ElFI Private Student Loans: Pros, Cons, and Reviews

Written by: Kristyn Pilgrim
Updated: 11/03/20

CollegeFinance Score: ★★★★☆


Education Loan Finance (ELFI) was founded on the idea of filling in the gaps left by traditional student loan providers. For students seeking a personalized approach to their college borrowing experience, ELFI provides a streamlined application process and hands-on counseling throughout the life of the loan.


  • Determine eligibility quickly with clear requirements
  • No application or origination fees
  • No co-signer required if the borrower qualifies
  • Prepackaged discounts available to every student
  • Financial counseling for all borrowers


  • Loans not currently available to international students
  • Academic progress mandated
  • No co-signer release
  • $10,000 minimum borrowing amount

ELFI: What You Need to Know

ELFI is a part of SouthEast Bank, based in Tennessee. With a lending mission that emphasizes simple payment options, flexible terms, and accessible rates, ELFI is a national private lending company committed to helping every student reach their college funding goals. 

With the tagline “Empowering a Brighter Future,” ELFI has longstanding ties to the world of educational funding, showcasing a commitment to supporting education through many years. SouthEast Bank is owned by the parent holding company Education Loan Finance, Inc., which is a nonprofit group that has worked in higher education funding for over 25 years.

Education Loan Finance, Inc., has contributed more than $20 million in scholarships and offers a unique financial literacy curriculum aimed specifically at high school students. When you borrow from ELFI, you are immediately paired with a Student Loan Advisor who becomes your go-to guru for all things related to your educational expenses and overall financial awareness.

If you are looking for a loan company that does not believe in the status quo or one-size-fits-all approach to college funding, ELFI represents a strong option. With its application process being ultra-transparent and streamlined, you can quickly determine whether ELFI has viable offerings for your private student loan needs.

ELFI’s BBB Rating: A+

While it is all well and good to read about what ELFI has to say about its own practices, you will probably want to know what customers say about it too before deciding to borrow. It is always a smart idea to find out more about the customer experience for any established institutions you plan to do business. 

The most reliable place to seek customer perspectives and get a better sense of the company’s overall trustworthiness is by checking its rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB is a private nonprofit founded in 1912. Its primary task is to assess and report public complaints filed against any given company and to relay information to the public about how these complaints were handled by the company in question.

The BBB assigns a rating, or grade, to all businesses within its scope. This rating reflects the total number of complaints received by a business, how that number stacks up to those received by equivalent competitors, and whether the company responded in an appropriate or customer-favorable way. 

The great news for potential ELFI borrowers is that the company received an A+ rating from the BBB. This is the highest rating a business can acquire and demonstrates that ELFI has a relatively low number of complaints on file and that it managed those complaints in a positive manner.

Beyond this accolade from the BBB, ELFI also boasts a powerful rating on Trustpilot, a consumer review site that bases scores on multitudes of different customer experiences. With a 4.9 out of 5 score on Trustpilot and most customer reviews referring to the good communication and support they received from ELFI, it is clear that potential borrowers can expect excellent service with this lending company.

ELFI: Potential Benefits for Borrowers

The major benefit to borrowers who choose ELFI over other potential lenders can be reduced to a single word: personalization. The advice of the Student Loan Advisor that ELFI assigns every borrower means you do not have to worry about making financial mistakes based on a lack of knowledge. 

It also means that you always have someone to call on if there is an issue or a question with your student loan. Add this far-reaching benefit to the transparency of the application process and the interest rate deduction for automatic payments, and ELFI likely becomes a serious contender on your shortlist of potential lenders.

A few of the additional benefits of borrowing with ELFI include:

  • ELFI makes its requirements clear. There is no guesswork on eligibility with ELFI. To apply for a student loan, you will need a credit score of at least 680 and a minimum annual income of $35,000. You must also be able to show a credit history that is at least 36 months old.
  • ELFI does not impose application or origination fees. You do not have to spend money to get money with ELFI. The application process with ELFI is also simple and direct, as the company has made a point to remove confusing terminology and other unnecessary bulk.
  • ELFI does not require a co-signer. If you have the eligibility to borrow by ELFI’s standards, you can do it on your own. This makes the entire approach to an ELFI student loan less complicated than those provided by other lenders that require a co-signer of younger or less-established borrowers.
  • ELFI prepares prepackaged discounts for every student. Borrowers will be enrolled in automatic payments from the word “go” with no effort or paperwork needed on their part. With this one step, ELFI removes future worry about when payments are due and also awards autopayers an additional 0.25% off their interest rate.
  • ELFI provides financial counseling to all borrowers. Every person who borrows with ELFI is matched with a Student Loan Advisor assigned to their student loan. This means you never have to wonder what number to call, how to get in touch with support, or where to look for resources when it comes to your private student loan with ELFI.

ELFI: Potential Drawbacks for Borrowers 

While ELFI stands apart from the crowd regarding private student loan funding, there are drawbacks to borrowing with them, just as there are drawbacks for every lender. Being aware of the potential downsides of an ELFI private student loan before deciding to borrow can save you frustrations later on. 

  • ELFI loans are not currently available to international students. Unless you can prove permanent residency in the United States, this loan company will not allow you to apply at this time.
  • ELFI mandates academic progress. You must continuously be moving toward graduation to remain eligible for your loan. This means keeping your grades and class completion at a level that demonstrates a commitment to finishing your degree in a timely manner. For this reason, ELFI may not be the best option for students who plan to work a year and then study a year throughout the course of their college career.
  • ELFI does not allow co-signer release. Although co-signers are not required for ELFI, many borrowers will not qualify without one. However, ELFI does not permit borrowers to let their co-signers off the hook once the loan is officially underway. This can make it more difficult for some co-signers to feel comfortable signing on to help.
  • ELFI has a $10,000 minimum borrowing amount. While some private lenders offer loan amounts for as little as $1,000, ELFI’s minimum is much higher. This may not be conducive for borrowers who do not have as much in college expenses or time left in school.

ELFI: The Details

Loan Amounts and Term Lengths

Minimum loan amount: $10,000

Loan term options: Choose from loan term options of five to 15 years.

Multi-year approval available: No

Interest Rate Ranges

Fixed and variable rates available: Yes

Fixed low APR: 4.50%

Fixed high APR: Not disclosed

Variable low APR: 1.50%

Variable high APR: Not disclosed

Repayment Options

In-school payment options: ELFI offers a range of repayment options, including:

  • Full payments as established in the loan agreement, starting 30 to 60 days after disbursement
  • Interest-only payments while enrolled
  • Fixed payments of $25 per month while enrolled
  • Deferred payments while enrolled

Grace period: 6 months

Co-signer release available: No

Loan servicer: Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA) or American Education Services (AES)

Other Perks and Options

Interest rate discounts: 0.25% autopay discount set up for all borrowers

Other rewards or services: ELFI automatically pairs borrowers with a Student Loan Advisor. This means helpful financial counseling services are built in when you borrow from this company.

ELFI: Eligibility and Application Requirements

Eligibility Details

Income requirements: Borrowers or their co-signers who wish to utilize ELFI’s lending capabilities must make a minimum of $35,000 annually. 

Credit score requirements: Borrowers and co-signers are deemed eligible by ELFI when they possess a credit score of 680 or higher. They must also be able to show a credit history of at least 36 months in duration.

Eligibility for international borrowers: International borrowers are not currently eligible to borrow with ELFI.

Application Details

Application or origination fees: None

Soft pull rate check availability: While ELFI does allow for loan prequalification via a simple soft pull credit check that does not impact your credit report, to see your actual rates, a hard inquiry is necessary. Hard inquiries affect your credit report, so it is a good first step to utilize ELFI’s prequalification calculator to get an idea of what you will qualify for.

Private Student Loans: Understanding Your Options

Although ELFI measures up to competitors in the private student loan field with strength and unique offerings, there are still considerations you should take before you borrow with them or another private lender. The first of those considerations is always making certain that you have explored all possible avenues regarding federal student loans.

As the name implies, a federal student loan is sponsored by the United States government and overseen by the Department of Education. These loans are dispensed in collaboration with colleges and universities as part of the federal financial aid system. Within this structure, students receive loans directly from the federal government that are then managed by outside companies once the borrower graduates or leaves school.

Why should you check out your federal options thoroughly before going with a private company like ELFI? The answer rests on the access and affordability provided by federal student loans.

As federal student loans are far less concerned with your ability to repay and much more interested in your established economic need, these loans are much easier to get, and co-signers are often not required. Once you successfully get into the school of your choice, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allows your college or university to base your loan on financial necessity rather than credit history or previous academic achievement.

Regardless of your financial situation, federal student loans represent a type of aid that can provide immediate perks. The Department of Education is a federal agency that has the power to offer certain protections and options that cannot be made available by a private lender. The following list contains a few of the unique advantages you can enjoy with a federal student loan:

  • Federal loans come with a wide variety of income-based repayment options. This feature means that your monthly payments are aligned with the amount of money you earn. Your payments within a federal student loan structure will not see you having to struggle as hard to balance your budget.
  • Federal student loans also offer extended repayment plans that allow for the money you take out to be repaid over the course of a much lengthier span of time, even up to 25 years. Although your overall interest paid throughout the life of the loan will be higher, your monthly payments will be significantly lower.
  • Loan forgiveness programs are in place with federal options if you plan to go into a public service field. As long as you stay in your chosen field for a minimum of 10 years, you could end up paying nothing for your college education via federal student loans.

Federal loans should be the starting block for college funding for all borrowers. However, there may be expenses associated with your college education not covered by federal student loans, and this is where private lenders like ELFI can be of service.

With ELFI’s stated mission of empowering students to a brighter future, funding your educational endeavors through this private lender means you will not be treated like a number. If your federal student loans do not cover all of your school-related expenses, ELFI’s hands-on approach to financial counseling may be just what you need to fill the gap.

Is ELFI Right for You?

As mentioned, ELFI has quite a few benefits that genuinely set them ahead of competitors. While many lenders mandate co-signers or have borrowers sign for a loan that the company then never speaks to them about again, ELFI circumvents confusion with a streamlined, guided lending process.

ELFI has made it a matter of business principle to reject the status quo in private student loan norms. With viable repayment structures that take your needs into account and a transparent application process, ELFI does not try to fit every borrower into the same mold. No matter which perks appeal to you, the likelihood that you will enjoy guidance and excellent customer support with ELFI is high.

ELFI Could Be a Good Option for You If:

  • You want to determine your eligibility quickly and navigate that process with clear requirements in view.
  • You do not care to pay application or origination fees.
  • You do not want to be mandated to use a co-signer.
  • You wish to enjoy prepackaged discounts on your interest rates when instantly enrolled in automatic payments.
  • You appreciate that financial counseling for all borrowers is a matter of course and not considered something extra.

Remember, even if ELFI feels like the perfect fit, you owe it to yourself to take a good look at other private student loan lenders. When you compare ELFI to its competitors, you will be able to make a more clear assessment of how ELFI’s advantages can align with your borrowing needs.

CollegeFinance.com is here to help you through every step of evaluating your college funding options. Our resources give you a comprehensive view of the best private loan options overall. We are also keen to assist with other facets of your financial planning and educational future. Look to us for insightful tips on where your next scholarship might come from or the best advice on repaying your student loans once you have them. We can even direct you to steps for refinancing when and if the time arises. 

Check out CollegeFinance.com for any questions you have regarding affording college or making informed financial decisions that impact your future.