Paying Your Way through College — Financing Options Available in the US

It is no secret that college education in the US is expensive. In fact, most students in the United States require student loans to finance their education. There are two types of financing solutions available to them -- federal student loans and private student loans. Even though most students choose to go with federal student loans, looking at other financing options available can help you select a financing option that works best for you.

Federal Student Loans

The five types of federal student loans include:

1. Direct Subsidized Loans

A direct subsidized loan means it is funded by the government. It is a cost-effective loan, allowing undergraduates to borrow money for tuition and related expenses. With a direct subsidized loan, interest does not accumulate for the student while they are enrolled in an undergraduate degree program, including for six months after graduating.

Interest begins to accumulate after the grace period, which means the student needs to start making the required payments unless they get a deferment. Direct subsidized loans are based on the student's or their family's financial status. For this reason, it is difficult to qualify for this loan.

2. Direct Unsubsidized Loans

A direct unsubsidized loan accumulates interest over the lifespan of the loan. The student is responsible for paying off the loan with interest. Interest can add hundreds and sometimes, even thousands of dollars to the total repayment amount.

3. Parent PLUS Loans

The Parent PLUS Loan is available to the parents of the undergraduate student. It offers a fixed rate and flexible loan limits. Parents can only qualify for this federal loan if they have a good credit history. A bad credit card history is:

· Current delinquency of 90 or more on over $2,085 in total debt.

· Over $2,085 in total debt in collections or charged off in the previous two years prior to the date of the credit report.

· Bankruptcy discharge, default, repossession, foreclosure, wage garnishment, tax lien, or write-off federal student loan debt in the previous five year prior to the date of the credit report.

Parents borrow this loan to pay for their child's education. It is recommended that students first qualify for direct loans before their parents apply for the Parent PLUS Loan because this loan has higher interest rates and fees.

Some parents apply for this loan because they do not want their children to have a massive student loan debt. Only parents, including adoptive and stepparents, can borrow this loan.

4. Graduate PLUS Loans

The Graduate PLUS Loan is available to students enrolled in graduate and professional school. It has a fixed interest rate and offers flexible loan limits. A student's eligibility for this loan does not depend on their financial needs.

However, students may still need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to qualify for it. Additionally, you will need to clear a credit check. Some benefits of applying for this loan are:

· Fixed interest rate

· Loan payments can be deferred while enrolled at an accredited graduate or professional school

· Cosigner not required

· Several loan repayment plants, including income-based

5. Direct Consolidation Loans

A direct consolidation loan allows students to consolidate several federal education loans into a single loan at no cost to them. After the completion and approval of the direct consolidation loan, students need to pay a single payment each month instead of paying several payments each month.

There is no application fee if you file it through the United States Department of Education or ED's federal loan servicers. If you choose a private company, they may charge you an application fee. Filing the application should take you less than 30 minutes and it should be done in a single session.

Private Student Loans

The two types of private student loans include private student loans and private parent loans. The requirements, conditions, and interest rates of private loans differ from lender to lender. Parents and students getting a private loan should compare several companies before applying for it.

The Differences between Federal and Private Student Loans

Following is a list of differences between federal and private student loans:

· The cost and use of credit scores to determine eligibility is a major difference between federal loans and private loans.

· Undergraduates will not have to undergo a credit check if applying for a federal loan, whereas they will need to undergo it if they are applying for a private loan.

· Graduate students will have to go through a credit check if applying for a federal loan and private loan. If they have a poor credit history, the loan may be denied to them. The required credit score to qualify for a student loan is 640 or better. The required credit score also depends on the terms and conditions of the loan.

· Fixed interest rates on federal loans. Variable or fixed and usually higher interest rates on private loans.

· Undergraduates who can prove financial need can obtain a federal subsidized loan. This means that the government pays the interest until they graduate. Private loans can never be subsidized, which means that students are responsible for paying the interest amount.

· Federal loans offer flexible payment plans and loan forgiveness programs. Private loans offer limited payment options and no loan forgiveness programs.

· Federal loans do not need to be repaid until the student graduates or drops below half-time status. Most private loans ask for repayment while students are still enrolled in school.

Quick Tips to Repay Your Student Loan

Here is how you can repay your student loan:

· Use the grace period after your graduate to repay your loan by putting aside the amount you need to pay each month.

· Research your loans to find different repayment plans for federal loans, use an income-based repayment plan to repay it, and determine if you can qualify for a deferment, loan forgiveness, or another repayment plan.

· Increase your income overtime by working two jobs, freelancing your talents, working overtime, or opening a business on the side.

· Reduce your taxable income on any interest you have paid on a student loan for that tax year.

· Seek loan forgiveness, sign up for an automatic payment plan, and avoid getting into more debt.

When seeking a loan for your studies, we would advise you to research all the possible options and select one that suits your short and long-term financial needs and goals.

Posted in College Planning. Tagged as college, college planning, Financial planning.

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