For many students and families, educational loans and grants are an extra funding source when paying for college. The Financial Aid Office processes and certifies loans for students and parents. Whether you want to learn about federal loans and grants, or private loans, we can help get you started.
Federal Loans, Federal Grants and Private Loans
Non-scholarship funding is generally divided into two categories: loans and grants. Educational loans, like any loan on a house or car, must be repaid over time and almost always with an interest charge. Grants are "gift money" and do not need to be repaid under normal circumstances, much like a scholarship.
Federal loans are loans offered by the federal government and authorized by law. They typically have more flexible repayment options, including income-based repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs. Federal loans are available to all students regardless of family income. Private loans are loans issued by banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. Private loans are not always completely regulated by law but may offer better terms, like interest rates or higher principals, than federal loans. At the same time, private loans also don't have the same protections as federal loans, may have a minimum family income requirement to qualify, and will place more emphasis on requiring a clean credit history.
There are no straightforward guidelines to which loans are best for your specific circumstances. Lower interest rates are usually better, but sometimes a loan might have more flexible payment options for a slightly higher rate, or a longer-term to repay the loan. Interest rates can add a significant amount of money to your total repayment price even when the monthly payment is lower. Always ensure you are an informed borrower and have fully read the truth in lending disclosure of any loan before borrowing.
Know What You Owe
The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the US Department of Education's central database for federal student aid. NSLDS receives data from schools, guaranty agencies, and all federal student aid programs and combines it to provide a centralized, integrated view of federal loans and grants. The system is the first step to knowing your federal aid balance.
Private loans also include online account access and reporting. Each individual lending company or bank has its own system. Like NSLDS, it's a good idea to sign up to always have access to accurate information about your loan balances.
Regardless of your choice for federal or private loans, understanding the repayment process for your student loans goes a long way toward building a solid financial foundation. Remember, student loans are real loans, just like car or home loans. You must repay a student loan even if your financial circumstances become difficult. Your student loans cannot be canceled because you didn’t get the education or job you expected, or because you didn’t complete your education.
It is important for student borrowers to know loan balance amounts and repayment options both before and after graduation. We encourage students to work with their loan servicers, whether federal or private, to stay informed about their loans. Students should make regular monthly payments on loans in order to maintain a good credit rating. Complete federal loan repayment information, including a payment calculator, is available on the Federal Student Aid website. For private loans, you can enter your loan information into FinAid's calculator.