Nearly a year ago, long before the current credit crunch, I spent some time reviewing the various methods of comparing prices on private student loans. I found that the “as low as” rates advertised on comparison sites don’t tell the shopper very much. I also found that it is very difficult to get an actual rate quote for comparison purposes, because you have to complete entire applications, turn over personal details, and authorize credit checks. And those multiple credit checks from potential lenders can have the effect of hurting your credit score, because they create the impression that you are desperate to get a loan.
Nonetheless, I persevered and got some actual interest rate and fee quotes, and the promissory notes to go along with them.
With all the doomsday stories about the credit crunch, we decided it was time to see if we could confirm that even someone with good credit (still me, despite tempting fate with all those loan applications) would have a tougher time getting a loan or would face higher charges. So last week I went back to two of the lenders who had offered me loans last year, National
City and Suntrust. I plugged in the same loan amount, degree program, and other details.
Their responses seemed to take a day or two longer than last year, which may be a result of some of the layoffs in the industry. But both of them got back to me with rate quotes and promissory notes. The rate at National City was higher than last year, by the equivalent of about half of one percentage point (0.25 higher interest rate, 3.5% higher fee, 20-year term). But the rate at Suntrust was exactly the same as last year: the one-month LIBOR index plus 2.5 percentage points, with no fee.
Now I’ll see if I’ve ruined my credit rating by applying for these loans. Then I’ll be able to test whether someone with bad credit can get a private loan. (Fortunately, even if my credit has been destroyed, I can always get Federal Stafford Loans because they require no credit check).