Companies offering private student loans advertise low rates, but the rates they actually charge to individual borrowers, and how they determine those rates, are closely-held trade secrets. The rates are based on borrower credit scores and other factors; ultimately, companies maximize their returns by trying to charge the highest rate they can while still getting the business.
One way to determine the actual rates being charged on private student loans is to review the prospectuses that accompany portfolios of loans that are sold to investors. We looked at four recent portfolios from Sallie Mae, and one Fitch Ratings review of a portfolio from the National Collegiate Student Loan Trust. These portfolios revealed average interest rates today of 9.77%, 9.91%, 10.0%, 10.11% and 10.35% (based on a today’s Prime rate of 8.25% and a 3-month LIBOR rate of 5.47%). Many borrowers, at least 15% of them according to the investor reports, are charged interest rates of more than 12%. These rates are variable, so as interest rates in the economy increase, so do the rates paid by the borrowers.