Those entering their final year of high school have a lot to think about. Where do i go from here? What college can i attend to achieve my goals? And while discovering the answers to these questions is hard enough on its own, so is finding the financial means to make those answers into a reality. College these days is not cheap – even if you go to state-sponsored colleges – and often the only choice you have left is taking out a student loan. Luckily the government and banks have created several options.
Types of Student loans
Generally speaking, there are two types of loans that you can take: federal loans and bank-sponsored private loans. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but both types of loans can help pay for everything from books to living expenses to basic tuition and fees.
Any of these student loans that you choose to take carries the same repayment agreement. That is, you do not need to pay back a student loan, public or private, until 6 months after graduation. Also, the interest rates are very low and in some case fixed, allowing for a better prediction of your financial obligations after school. Taking a student loan to pay for college is clearly the way to go and there are four major options that you can consider.
Federal Stafford Loan
The most popular loan taken by college students is the Federal Stafford Loan which comes in both subsidized and unsubsidized forms. The subsidized Stafford Loan does not begin to accrue interest until after graduation whereas the unsubsidized version does accrue interest while you are still in school. The interest rates on Stafford Loans are low and fixed and they are available directly through the Department of Education. Whichever school you ultimately choose will help you get this loan through their Financial aid office. Stafford Loans can be given up to the amount of $20, 000 each school year. They are available to anyone who wants one, though subsidized loans are given based on financial need.
Federal Perkins Loans
The next option is a need-based loan also sponsored by the federal government, the Perkins Loan. This loan is only available to those who meet certain criteria in terms of income (and parental income) and a standard formula will be employed by your college’s financial aid office to determine what amount you qualify for. Because of the nature of Perkins Loans, which are given on a first come, first served basis, and the special needs-based formula, it is important to apply for these loans early.
Federal Plus Loans
The Federal Plus Loan operates much like the Perkins Loan, in that it is need-based. However, rather than being taken out by the student, Plus Loans are given to parents wishing to pay for their child’s college education themselves. Plus Loans are determined based upon the parents’ financial situation and income in addition to how many children they have attending college.
Private Student loans
The final option is student loans provided by private banks. These lenders – who also serve other loan needs such as home and car loans – review your FAFSA form and then provide the amount of money that a student or parent needs. These loans are generally used when Federal options are insufficient to pay all college expenses, such as at private colleges, and will be determined based on the same criteria that the financial institution uses to make any personal loan. These loans generally do not carry a fixed interest rate, however, so it is important to exhaust the federal options first.
Taking a Loan
Going to college is a really big step in a young person’s life, but so is taking a student loan. Make sure that you understand all repayment obligations before you take money for school as failure to repay student loans can negatively impact your credit in the future.