August 10, 2011
One question that comes up a lot from parents is how to fund the remainder of your child’s education, after federal loans of course. There are a variety of options out there including Federal PLUS loans and private college loans. It can be difficult to decide on which loan is right for your family, so to help you in the process, I’ve explained some of the major benefits and drawbacks of each below.
Parent PLUS Loans
Parent plus loans are available through the government and offer a variety of benefits. Benefits such as deferment, forbearance, and even some cancellation options are a perk of PLUS loans that are not always available with private loans. However, the interest rate is a fixed 7.9%, and higher than some private loans.
One of the most common questions from parents about the PLUS loan is in regards to the credit check. The credit check for PLUS loans is minimal and it’s mostly to make sure that there is no recent bankruptcy or adverse history on record within the past 5 years. If you’re still concerned that your credit will hinder your ability to receive the loan, you should continue with the application process, as students whose parent’s get denied a PLUS loan are entitled to further Stafford loans (at lower interest rates than the PLUS).
Private loans may actually be a better option than the PLUS loan for some families. Interest rates are now very competitive and come in both fixed and variable. This would allow for less interest over the lifetime of the loan than the Parent PLUS. You should also note that while the loan holder in this case is the student, most loans will suggest that a parent cosign for the student, which is generally a good idea anyway, as it improves approval chances and may lower the interest rate for the loan.
A downside of private loans is that many of the repayment benefits that you find with federal loans are not all available, however, the lower interest rates could outweigh this point. There are also other benefits of private loans to consider, such as the disbursal method. Unlike federal loans, private loans get disbursed directly to the student, so they can pay for immediate expenses such as books, or room and board.
There is no real answer to “what is the best loan” because this is too subjective and is different for everyone. There are a lot of different factors to consider when looking into funding your child’s education and it comes down to not which loan is the best, but which is best for your family. To help you decide, you’ll simply have to weigh the pros and cons of each option.
May 6, 2010
If your child received their financial aid award letter and there weren’t enough digits on the page to cover tuition, you are definitely not alone. The cost of college continues to steadily grow every year, but financial aid has not kept the same pace. As a result, the gap between aid and cost continues to grow.
Once your child has exhausted the annual maximum for Stafford loans, the next step is to look at credit-based options to bridge the financial aid gap. Fortunately for you, there are quite a few lenders that all must compete with each other to make money and therefore give you an opportunity to minimize the interest rate on a new loan.
If you’ve read a few posts on this blog, you know the score on Parent PLUS loans, but what about private student loans? There are a few notable differences… and in some cases they can become more attractive than their federal counterpart.
- Private student loans have variable interest rates (meaning they change with the index they are associated with… most commonly LIBOR or the Prime)
- They come from banks instead of the Department of Education
- Many banks offer special incentives to make a private student loan more worthwhile
At the moment, interest rates are quite low due to the Fed attempting to put the economy back on a growth track out of the recession. This means that the indices are at historical lows and with a creditworthy borrower, you can secure a great interest rate that can be as much as 5% lower than a Parent PLUS loan.
If you want to learn more about some of the incentives that private lenders offer, check out this blog on the Student Loan Network.
The bottom line is just do some research before you take out a loan. In many cases, you can save thousands of dollars in interest if you shop around.