Getting a degree or diploma can help you achieve a fulfilling, challenging career. However, funding a post-secondary education is costly. To that end, there are various types of loans that a full-time student like yourself can obtain. The exact loan you need varies depending on your circumstances. Choosing the right student loan is essential so that you may minimize your debt and pay it off sooner.
There are two types of federal loans: Stafford loans and Perkins loans. Federal loans require you to be enrolled either full or part time in a post-secondary institution and need to be paid in full within 10 years. Stafford loans can be subsidized or unsubsidized. Both are identical in most respects, with some exceptions. For subsidized Stafford loans, the government pays the interest -- 3.4 percent for undergraduates and 6.8 percent for graduates -- while you are in school. Unsubsidized Stafford loans accrue interest immediately after you receive the loan and will ultimately become part of your debt. Additionally, the former is based on financial need, while the latter is not. In both cases, the maximum amount allowed is $23,000 for an undergraduate student and $65,000 for a graduate student. Stafford loans require you to begin repayment six months after graduation. Perkins loans are meant for students with strong financial need. While their borrowing limit differs from Stafford loans -- $27,500 for undergraduates and $60,000 for graduates -- interest is fixed at 5 percent and paid by the government while you are enrolled in school. You also have nine months after graduation before the first payment is due.
Also called "Grad PLUS" loans, these are supplementary loans that can either cover your entire education or supplement a current government loan. There is no limit regarding the amount you may borrow, but good credit is required. As a result, you may need a cosigner to obtain the loan. Repayment begins six months after graduation, or immediately if you drop out earlier. The interest rate is also higher than federal loans, at 7.9 percent.
Personal loans fall into two potential categories: private loans and state loans. For private loans, you basically borrow money from a financial institution -- provided that you have proper credit -- and repay the loans according to their terms. While these may not be as cheap or easy to pay as those based on financial need, they could be the only option if you are ineligible for federal loans. State loans, however, provide a middle ground. While more expensive and potentially restrictive than federal loans, they are a better alternative to private loans, provided you are eligible. Like private loans, state loans vary. You can contact your state's office of education to explore your options.
Your educational institution may offer financial aid to students who qualify. Referred to as "institutional loans," they are provided directly by your college or university, and are not supported or subsidized by the federal government. Loan limits, payment terms and requirements vary from school to school, so consult with your financial aid or other relevant department for details.
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