Understanding Student Loans
Students who opt for higher studies often find that they lack the required capital to fund their anticipated study program stretching perhaps to several years. Fortunately, there are many institutions that a student can turn to for assistance for financing his education program. Except in the case of grants and scholarships, all other loans taken have to be re-paid; and unfortunately this fact does not strike the borrower forcefully enough at the time of obtaining loans. The obvious reason for same is since many repayments start only on graduation; and due to a feeling of satisfaction for the time being at finding the funds to cover more and more of the direct education costs and other education related expenses.
There is a cost attached to every loan that you take and it is very important that you educate yourself first on the types of loans available, which carry fixed as well as variable rates of interest during the lifetime of the loan. Even at fixed rates, the rates attached to different types of loans differ, as does the repayment periods, deferment options etc. It is also pertinent to visit websites of different lenders and do an in-depth study of the diverse packages on offer and / or negotiable, incorporating varying concessions on credit terms with regard to rate of interest, repayment period, deferment options etc; so that you can select the type and lender that best suits the circumstances on a case by case basis.
For purposes of college education, it is the Student Loans (except for limited Perkins Loans) that carry the most favorable all-round terms than any other general financial loans, and as such your search should mainly be confined to all types of student loans only.
1. Student Loans may be classified broadly under 2 categories:
(a) Federal Loans
Government sponsored loans executed via the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) and generally carry fixed, low interest rates; Perkins and Stafford Subsidized loans are need based while Stafford Unsubsidized and PLUS loans are not need based; but do not generally cover related costs of education such as tuition, books, computers, board and living expenses etc. Multiple options for re-payments and deferments may be available. Can be obtained through schools, banks and other student loans lending institutions
(b) Private Loans
Granted by private lenders and are obviously at higher interest rates than federal loans, but you do not have to show financial need for the amount of the loan and there is also no maximum limit, but have to show a good credit score. Deferment options may be obtainable (though at a price). Credit terms obtainable can be further improved by getting a good cosigner to support your loan application. A parent can apply on behalf of a student as a co-borrower to take advantage of his / her good credit score, but the responsibility for the loan lies with student as well as co-borrower parent.
2. Federal Loans comprise mainly of 3 types of loans:
(a) Perkins Loans
To qualify, have to establish “need” for exceptional financial aid, and be enrolled in school at least half time. Carries a Government subsidized fixed interest rate of 5%. Borrowing is limited to $ 4,000 for undergraduates and $ 6,000 for graduates.
(b) Stafford Loans
General conditions applicable for all types of Stafford Loans
To qualify, have to be already enrolled in a college at least half time or planning to be enrolled at least half time in a school participating in the FFELP Scheme, sometimes trade and business schools also may be considered; but those attending full time could obtain enhanced loans than those attending half time. Interest rate is currently fixed at 6.8%.
The applicant has to show the need for financial aid in respect of Stafford Subsidized Loans, (although it is not necessary to show need for financial aid to get a Stafford Unsubsidized Loan). No credit check is required; loans are low interest bearing at a standard fixed rate. Stafford Loans come in three types with prefix “Subsidized”, “Unsubsidized” and “Additional Unsubsidized”.
Essential differences between Subsidized & Unsubsidized Stafford Loans
The meaning of “subsidized” in the context of these loans is that the federal government guarantees the loan and also pays the interest component of the loan while the student remains at school as well as in the case of any and every occasion a deferment of payments is allowed to the student on request. In the case of unsubsidized loans the student undertakes to pay the interest as well and although deferments may be allowed, the consequent accrued interest also has to be paid by the student, thereby adding to the total cost of the loan.
Stafford Subsidized Loan
Log term, low interest, need based which has to be shown by filling a FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), but no credit check is required;, Loan guaranteed by federal government and interest too paid by government, postponement of payments possible in some cases and if allowed, accrued interest thereon too will be paid by the government.
Stafford Unsubsidized Loans
Log term, low interest, not need based, no credit check, interest is paid by the student; postponement of payments is possible in some cases, but accrued interest thereon is payable by the student. More suitable for those who don’t qualify for other loans or those who still need additional funding for their education.
Stafford Additional Unsubsidized Loan
Federal guidelines classify certain students as “Independent Students”. Another branch of Unsubsidized Stafford Loans known as Additional Unsubsidized Stafford Loans are generally reserved for borrowers from this Independent Students category.
To change your status from eligibility for a subsidized loan from an initial eligibility for only an unsubsidized loan.
Although a student may initially not qualify for a subsidized loan because of his lesser need in virtue of his part time work or other income, if he now quits his work / employment, he can fill a fresh application form showing his changed financial status and the new need for additional financial aid which may qualify him for a subsidized loan on the second occasion.
If this succeeds, it would make a very big difference to your total cost ultimately payable as an unsubsidized loan ends up very much costlier than a subsidized loan to repay, for obvious reasons.
Students may defer interest payments until graduation or up to when school attendance ends. When repayments start, a student may find himself owing anything between $ 20,000 – $ 100,000 or even more. Loan Repayment re-scheduling is not always negotiable and Stafford Loans are not dischargeable through bankruptcy.
(c) PLUS Loans (Parent Loan Undergraduate Students).
Parents do not have to show financial need to apply. The only federal loan where a credit check is required (although not a full scale check), however, parents should have not have had any adverse credit experience / records of default or bankruptcy; interest rate is currently fixed at 8.5%. This type of loan is disbursed to parents of undergrad dependent children who are enrolled in school at least halftime. (independent children are not eligible). Can borrow up to total cost of entire education of a dependent child undergraduate less: any grants, scholarships received. Repayments start after 60 – 90 days from the full disbursement of the loan; or after the student graduates.
3. Private Loans
These are also known as Alternative Education Loans and are offered by private lenders. There are no federal forms to be filled and these loans are not need based. Eligibility will depend on a good credit score. The rate of interest is (obviously) higher than in the case of federal loans and variable. Maximum amount that can be borrowed as well as a reduction in the interest rate are dependent on how good your credit score is. If your credit score is not good enough for the lender, to service your maximum requirements, getting a cosigner of high credit standing to support your application may achieve those extra benefits for you. These loans are generally taken as a supplement to federal loans to bridge the gap between the borrower’s actual requirement of financial aid and the limited amount that can be borrowed under federal loans programs; or when they need more flexible repayment options.
We have given above concise and yet sufficient details in order to get an all round basic idea of all types of student loans available for the funding of educational programs. We have not tried to overload this article with comprehensive details and facts pertaining to these loans since we have already posted 2 separate and more comprehensive articles on Federal Loans and Private Loans under the captions of Federal Student Loans and Private Student Loans respectively.
We recommend the said two articles for those desirous of obtaining more details on eligibility, features, repayments etc., and a deeper understanding of the advantages / disadvantages and other implications pertaining to all classes of Student Loans.
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Gus Taperman holds a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce and completed his master’s in Business Administration. He is working as writer and financial consultant [http://www.taperman.com]