How to Get Community College Student Loans
While community colleges tend to cost less than four-year schools, you’ll likely still have tuition to pay. Unless you have savings to cover your cost of attendance, you may need to borrow student loans for community college.
Fortunately, you have just as many options as four-year students and can turn to the federal government or a private lender for community college loans. Here’s our guide on how to get student loans if you’re starting your higher education at a two-year school.
How to get student loans for community college
The Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid provides several types of student loans for community college. Since federal loans tend to have low interest rates and flexible repayment terms, they should usually be your first stop as a borrower.
But if you need additional funds to pay for school, you could also consider a private student loan. Here are your four main options for student loans for community college.
1. Direct subsidized student loans
This federal loan is available to students who prove they have a financial need. You can borrow up to that needed amount, which is determined by the school. To qualify, you must be enrolled no less than half-time at an accredited community college.
The Department of Education will pay the interest on this loan while you’re still in school and for the first six months after you leave school.
2. Direct unsubsidized student loans
With a Direct unsubsidized loan, you don’t need to demonstrate a financial need, but the school will still decide on how much you can borrow. Rather than basing the amount off of your financial need, your school will look at the cost of attendance compared to the other types of aid you’re receiving.
You are responsible for paying the interest, and the interest will accrue if you decide not to pay while you’re in school.
3. Direct PLUS loans
Another option to get student loans for community college is through the Direct PLUS program. This is a loan available to parents of community college students. Parents can borrow up to the cost of tuition minus any other financial aid.
The parents’ credit history is taken into consideration for qualification, and interest will accrue during any non-payment period.
4. Private student loans for community
Even if you get federal aid and scholarships, you still might not be able to cover the entire cost of your education. That’s when you might consider taking out private student loans to cover that gap in coverage. Not all lenders will offer this option, but here’s everything you need to know about how to get student loans from a private lender.
How do private community college loans differ from federal loans?
Unlike federal student loans, which are issued by the government, private student loans are offered through lenders such as Citizens Bank or College Ave. Since these are private institutions, the eligibility requirements, interest rates, and repayment terms can vary depending on the lender. So be sure to shop around to find your best private student loan rates.
Pros of private student loans for community college
In addition to helping you cover any gaps in coverage, private loans tend to have higher borrowing limits and can sometimes have lower interest rates. This means you can have more money upfront to cover costs associated with both tuition and living expenses, and potentially pay less over time if you secure a lower rate.
It’s also important to note that although there is a deadline to apply for federal loans through the FAFSA, there is no deadline to apply for a private loan. So, you can apply in the middle of a semester if you suddenly face financial hardship. Just be sure to give yourself a few weeks.
Cons of private community college loans
Since eligibility for a private loan is dependent on your credit history, if you have a low or no credit score, you might not be able to take out a loan. However, you could use a cosigner if you’re deemed ineligible. Even if you or your cosigner is able to take out a loan, a poor score could mean you’ll pay a higher interest rate and therefore more money in the long run.
Also, you don’t have as many repayment options with private student loans compared to federal loans. You might have to start making some type of payment while still in school, and failing to pay on time can mean you’ll face steep penalties. That’s why it’s important to understand all of the terms before taking out a private loan.
How do I get a private student loan?
To get a loan, you must apply through a lender, which includes banks or private institutions such as Sallie Mae. Each will have their own set of requirements to apply. They will then decide if you are eligible, how much you can borrow, the interest rate, and the repayment terms.
Be sure to research a few lenders to make sure you’re getting the best options for your financial scenario.
Student loans for community college are possible
As community college becomes a more popular option for students for a variety of reasons, it’s important for students to know their financial options for affording a two-year school. If you’re considering a community college, be sure you know how to get student loans to cover all of your costs.