College students in the U.S. are receiving more financial aid than ever. In 2010-11, more than $227 billion in financial aid was awarded to undergrad and graduate students. The College Board notes that over the decade from 2000-01 to 2010-11, grant aid per full-time equivalent grew at an average annual rate of 4.6 percent per year after adjusting for inflation. Postsecondary students received an average of $13,914 per full-time equivalent student in financial aid in 2010-11, including $6,566 in grants and $6,368 in federal loans. Meanwhile, college seniors who graduated in 2011 carried an average of $26,600 in student loan debt, according to the Project on Student Debt. The information belows describes what loan options are available to postsecondary students, and you can find out more about student loans in this feature article.
Federal Student Loans
- The Federal Perkins Loan
The Federal Perkins Loan is made through participating schools to undergraduate, graduate and professional degree students enrolled full-time or part-time. It is offered to students who demonstrate financial need and offers a very low fixed rate of 5 percent. Depending on the level of need, undergraduates can borrow up to $4,000 and graduate students up to $6,000. Unlike other federal loans, these loans are disbursed from the school, and the loans are repaid to the school.
- Stafford Loans
Stafford Loans are the most common type of federal student loans, and they are for undergraduate, graduate and professional degree students enrolled as at least a half-time students. There are two types of Stafford Loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. To be eligible for a subsidized Stafford Loan, the borrower must demonstrate financial need. As such, the U.S. Department of Education will pay (subsidize) the interest that accrues on subsidized Stafford Loans during certain periods. Conversely, financial need is not a requirement to obtain an unsubsidized Stafford Loan, and the borrower is responsible for paying the interest that accrues on these loans. The loans carry a fixed interest rate. For loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2008, the interest is 6 percent for subsidized Stafford loans for undergraduate students and 6.8 percent for unsubsidized Stafford loans for undergraduate and graduate students.
- The Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS Loans)
PLUS loans are loans intended for the parents of dependent undergraduate students who are enrolled at least half-time. Parents can obtain such a loan to help pay the cost of education for their dependent undergraduate children, though graduate and professional degree students may also obtain PLUS Loans to help pay for their own education.
- Consolidating Student Loans
Consolidation Loans allow student or parent borrowers to combine multiple federal education loans into one loan with one monthly payment.
Private Student Loans
Tip: Borrowers should first review their school's preferred lender list for private loans, if one is available.
Compare private student loans from Wells Fargo, Sallie Mae, Citi, PNC, Citizens Bank, Discover, Charter One and Suntrust. Also read about private loan benefits, interest rates and eligibility requirements.
This article on private loans breaks down the many private student loan options by Lender, Loan, Limits, Rates, Fees and Loan Term. The chart compares such lenders as Charter One, Chase, Citi, Citizens Bank, Commerce Bank, Discover, Fifth Third Bank, Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), PNC, Sallie Mae, Sun Trust and Wells Fargo. There's also info on state-specific private student loans, such as the MELA (Maine), the MEFA (Massachusetts), NYHELPs (New York) and the RISLA (Rhode Island). We like the details on special uses of various loans, such as loans that can be used for purchase of a computer, loans that can be used for study abroad and loans that do not require the borrower to be enrolled in a degree-seeking program.
- New Tools Find Cheap Private Student Loans
This article from U.S. News & World Report suggests lots of helpful sites that can help find private college loans. Also check out the article on 7 Ways Private Student Loans Are Getting Better.
- Student Loan Calculator
A calculator specific to private/alternative loans from the College Board. Compare loan terms and costs on up to four loans.
Specialty Student Loans
- The Health Professions Student Loan program provides long-term, low interest rate loans to full-time, financially needy students to pursue a degree in dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, podiatric medicine, or veterinary medicine. Apply for this loan at the student financial aid office of the school where you are or intend to be enrolled.
- The Nursing Student Loan program provides long-term, low-interest rate loans to full-time and half-time financially needy students pursuing a course of study leading to a diploma, associate, baccalaureate or graduate degree in nursing. Apply for this loan at the student financial aid office of the school where you are or intend to be enrolled.
- The Loans for Disadvantaged Students program provides long-term, low-interest rate loans to full-time, financially needy students from disadvantaged backgrounds, to pursue a degree in allopathic medicine, osteopathic medicine, dentistry, optometry, podiatric medicine, pharmacy or veterinary medicine. Apply for this loan at the student financial aid office of the school where you are or intend to be enrolled.
Student Loan Repayment and Student Loan Consolidation
- Federal Student Aid
Info. on paying back federal student loans, including repayment plans and calculators and Public Service Loan forgiveness, under which borrowers may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on their eligible federal student loans after they have made 120 payments on those loans while employed full-time by certain public service employers.
- Direct Loan program Make payments, and find out about loan consolidation, which combines your existing Federal education loans into one new consolidated loan.
Student Loan Tips and Tools
- College Board
Student Loan Repayment Calculator. Understand your student loan repayments in relation to your possible starting salary.
- Project on Student Debt
Research and resources on student debt, including stats, reports and advice to borrowers. Also check out student debt by state.
- Colleges With High Student Loan Repayment Rates
info here a list of undergraduate colleges with more than 100 borrowers and very high repayment rates. The federal government's analysis of the student loan repayment rates of more than 8,000 colleges and trade schools has some surprises.
- 6 Steps to Reducing Your Student Loan Costs
U.S. News & World Report offers tips to graduate students on how to save.