How to refinance student loans with low income
Refinancing student loans is a catch-22. On the one hand, it can save you money on interest, choose a more desirable payment structure, and generally improve your financial health. At the same time, your ability to qualify for a refinance is directly tied to the health of your finances.
For low-income borrowers, this can be a frustrating reality. Fortunately, there are many ways low-income borrowers can improve their chances of qualifying for a refinance.
Income requirements for student loans
Many lenders have minimum income requirements for refinancing, which means they won’t accept borrowers with incomes below a certain threshold. Some companies only focus on high-income borrowers, like doctors and lawyers, while others offer student loan refinance for a wider salary range.
Most companies do not publicly list their revenue standards; some simply state that you will need to have “sufficient income” or be able to demonstrate “constant income”. In most cases, you will likely need to exceed the $20,000 threshold; Citizens Bank requires an annual income of at least $24,000, while Education Loan Finance requires at least $35,000.
How to Refinance Low Income Student Loans
Refinancing your student loans can significantly reduce your monthly payment and reduce the total interest paid over the life of the loan. And when you have a low income, finding ways to minimize loan costs can be very helpful.
Here are the best strategies to increase your chances of being approved for student loan refinancing.
Get a co-signer
If you have a low income, one of the best ways to improve your chances of approval is to apply with a co-signer. A co-signer is someone with a good credit rating and a stable income who agrees to take responsibility for a loan if the primary borrower defaults.
Lenders are more likely to approve borrowers with a co-signer because they have a fallback option in case the primary borrower defaults. Although you may qualify for a student loan refinance without a co-signer, you may get a lower interest rate if you add a co-signer with stronger finances.
Getting someone to co-sign a loan — especially if you have a long repayment term — is a huge favor. The loan will appear on the co-signer’s credit report and may affect their ability to qualify for their own loans, and any late payment will impact the co-signer’s credit rating. However, you can also ask to remove your co-signer after a few years of payments with most companies, once you’ve had a chance to increase your income.
Compare multiple lenders
Each lender has their own requirements for income, credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and loan balance. If you are rejected by one lender, don’t assume that all lenders will be.
Start by applying to lenders who already accept low-income borrowers or those who consider many variables outside of income. You can prequalify with many lenders to get an idea of your eligibility and the rates you will be offered, without going through a rigorous credit check.
Improve your credit score
If you have a low income, you are more likely to qualify for a loan with a good credit score. Most lenders require a credit score in the mid-600s or above. If your score is below 650, you’ll have a hard time qualifying for a refinance, especially on a low income.
The first step is to check your credit score with your credit card company or one of the major credit bureaus, then get a copy of your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com to make sure there are no errors. does not lower your score.
If your credit score is lower than you expected, do an audit of your finances. Your debt payment history is the most important factor in your score, so set schedule reminders or set up automatic payment if you have a series of late payments. You should also try to pay off as much debt as possible before applying for a refinance, as a high credit utilization rate can also lower your score.
If you are denied a student loan refinance due to low income, you can always reapply later when your income has improved. If your credit score increases during this period, this may also help your case. You may also be able to appeal your case if you don’t have a regular income, but can prove that you make money in some other way.
Lenders who will refinance low-income student loans
There are several lenders that allow low-income borrowers to qualify for student loan refinancing. Here are the main lenders who will lend to low-income borrowers:
- Citizen bank: Requires a minimum annual income of $24,000.
- Student Loan Funding: Requires a minimum annual income of $35,000.
- Route of the Laurels: Accepts borrowers who are still in school but have a signed contract or letter of employment.
- Nelnet Bank: Requires a minimum annual income of $36,000.
- PenFed Credit Union: Requires a minimum annual income of $42,000 for loans under $150,000 and $50,000 for loans over $150,000.
- SoFi: Accepts borrowers who are not employed but have a job offer to start within the next 90 days.
If you have a low income, you might find it impossible to refinance student loans. However, there are several lenders who will deal with low income borrowers. Even if you’re offered a high rate now because of your income, you can still choose to refinance again once you’ve established more credit or increased your annual income.