Student Loans – Which One Is For You?

Students and families are often confused with the variety of options available when it comes to financing a college education. There are a myriad of options, from college scholarships and grants to federal and private student loans.

As part of the Higher Education Act of 1965, President Lyndon Johnson created this law which was intended “to strengthen the education resources of our college and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education.” This increased all sources of federal funding provided to universities and added in grants and other forms of financial aid.

The Federal Stafford Loan is available to both undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at least half-time at a college or university accepting federal aid. This is a need-based program in which undergraduates may borrow up to $5,500 per year in subsidized funds based on academic level and graduate level students may borrow up to $18,500 per year (up to $8,500 in subsidized funds and the remainder in unsubsidized funds). The funds are sent directly to the school and are applied to the student’s account. To ease the financial burden, payments are not required until six months after the student graduates. When looking to apply for a Stafford Loan, students should see what types of borrower benefits each lender is offering. As these student loans are all fixed at the same interest rate set by the U.S. Government, lenders are offering incentives to borrow by way of discounts, such as waived fees, rate reductions for early payment and cash back.

While a Federal Stafford Loan is certainly a necessary start, it doesn’t always cover the entire cost of education. A Parent PLUS Loan is a common way that parents contribute to their child’s education. This credit-based loan allows parents to borrow the total cost of undergraduate education including tuition, room and board, supplies, college fees and more, minus any other aid received. Once the loan has been put into the student’s account at the school, repayment begins shortly thereafter, at which time the student loan consolidation process can be performed. At a fixed interest rate, the Parent PLUS Loan is an easy and cost effective solution to help bridge the gap between Stafford Loan funding and the cost of education.

For many years, graduate students were only given Stafford Loans as a federal loan option for funding their often costly education. The difference was made up through home equity, savings, salaries and private loans. However, the Graduate PLUS Loan is a new product that became available to graduate students in 2006. Graduate students with good credit can apply on their own signature for a loan up to the cost of education, minus any other aid received. The Graduate PLUS Loan can be applied to tuition, room and board, education supplies, lab and travel expenses. The interest rate is fixed and payments are not required while enrolled in school. Upon graduation, borrower benefits kick in to help students save money during repayment. Or a student may save even more by consolidating this loan using the federal loan consolidation program. The Graduate PLUS Loan truly provides graduate students with a great option to making their graduate education dreams a reality.

The Perkins Loan is another federal loan available to both undergraduate and graduate students offered on the basis of financial need, other aid received and availability of funds at each school. The federal government lends schools funds for distribution to its neediest students. The school, therefore, is the lender, and undergraduates may be awarded up to $4,000/year and graduates may be awarded up to $6,000/year. These loans need to be repaid directly to the school and have a fixed 5% interest rate since the program was started. Students can take advantage of a nine-month grace period and a ten-year repayment term. However, if consolidated with any existing federal student loan, including Stafford or Graduate PLUS Loans, this can extend the repayment term. Consolidation has been mentioned a few times and it’s really in the best interest of students to take advantage of this upon graduation. Each federal loan, on its own, has a 10 year repayment term, regardless of total loan debt. Consolidation fixed the interest rate and extends the repayment term, allowing more time to repay an often hefty federal loan debt.

Named for Senator Claiborne Pell, the Pell Grant was established to provide funds that don’t need to be repaid directly to the neediest students. This is because it is a grant and not a federal student loan. However, like the Stafford and Perkins Loan, eligibility is based on need, as determined by the cost of attendance and expected family contribution. Since 2003, the maximum Pell Grant award has been $4,050 per academic year. However, due to the rising cost of education, many question why the Pell Grant award has not also increased. The Pell Grant covers, on average, one-third of the yearly cost of education at a public four-year institution. However, twenty years ago, it covered close to 60%. On February 15, 2007, in an attempt to slowly combat this issue, President Bush signed legislation into law that would increase the Pell Grant to $4,310 for the 2007-08 academic year. The following year, the grant will increase to $4,600 and up to $5,400 by the year 2012. These advances are certainly helping students and families fund the cost of education, especially as tuition costs continue to rise

Private student loans have gained popularity over recent years as federal funding hasn’t quite met the entire cost of education. There are many other costs associated with education, besides just tuition. Commuting students need to cover transportation costs somehow. City campuses don’t always guarantee housing, which forces students to find an off-campus apartment, often with high rent costs. There are costly textbooks to purchase, lab supplies and flights home that aren’t always covered by traditional financial aid. Private loans originate to students by a bank or other financial institution, unlike federal loans. Private student loans also offer similar benefits to students as a federal loan, such as deferred payment until graduation, different loan repayment terms, and borrower benefits. The interest rates on private loans vary from company to company and are, usually, on a basis of credit. Co-signers are a great way for a student who may have limited or no credit at all to get this loan. Because of the varying private loans available, most parents and families “shop around” until they find their ideal solution.

How To Get A Student Loan With Bad Credit

Tough economic conditions and rising prices have led more individuals to accumulate debt before they have even started their studies. While bad debts can place limitations on a number of financial options, it does not have to prevent you from furthering your education. A fair amount of research can aid in finding reputable service providers offering a bad credit loan.

Bad credit does not only refer to those with outstanding and unmanageable debts, but also persons with no repayment history. Although reputable companies will not advertise loans to individuals with debts, there are alternatives that are made available to cover the funds for college fees. Some of the options for those looking to borrow such finances include scholarships, financial aid, private lenders, and federal aid among others.

One has the option to apply for funding from the federal government as credit checks are not required. A number of application requirements will need to be met and receiving aid may be lengthy and difficult due to the number of individuals often seeking such aid. There are alternative choices available if such options are not applicable for your needs.

There is the option to seek loans from a private lender such as a bank. Your credit score will be used to determine whether you qualify for funding where higher scores are considered more favorable and trustworthy when it comes to repayments. Unfortunately if you possess bad debts or your financial history is non-existent, these scores will be significantly lower and you may not be approved.

An alternative is to use a cosigner who will agree to pay the loan for you if payments are not made regularly. It is important to select a parent, guardian or other trusted individual with a good FICO score to ensure that the finances are approved. This is one of the most common methods for obtaining the necessary funds to provide for your education.

If you are able to wait for a period of time before pursuing your studies consider obtaining finances from a financial lender to pay off debts and improve FICO scores. A personal loan may be obtained whether secured or unsecured depending on your financial situation. The aim is to pay off debts to prove to lenders that you are capable of responsible financial practice and fund approval.

A bad credit loan can be obtained with a fair amount of research into the options available. Consider a cosigner when applying for funds through a bank or work towards improving debts and payment history. It is important to assess the most applicable solutions before making a final decision.

SAFRA – Big Reform in the Student Aid Industry

On March 30, 2010, President Obama signed the Student Aid Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) into law. This landmark piece of reform legislation is intended to reboot the floundering student loan industry by redirecting all new federal loans through the Department of Education, bolstering several pro-financial aid initiatives, and ending the hotly-contested Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. I would like to walk you through these changes, explain how they will affect the average student, and attempt to answer any burning questions you may have about them.

FFEL, and Why It’s Going Away

The Federal Family Education Loan Program was established in 1965 as a way to provide access to college for students requiring financial aid. At the time, the government was not participating heavily in the origination of student loans, but recognized the need. In order to create a less credit-heavy lending option for students, the government began to allow private banks to originate loans for students that were backed with federal funds. Essentially, this created a near risk-free environment for private banks to lend money to students and earn interest on the borrowed funds. Further, these banks have been paid subsidies as an incentive to create these loans; the result is them getting paid by the government to make a student loan that is guaranteed money for the bank, even if the borrower defaults. The long and short: the banks win on both sides of the equation, and make a ton of money doing very little.

To add insult to the injury, many FFEL lenders have been accused of purposely providing poor customer service in an attempt to increase delinquency rates. This difference can be easily seen when one looks at the default rates for 2009: 7.2% for FFEL, 4.8% for the Direct Loan program (data sourced from ED.gov.) This activity supposedly is overlooked due to the much larger commission a FFEL bank’s collection department is authorized to take for recovering a defaulted FFEL student loan; in some cases it has been reported to be as high as 38.5% of the loan’s balance (The Huffington Post).

The effect of the SAFRA bill is these subsidies and current relationships between private bank and the federal government dissolve. Ideally, this will liberate up to $61 billion over the next 10 years to be reinvested in other initiatives (such as the Pell Grant program) and potentially pay down some of the federal deficit. Keep in mind that much of this is sensationalism however, considering the fact that our total deficit is currently in the region of $12.7 trillion; the estimated $10 billion would be a drop in the bucket toward paying down our national debt, but every bit counts.

Federal Student Loan Restructuring

As of July 2010, all new federal student loans will be originated through the Department of Education’s Federal Direct Loan Program (FDLP). In the past, FFEL banks were allowed to originate federal loans, but due to the issues listed above and shady practices, Congress has reached a consensus that the program is overdue for the guillotine and needs to end. Thus, the relationship between private bank and government is set to change in a way that is mostly invisible to the borrower. This difference is in the execution: although new loans will be created by FDLP, the government will now require private banks and non-profit entities to compete in order to service them. They plan to make this attractive to their former FFEL partners by paying premium and competitive market rates for the first 100,000 loans serviced per bank. The end result is this: the Department of Education makes your loan, but the customer service is handled by a private bank or large non-profit. Supposedly this will provide a higher quality experience for borrowers, but the reality of the change is yet to be seen.

As someone with a lot of experience with finance and the business world, I personally do not understand why a private bank would want to service federal loans. It can’t be lucrative enough to make the entire process worthwhile, and no extra funds appear on the banks’ balance sheets because the government is handling the money on both sides of the equation. My sixth sense says there are other kickbacks in place for the banks involved (possibly tax breaks, or something similar.) It is likely that lobbyists and media will be keeping a very close eye on whatever transpires in this arena; if you are interested in following how this process is evolving, check a trusted news source (such as the Wall Street Journal) regularly.

If you are currently a student or parental borrower, your existing federal loans will remain unchanged by this switch. The only difference you may see going forward is if you attend a FFEL school; they will be migrating to the Direct Loan Program in the next six months. Originally, most schools were one or the other exclusively depending on what type of benefits they could get for their students from each institution. After July, any new loans you take out will all be through FDLP, at a lower interest rate, and with a more flexible array of repayment plans.

Improvements to the IBR Program

Income Based Repayment (IBR) is one of the best things to ever happen to student borrowers. Essentially, if your total payments for the year equate to higher than 15% of your annual income, you are eligible to have your payments drastically lowered. For instance, under IBR, an income of $15,000 (for a household size of one) or less would make your monthly payment on all federal student loans $0. That’s right, no payments at all. As the household size increases, the maximum income level to qualify for IBR rises as well. The Student Loan Network has assembled a great chart on Income Based Repayment information that presents the data in an easy-to-digest format.

The benefits of IBR don’t stop there. In addition to potentially having your monthly payments significantly reduced (or eliminated), you actually can have the loans forgiven if they are in good standing and all payments are made on time for a certain amount of time. In some cases, federal student loans will be forgiven after 10 years (this is based on a “hot fields” list of desirable professions) and 25 years for everyone else. If you are wondering what is exactly meant by loan “forgiveness”, it means your loan gets cancelled, and you no longer have to pay it back or have the debt sitting on your credit history.

So what are the technical changes to this program? Thanks to a $1.5 billion infusion of funds provided by cutting the FFEL program, eligibility requirements are going to be relaxed further and loan forgiveness will be accelerated. Assuming no amendments or further changes to SAFRA, starting in 2014, the payments to income ratio for eligibility is being dropped to 10%. This is fantastic given the amount of debt the average student graduates with (federal and otherwise) and allows for greater ability to manage finances and afford living costs. Additionally, instead of the previous 25-year period before loan forgiveness, the program is being accelerated to 20 years. This is an absolutely major win for responsible student borrowers.

Ongoing Pell Grant Enhancements

The Pell Grant program is widely appreciated in the financial aid industry as a resource of funds for low-income individuals to help afford the cost of education. Although the purchasing power parity of this type of grant has fallen sharply over the years — largely due to inflation and the rapid growth of tuition costs — it is still a significant help to needy students that does not require repayment. The majority of the cost savings from cutting the FFEL program are planned on being redirected to the Pell Grant program, infusing an estimated $49.5 billion over the next 10 years.

The effects of this investment are adding at least a million more recipients per year, raising the award amounts, and linking future grant awards to popular economic indicators in the future. Currently, the maximum Pell Grant award is set to be $5,550 for 2010; the new legislation increases the award up to $5,975 in 2019. In addition, the Pell Grant program is going to be linked to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) starting in 2014, which will help the grant awards keep pace with inflation and maintain their buying power.

What The Changes Mean To You

As a current or future student borrower, the massive overhaul probably seems intimidating and difficult to understand. The bottom line of the legislation is to improve access to financial aid and make school more affordable for all levels of family income. For low income families, this comes in the form of increased grants; for everyone else, improved repayment programs and a simplified loan application process. Very little will be different on the front end for most students and parents, and again, there will be no change to existing loans.

If you are concerned about finding money for school, keep in mind that there are options other than federal aid available too. Scholarships are an excellent resource because they do not need to be paid back and you can find them in amounts ranging up into the thousands of dollars. Websites like StudentScholarshipSearch.com and ScholarshipPoints.com are quite popular for finding scholarship money and cost nothing to join. In the end, affording college is always a balance of savings, smart borrowing, and maximizing the amount of scholarships and grants possible to finance your education. It is entirely possible to get a degree without putting yourself into insane amounts of debt, so take the time to read informative financial aid literature and educate yourself on finding money for school.

Student Loans – Financial Aid for Students

When looking for student loans, the question about financial aid always comes up. To come straight to the point, yes, financial aid is readily available for those students who wish to take advantage of it.

Financial aid can come in many different forms such as Scholarships, Employment opportunities, Private Loans, Government Loans and Grants.

Monetary aid is always available for students who have been approved or who meet the necessary criteria from the lending institutions.

Aid is also renewable each year that you remain at the educational institution and keep studying.

Also there can be money provided for you to fill in the difference (or shortfall) between you and any other family resources you may have access to.

Great

The great thing about this type of aid is that it is there so as to allow those financially disadvantages students the opportunity to be educated. As long as the student continues to remain eligible on a yearly basis, then the aid is always there for them.

It is also true that any aid you may be granted is only intended to help supplement any other financial support you may have from other sources.

Available

It is available from Government, state, Educational institutions and private companies. The purpose of this aid is to help with the educational expenses which include many things such as fees, school books, accommodation, transportation costs and other expenses the student may incur.

Provide that the student qualifies with the conditions of the loan provider and also as long as the student is capable of meeting the financial needs to service the loan on a monthly basis then financial aid can be obtained.

Many

Monetary aid can be obtained from many different sources and if you are a doctoral student, then you may be eligible for a full scholarship.

As mentioned above this aid can be It is usually provided by private companies, Government both Federal and State., and by the educational institutions themselves.

Research

It is always important of course that you conduct your own research into the types of financial aid that your require because no-one knows your situation as good as you.

One of the best places to gain more useful information is the educational facility itself, these places always have councilors who are armed with the latest information about what financial aid is available.

The last place you can go to is the internet, why go here last? The reason is so that once you have received the information from your educational institute, you can then use the internet as a ‘double check’.

I hope you have gained a little more insight about student loans and financial aid.