Direct PLUS Loans are loans made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. Eligibility is not based on financial need, but a credit check is required. Borrowers who have an adverse credit history must meet additional requirements to qualify.
As a general rule, students should only consider obtaining a private education loan if they have maxed out the Federal Stafford Loan. They should also file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which may qualify them for grants, work-study and other forms of student aid. Undergraduate students should also compare costs with the Federal PLUS Loan, as the PLUS loan is usually much less expensive and has better repayment terms.
Fixed interest rates will stay the same for the life of the loan but usually start our higher. Variable interest rates, on the other hand, fluctuate over time according to the market rate, but typically start our lower. There is no right answer to which is the best private student loan rate type; it really depends if you think interest rates will generally increase or decrease in the future.
Variable Rates: Starting variable rates range from 2.93% to 11.57% APR (with autopay), and will never exceed 13.95% (sometimes lower in certain states as required by law). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin of between 0.86% and 9.76%. The current one-month LIBOR rate is 2.27%. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Zero fees, period.
When you consider the value of a college education — including the fact that average lifetime earnings for college graduates are nearly $1 million more than individuals with only a high school diploma or GED — student loans may be a smart investment. If you budget properly and have a good sense of the actual amount of money you need in loan funds to supplement other forms of aid as well as your resources, you can limit your overall indebtedness by borrowing only what you truly need. You should also consider the fact that there are no prepayment penalties. (Note: the lender partners on our site do not charge a prepayment penalty.)
One of the flexible repayment options we offer is the ability to temporarily stop (postpone) your student loan payments. This is called a deferment or forbearance. While they can be helpful solutions if you’re experiencing a temporary hardship, these are not good long-term solutions. Why? Because in most cases, interest will continue to accrue (accumulate) on your loan while you’re not making payments and may be capitalized (cause interest to accrue on interest). When you resume repayment (which you will have to do eventually) your loan balance will probably be even higher than it was before. If you’re having financial trouble, why set yourself back even further by doing this? There are often better solutions available. Before choosing deferment or forbearance, ask about enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan. Under those plans, if you make little or nothing, you pay little or nothing. Additionally, with the income-driven repayment plans, you’re working toward loan forgiveness while making a lower payment. Before postponing your payments, consider your other options.
This page provides a basic comparison chart that highlights the key characteristics of the major private education loans. FinAid also provides a separate list of private consolidation loans. In addition to the private student loan programs, there are several websites like Credible and other student loan comparison sites that provide tools for comparing private student loans which help identify the loans that match your criteria.
Applying for federal student loans is easy amd takes about an hour to complete. In filing the FAFSA you have already applied for federal student loans. The FAFSA is your application for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Student Loans and for the federal Perkins loan. Before you begin, make sure to have this information handy to make the process go faster:
You can compare private student loan options on our site. Keep in mind there are a number of popular private student loan names you may see and hear, and it is bound to be confusing. Sometimes the names will be generic, and other times the name will refer to a specific lender’s program or brand name. The name of the student loan program is not as critical as an understanding of how the particular loan terms work, or how they may impact you. To give you a quick primer on some of the most popular private student loan names you may encounter, see the list below.
Variable Rates: Starting variable rates range from 3.65% to 11.25% APR (with autopay), and will never exceed 13.95% (sometimes lower in certain states as required by law). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin of between 1.58% and 9.98%. The current one-month LIBOR rate is 2.27%. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Zero fees, period.
If you or your child graduated before July 1, 2006, it pays to roll multiple federal loans into one—you’ll lock in an interest rate that’s lower than what you’re paying on each separate loan. Earned a diploma since then? All federal student loans now carry fixed interest rates, so there’s no financial benefit to consolidating. (And it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to combine any variable private loans.) Nevertheless, if you have trouble keeping track of payment deadlines and have been hit with late fees on occasion, go ahead and consolidate. (For more information, go to SimpleTuition.com.) You’ll save some dough by doing so.
Private student loan volume is expected to return to the 25% annual growth rate unless there is another increase in federal loan limits or an expansion of the availability of federal student loans. For example, the proposal for expanding Perkins loan funding from $1 billion a year to $8.5 billion a year will cause a significant decline in private student loan volume. But so long as federal loan limits do not increase every year, private student loan volume will continue to grow at double-digit rates.
What’s the best way to make additional payments to pay off student loans fast? Make your regular payment on time via auto-pay and then schedule another extra payment for the next day. Under federal regulation, lenders apply your payment to late charges or collection costs for your loan, then to any outstanding interest accrued since your last payment, and then to your principal. Private lenders typically follow suit.
Capitalized interest on student loans happens when your loan servicer adds unpaid interest to your total loan balance. This makes your balance increase and then accrue even more interest. To put it simply, you pay interest on your interest and it can cause you to owe more than the amount you originally borrowed. This happens when you defer or forbear your student loans.
Private student loan volume grew much more rapidly than federal student loan volume through mid-2008, in part because aggregate loan limits on the Stafford loan remained unchanged from 1992 to 2008. (The introduction of the Grad PLUS loan on July 1, 2006 and the increases in the annual but not aggregate limits had only a modest impact on the growth of private student loan volume. The subprime mortgage credit crisis of 2007-2010, however, limited lender access to the capital needed to make new loans, reining in growth of the private student loan marketplace.) The annual increase in private student loan volume was about 25% to 35% per year, compared with 8% per year for federal loan volume.
College/universities may charge a credit card processing fee (or convenience fee). This is in addition to the interest charges the credit card company imposes. Many lenders waive the origination fee. For certain borrowers, this may even make private student loans an attractive option over federal loan options (such as Parent PLUS and Grad PLUS programs).
If you’re more about saving as much money as possible, you might want to give the debt avalanche a shot. “With this method, you throw the largest payment you can at your highest-interest-rate debt every month, while paying the minimum payments on your other debts.” By focusing on interest rates rather than the balances, you save more money overall.
After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.
The other thing to consider with repayment is what your repayment term will be after you leave school. Most often, lenders will offer multiple term lengths ranging from 5 to 15 years, though some do offer longer terms. The longer your term, the lower your monthly payment will be, but the more your loan will cost over time, and vice-versa for shorter terms.
Student loan repayment assistance is a perk that more companies are providing given that most students carry debt into their careers. Although only 4% of companies offer this benefit now, it is the hottest benefit of the past year with 76% of people saying that student loan repayment benefits would be a deciding or contributing factor to accepting a job, according to the 2015 American Student Assistance survey. Employers usually pay $100 to $300 a month with many employers matching contributions up to $2,000 per year.
If you decide to take out a loan, make sure you understand who is making the loan and the terms and conditions of the loan. Student loans can come from the federal government, from private sources such as a bank or financial institution, or from other organizations. Loans made by the federal government, called federal student loans, usually have more benefits than loans from banks or other private sources. Learn more about the differences between federal and private student loans.