Alternative student loans, sometimes called private student loans, are loans a student takes out directly from lending institutions to assist with college related costs. Alternative student loans can be used for any education-related expenses including tuition, books, transportation and room and board. Approval is generally based on the student's credit.
If you are in a financial aid eligible program and want to receive an alternative loan you must be registered for classes. The amount of the alternative loan you will qualify for is limited to your cost of attendance minus any financial aid. By law, your lender will require you to complete the Private Education Loan Applicant Self-Certification form.
When shopping for an alternative loan online or by contacting lending institutions directly, there are some questions you may want to ask:
- What is the lowest interest rate and fee combination you offer? Is this for the life of the loan?
- Is the interest rate a fixed rate?
- What will my payments be on this loan?
- What is the total I will have to repay including fees and interest, provided I do not prepay?
- Is there any penalty for paying off the loan early?
- When do I have to start making payments?
- How long will I be repaying the loan?
- Can I defer payments while I'm in school? How long can I defer payments while in school?
- If I do not make payments while in school, how much will I owe when I do start making payments?
- If I have difficulty making payments, do you allow me to defer or reduce my payments temporarily? If the answer is yes, under what circumstances, and for how long?
- Will I lose any discounts with just one late payment or if I ask for a change in the payment schedule?
- What percentage of your borrowers actually get the discounts you offer?
- Are your discounts guaranteed, or are they subject to change later?