If you aren't able to pay all your college costs up-front, the government can help. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid offers a number of different loans to help American students fund their educations. The total amount you can borrow depends on the loan you qualify for, the course you're studying and whether your parents are helping pay for your expenses.
Types of Loans
The three types of FAFSA loans are the Stafford Loan, the Perkins Loan and the PLUS Loan. The Perkins Loan charges the lowest interest rate and is given to students from low-income families. As of 2012, the Perkins Loan interest rate is 5 percent. The Stafford Loan has a higher interest rate of 6.8 percent. However, students can qualify for a subsidized interest rate of 3.4 percent while they are still at university. The Plus Loan charges the highest interest rate of 7.9 percent. Students take this loan when they have used up all other sources of aid.
For undergraduates, the most the Perkins Loan will lend is $5,500 a year. Whether a student receives the maximum amount depends on her total financial need. If a student qualifies for the maximum each year, she can borrow $27,500 throughout her undergraduate course of study. The Perkins Loan also can be used for graduate school. A graduate student can receive up to $8,000 a year from this program. The maximum amount a student can borrow from undergraduate and graduate studies combined is $60,000.
The Stafford Loan is divided between two types of undergraduate students. Dependent students get help from their parents to pay for university, while independent students do not. A dependent student can borrow up to a maximum of $31,000 from the Stafford Loan program. Only $23,000 of the loan can be at the subsidized rate. An independent student can borrow up to a maximum of $57,500, and the entire loan can be subsidized. If a student continues into grad school, she can borrow up to a lifetime maximum of $138,500, with $65,000 being subsidized. Medical students have an increased limit and can borrow up to $224,000.
If the other loans weren't enough to pay off your college expenses, the PLUS Loan can fill in the gap. There is no fixed limit to the amount you can borrow from the PLUS Loan program. Instead, FAFSA looks at the what your school reports as the cost of one year of attendance. If your other financial aid isn't enough to pay for everything, you can use a PLUS Loan to fill whatever is left over.
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