who did not graduate from college.

Can You Refinance Student Loans Without a Degree?

As mentioned above, you may refinance student loans without a degree with certain lenders. Every lender can establish its own eligibility criteria for student loan refinancing. Some lenders may require borrowers to hold an associate degree or higher to be eligible for student loan refinancing. Other lenders, however, may have no graduation requirements for student loan refinancing.Here are some of the financial institutions that may offer student loan refinancing to borrowers without a college degree:
  • Splash Financial Inc.
  • Earnest Operations LLC
  • Citizens Bank
  • PNC Bank

How to Refinance Without a Degree

If you’ve borrowed eligible student loans but never completed a degree program, you may be eligible for student loan refinancing. How to refinance education loans without a degree is as simple as submitting an application with a private lender requesting student loan refinancing.How student loan refinancing works is that borrowers submit an application with a private lender requesting a new loan agreement for refinancing student loan debt. Refinancing federal student loans can allow borrowers to replace their existing federal loans with the terms and conditions of a private loan agreement.Private lenders can set their own underwriting standards, but some may require applicants to have steady income and good credit. For subprime borrowers, it might be difficult to refinance student loans with bad credit.One of the advantages of refinancing student loans is it may provide you with a lower interest rate. One of the big disadvantages of refinancing student loans with a private lender, however, is you’ll be forfeiting federal benefits. Refinancing federal student loans will remove your access to income-driven repayment plans offered by the federal government.The difference between private and federal student loans is that federal student loans are provided exclusively by the U.S. Department of Education. Banks, credit unions, online lenders, and select state-based or state-affiliated organizations may offer private student loans.You can refinance federal student loans with private student loans. This means federal student loan borrowers may consider switching from a federal repayment plan to a private student loan refinancing payment plan.The federal government in March 2020 suspended student loan payments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. After a number of extensions, the moratorium on student loan payments is scheduled to be lifted on August 31, 2022. Some borrowers may never finish repaying a student loan during their lifetime. What happens to student loans when you die is the debt might be discharged, although some lenders may demand repayment from your estate.Various elected officials have talked about broad student loan forgiveness of federal student loans. Several of the federal government’s student loan repayment plans can end with a borrower’s outstanding balance being forgiven at the end of the repayment period.Meanwhile, people who served in the U.S. armed forces may qualify for military student loan forgiveness.

Other Options to Pay Student Loans Without a Degree

Some may ask, how long does it take to pay off student loans? It can take borrowers between 10 to 30 years to pay off federal student loans and five to 25 years to pay off private student loans.The average student loan debt across the United States is tens of thousands of dollars per borrower, according to the Education Data Initiative.Researchers from found the average federal student loan debt in 2021 stood at $36,510 per borrower, while private student loan debt averaged $54,921 per borrower.Borrowers can make more than the minimum payment when paying off student loans. If you need relief, here are other options you may consider when paying student loans without a degree:


A student loan deferment allows borrowers to temporarily stop making payments on their student loan debt obligations. Federal student loan borrowers can request a deferment for various reasons, including economic hardship or unemployment. Some private lenders may also offer temporary deferment relief to qualifying borrowers.

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

The U.S. Department of Education offers the following four income-driven repayment plans to help borrowers pay down their federal student loan debt:
  • Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE)
  • Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE)
  • Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR) 

Loan Forbearance

Borrowers of federal student loans may also request a forbearance, which can give borrowers a temporary pause in making student loan repayments toward principal and interest. Federal loan servicers may grant general forbearance for several reasons, including if borrowers demonstrate financial difficulties or high medical expenses.

What If You Don’t Qualify for Refinance?

Here are some options you may consider if you don’t qualify for student loan refinancing:

Improving Credit

Improving your credit score may help you qualify for student loan refinancing. Paying your bills on time and holding a diverse mix of loan and credit card accounts may bolster your credit score over time.

Getting a Cosigner

Getting a cosigner may help you qualify for student loan refinancing. A creditworthy cosigner can reduce the risk to the lender in the event of default. A cosigner accepts liability and agrees to make any necessary payments if the primary borrower defaults on the student refinance loan. A borrower may be considered in default of a private student loan agreement if the borrower fails to make any monthly payment when due.

Improving Income-Debt Ratio

Improving your debt-to-income ratio aka DTI may help you qualify for student loan refinancing. Your debt-to-income ratio measures your ability to afford new debt without defaulting on your existing obligations. Most lenders like to see a DTI below 36%. Paying down existing debt can improve your DTI.

The Takeaway

Millions of borrowers have taken out student loans without completing a degree program. Student loan deferments can provide temporary relief, but student loan borrowers may seek a more permanent solution toward financial freedom.Lantern by SoFi can help you compare student loan refinance options if you’re interested in refinancing student loans. Refinancing might be right for you if you can lock in a lower interest rate. Explore your options today and consider applying with a lender of your choice.
Photo credit: iStock/Riska
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Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have to have a degree to refinance your student loans?
Can I consolidate my student loans if I didn’t graduate?
How do I get rid of student loans if I didn’t graduate?

About the Author

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman writes about personal loans, auto loans, student loans, and other personal finance topics for Lantern. He’s the recipient of more than 10 journalism awards and currently serves as a New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists board member. An alumnus of the Philadelphia-based Temple University, Abdur-Rahman is a strong advocate of the First Amendment and freedom of speech.
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