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Here's the average interest rate on private and federal student loans—plus what to look out for

CNBC Select breaks down average private and federal student loan APRs, and what to be aware of.

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The average public university student borrows $30,030 to attain a bachelor's degree, but they end up paying much more than that thanks to interest.

Interest accrual on top of an already large debt loads means it can take years — sometimes even decades — before borrowers can completely pay off their student loans. Knowing the average interest rates at the time you take out your loan can help you navigate what the coming months and years of student loan payments will look like.

While average interest rates vary widely depending on the type of student loan you have, CNBC Select outlines below the interest rate ranges on private and federal student loans at this time.

What to look out for with student loan interest rates

Federal student loans are the most common and offer fixed interest rates. With a fixed rate, the APR you get at the time you take out your loan is the rate you are stuck with for the entire life of the loan (unless you choose to refinance).

Private student loans typically come with higher interest rates than federal loans. Because of the lower rates and the protections that federal loans offer, you should first try maxing out your financing options through the government before you shop around for a private loan.

Private student loans have a fixed or variable APR, and your rate is determined by your specific lender. Generally, lenders look at potential borrowers' credit scores and income to make sure they have a solid financial standing to qualify for a loan.

When to consider refinancing for a lower interest rate

If you are paying a high interest rate on your student loans — anything at or above 10% according to refinancing lender CommonBond — consider refinancing. If you're on the fence, calculate the amount of interest you pay each month. A lower interest rate will likely save you a considerable amount of money over time.

But federal borrowers should be aware of certain caveats to refinancing: With the current federal loan payment and interest pause extended through at least Sept. 30, 2021 as part of the Covid relief, it wouldn't make sense for federal student loan borrowers to refinance with a private lender right now. You can't get a lower interest rate than the current interest freeze.

In accordance with the Fed lowering interest rates across the board, private lenders have also lowered the rates they offer. But note that refinancing from federal to private lenders is irreversible, so once you switch you can't go back. Putting your student loan payment instead into a high-yield savings account like the Varo Savings Account from now through September could bulk up your emergency fund while you decide the best course of action.

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.