Congratulations on your decision to pursue your education! Online education is a good choice for you! Even considering the increased affordability level of online education, you find that you still need student financial aid. There are many options available in the student loan marketplace, a little research and following the logical steps will help you find the student loan that is right for you.
Step 1: The FAFSA
The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is a form that must be filled out at the beginning of ever year for most students and all students requiring student financial aid. What this form does is avail every student to all possible government funding. Most educational facilities make it a requirement of enrollment. This form does take considerable time to complete and is extremely comprehensive. It gathers information of the student’s financial and educational picture to determine eligibility for bursaries and scholarships.
Another excellect resource we recommend for is the Student Aid website at the Department of Education.
Step 2: Federal Student Loans
To qualify for this type of loan, you must be a US citizen or a permanent resident who is enrolled in a full or half time undergraduate or graduate program. This should be the first type of student financial aid that you try to obtain because of low rates and the best repayment options.
- Subsidized – A subsidized Stafford loan is one in which the government will subsidize the interest on the loan amount as long as the student is taking classes at least half time. Payment of the interest begins when the student graduates, then principal as well as interest begins to be repaid. Financial need must be determined to be eligible for this type of student financial aid.
- Unsubsidized – An unsubsidized Stafford loan is one where the student is responsible for paying the interest of the loan from the date that the loan is taken out. In some cases this amount can be deferred and added to the capital balance of the loan, repayment to begin upon graduation. The use of this type of student loan should be considered if you do not qualify for a subsidized Stafford loan or if the amount of subsidized loan that you are approved for is not sufficient.
Parent Loans (PLUS)
Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students are a low interest, federally funded student financial aid program for parents of undergraduate students who are enrolled in classes at least half time. Students must also be US citizens or permanent residents. Approval is not based on a demonstration of financial need but on credit-worthiness. If the parent is not able to prove credit-worthiness, a co-borrower can sign for the parent. The entire amount of the educational cost can be borrowed minus any predetermined federal assistance or Stafford loans granted.
The Perkins Loans are student financial aids developed for students of exceptional financial need. These government funds are given to educational institutions and are then combined with funds donated by the institution and are paid to the student or applied to their educational costs directly. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Assistance) form will provide information about a student’s eligibility for this type of student loan. The Perkins loan carries a lower interest rate and longer grace periods for repayment.
Step 3: Personal Loans
In general terms, the personal loans are more expensive and less forgiving in repayment options. The entire risk of the loan is taken on by a financial institution, brining on the extra points of interest and the more stringent repayment options. It is a method that is available for those students who do not qualify for federally funded student financial aid programs, or who find that they need more than is available through those means. Because of the additional costs, please be sure you exhaust the less expensive options first.
Be sure to check to ensure that the program you have selected, be it campus based, institutional, distance learning or online education is able to provide student loan or federal funding options to you, the student.