What is a Brownstone? Pros and Cons of Brownstone Apartments

A brownstone may look like other townhouses, but it’s got some unique qualities.

If you’ve ever pictured yourself living in cities like Chicago, Boston or New York City, you may have envisioned the iconic image of buildings and brownstone apartments lining the streets. Many large, East coast cities are known for the iconic brownstone facades that give the neighborhood a 19th-century nostalgic look and feel.

If you’re considering renting a brownstone, it’s important to know about the rich history of these types of buildings in addition to the pros and cons that come with brownstone homes. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about renting an infamous brownstone.

What is a brownstone apartment?

A brownstone is a row house made specifically from brown sandstone. The brownstone facade is key — it’s the defining feature that sets brownstones apart from other types of single-family homes. Other defining features of brownstone apartments include:

  • A stone stoop leading to the entryway
  • Ornate details carved or etched into the brownstone face
  • Many buildings in a row with no space in between
  • Three to four floors per building

Brownstone itself is soft sandstone that has a natural brown color, hence the name “brownstone.” The stone is easy to mold, cut and shape so you’ll often see ornate carvings on the face of brownstone homes, another feature that sets them apart.

Originally, the brownstone material was inexpensive and less desirable compared to other building materials like brick, marble or granite. Until the 19th century, buildings made of brownstone were cheaper because the brown color was unappealing. However, that changed during the Romantic era when the natural look became popular. Nowadays, brownstones are some of the most expensive apartments on the market.

Brick townhouses

Brick townhouses

What is the difference between a townhouse and a brownstone?

Brownstones and townhouses are similar in the sense that they’re both buildings with multiple floors, units and apartments for rent. They’re both attached to another building. For example, you’ll have your own unit or floor to live on but you’ll share a wall with your neighbors in these kinds of houses.

You can construct a townhouse out of any building material, but many are brick. However, a true brownstone uses brown sandstone building material, otherwise, it’s a regular townhouse. The facades of brownstones are the specific feature that separates them from other types of apartments.

Because many brownstone apartments are older, they may not have modern amenities like brand new buildings. The construction of many brownstones occurred in the early 19th century and living in these may require some maintenance to keep them up-to-date. Keep this in mind when you’re considering renting townhouses versus brownstones.

Things to know about New York City brownstones

While brownstones are in different cities, they’re especially prevalent in New York City. If you’ve seen any movie or TV show set in New York, you’ve likely seen the iconic brownstone homes in beautiful neighborhoods. True brownstones are in a few key neighborhoods of New York City — Park Slope, Upper West Side, Carroll Gardens, Fort Greene and Brooklyn Heights — to name a few. You can walk up and down the street and see brownstone apartments in these areas of the city.

These houses with their steep stone stoops and ornate brownstone facade give the building charm. They’re often located in desirable neighborhoods, too. Because there’s only a set number of genuine brownstones in New York City, there’s often more demand than supply, so the prices are steep.

NYC Brownstone apartments

NYC Brownstone apartments

Pros of brownstone apartment living

As with anything, there are pros and cons to living in brownstones. Here are some of the pros and cons associated with a brownstone apartment.

Spacious living area

While some single-family homes in a big city are small, brownstones are typically larger. Traditional brownstones will have a parlor floor, which is the second floor from the ground floor. The parlor floor is where you’ll have your dining room and living room. The units usually have three to four bedrooms, but can also have as many as nine bedrooms in each brownstone.

Ornate décor

City brownstones are beautiful buildings. As we’ve mentioned, the appeal of a brownstone is typically the history, the idyllic community and the picturesque neighborhood. The construction of brownstones is ornate and the apartment is usually located on a tree-lined street. When you live in a row house, you’ll enjoy the beauty of the decorative brownstone.

Spacious outdoor area

Some people living in brownstone homes enjoy a nice outdoor space as part of their apartment. You’ll get more room and outdoor seating areas in a brownstone compared to other types of apartments. You can walk up from the ground level and enjoy the front stoop or enjoy private outdoor space in the form of a patio or garden area.

Great location

Most brownstones are in nice neighborhoods with tight-knit communities. Because the units are so close to each other, you’ll be close to the other people living in the same brownstone house. People like the brownstone community as most people end up staying in the brownstone for a long time. The units are often close to different restaurants, so you’ll enjoy the amenities of city life when living in a brownstone, too.

brownstone apartments

brownstone apartments

Cons of brownstone apartment living

For every good thing about brownstones, there are some negatives, too.

Expensive rent

Because brownstones are so desirable nowadays, you’ll pay high prices to live in one of them. In New York, brownstones can sell for up to $10 million. If you’re considering a brownstone, make sure the price is in your budget. If not, you can have a similar experience living in a townhouse without a notable facade.

Older buildings

The historic nature of brownstones makes them appealing but it also means the building is older compared to others. You’ll likely have more maintenance and upkeep in brownstones and may lack traditional amenities and features like air conditioning. Also, the steep stoop and staircases are sometimes problematic as they aren’t as accessible as other spaces.

Close to neighbors

If you’re looking for a place to live with lots of room to roam and privacy, a brownstone isn’t the right option as you’re incredibly close to the people next door. Because these buildings are in a row, you’re literally wall-to-wall with other people. Some love this closeness, while others want more privacy.

Finding a brownstone apartment for you

The intricate design and carvings of brownstone apartments are idyllic. You can’t deny that they look beautiful and conjure images of old-school living in cities like New York. Brownstones have a story and you’ll enjoy the natural look of these buildings. Before renting one, make sure that it’s within your budget as they’re pricy apartments.

Source: rent.com

Dear Penny: Should I Take Out Life Insurance on My 47-Year-Old Mom?

Dear Penny,

My mother is 47 and has been increasingly paranoid about her death. She’s not sickly or in bad shape. She’s been getting better about managing her sudden diagnosis of diabetes. 

I think she’s doing well for her age. She works a full-time job and has little to no complaints. Personally, I think she’s just paranoid, but she’s been asking me serious questions about life insurance policies for herself. She wants me to buy a policy on her, but I’m not keen on purchasing a life insurance policy on my living mother whose death I’m not looking forward to. 

Nonetheless, she continues to ask me questions about her finances and what I (her 28-year-old daughter) think she should do about her bad credit, old debt from decades ago, and a past repossession. She asks me if her policies will go to that debt? Will her 401(k) go toward those debts? Or will it be safe for my sister and me? 

From what I know, she has purchased two life insurance policies and has listed me as her 401(k) beneficiary. I don’t know what I would do if she passed away suddenly, as I have a very small family that consists of just my sister and mother. (Her ex-husband/my father is estranged). I thought her accounts, 401(k), life insurance policies and debts would go into probate after she dies. 

She has many years ahead of her. I feel as though she is worried about debt collectors going after money she intends to leave my sister and me when she passes. What could she do to avoid that? What is good advice for her at someone her age? I want her to live a good life now with her grandchildren and not be so worried about the future when she’s gone.

-Concerned Daughter

Dear Concerned,

It’s normal that your mom is feeling more aware of her own mortality after a sudden diagnosis. It’s also normal that you, her loving daughter, don’t want to contemplate life without your mom.

Maybe your mom is going a bit overboard. Or perhaps it just appears that way to you if she’s avoided talking death and money until now. But estate planning is essential even for young and healthy people.

Your mom needn’t worry that debt collectors will come after you or your sister. Children generally aren’t responsible for their parents’ debts as long as they aren’t co-signers. Generally, their assets and liabilities become part of their estate, and creditor claims get sorted out in probate court. It sounds like these debts may be old enough that they’re past the statute of limitations, though. In that case, collectors couldn’t sue your mom over them or file a probate claim.

But not all assets go through probate. Assets like life insurance policies and retirement accounts, including 401(k)s, go directly to the beneficiary. If your mother has you and your sister listed as beneficiaries, the money goes directly to you both. Even if your mother died deeply indebted, creditors couldn’t touch that money.

My best advice for you, your mom and your sister is to have a deeply difficult conversation. Talk about what the impact would be in the awful scenario that your mother died tomorrow.

Clearly, her death would leave a huge void in your lives. But I’m assuming you and your sister are both self-supporting adults. If that’s correct, it sounds like this void wouldn’t be financial. As part of this conversation, you need to discuss what life insurance policies and other assets your mom has, along with any debts. You should also ask her whether she has a will and urge her to create one if she doesn’t.

If your mom already has two life insurance policies, she probably doesn’t need more life insurance. Instead, she needs to prepare for the likelihood that she’ll live for another four or five decades.

That means maintaining solid health insurance now. Though it’s quite expensive, she may also want to consider long-term care insurance when she’s in her late 50s or early 60s.

Your mom should also focus on saving as much as possible for retirement so she isn’t depending on you and your sister for support. Though she worries about her premature death, the risk is much greater that she’ll outlive whatever savings she does have.

Now would also be a good time for her to focus on improving her credit. If she can’t get a credit card due to a poor history, she could open a secured credit card by putting down a deposit and start rebuilding. Bad credit doesn’t matter much when you die, but it sure makes your living years harder.

Discussing your mom’s death will be scary for both of you. But I think addressing the worst-case scenarios will set your minds at ease. So talk through all the what-ifs, no matter how uncomfortable. Doing so will free you both up to enjoy what I hope are many years ahead.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Can You Get Student Loans for Community College?

Community colleges offering two-year programs can be a wonderful option for students looking to gain a higher education in less time. It can also be a great option for those looking to save a little cash while bettering their current skills, prepping for a four-year university, or going for an associate’s degree.

Moreover, it can often save students thousands of dollars in the long run toward the career of their dreams too. Though community college can cost far less than a four-year school, it still isn’t free. Here are a few helpful ways to gain a little financial assistance for your personal education journey.

The Government Looks at Community College the Same Way It Does a Four-Year School

Federal student loans are available for both two- and four-year colleges. The process of applying for federal aid is the same, regardless of the school, as long as the Department of Education sees it as an “eligible degree or certificate program.” Vocational, career, trade, or online schools often offer federal loan options, but it’s not a guarantee. If you’re not sure whether your school participates in federal loan programs, you can confirm with your school before moving forward.

To apply for federal aid, including student loans, a potential student must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). On the FAFSA, all would-be students will list the schools they are interested in attending using the Federal School Code. The schools listed will use the FAFSA application answers to determine the types and amounts of aid a student can receive.

After submitting the FAFSA, the applicant will receive an award letter from each school listed on the FAFSA application. This will tell you what aid you qualified for. If you plan on applying for federal aid to attend community college, consider applying as early as possible.

Some federal aid is determined on a first-come, first-served basis, so the earlier you submit your FAFSA, the better position you may be in to receive aid.

Those hoping to obtain a federal loan for community college can apply for one of three: Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, and Direct Plus. Here’s how to determine which one of those may be the best fit for your education goals.

Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans for Community College

When it comes to borrowing federal student loans, the government offers both subsidized and unsubsidized loans to assist students in covering the cost of higher education. For both subsidized and unsubsidized loans, the school a potential student hopes to attend will determine how much a student is eligible to borrow.

Direct Subsidized Loans are based on financial need and they come with a major benefit — the U.S. Department of Education pays the interest while the student is still enrolled in school at least half-time and for the loan grace period (usually the first six months after leaving school).

Direct Unsubsidized Loans are similar to subsidized loans except that they are not based on financial need, they are based on your cost of attendance and other financial aid you receive. As such, the borrower would be responsible for all accrued interest on the loan. While not required to make payments as a student, there is an option to make interest-only payments on the unsubsidized loan.

When the interest on a Direct Unsubsidized Loan is not paid during periods of deferment, such as the grace period, the accrued interest will be capitalized. That means, when graduation day comes and the grace period ends, the interest that has accumulated on the loan will be added to the principal value of the loan and you’ll be responsible for paying off both. Interest will also continue to accrue based on that new principal.

There is an annual limit to how much money undergraduate students can borrow in Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans. For example, the limit for your first undergraduate year is $5,500 for dependent students (and $9,500 for independent students).

Direct PLUS Loans for Community College

There is another option from the government, known as the Direct PLUS Loan . This loan is available to parents of dependent students. Unlike both Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, when a person borrows via a Direct PLUS Loan, he or she will be subject to a credit check. If the person has an adverse credit history, they may not be approved to borrow the loan.

If you are a parent of a dependent undergraduate student, you can receive a Direct PLUS Loan for the remainder of your child’s college costs not covered by other financial aid.

It’s important to note when a person borrows a Direct PLUS Loan, there are fees in addition to interest. With this loan, parents can borrow up to the cost of attendance (determined by the school) minus any other financial aid received. In order to obtain this loan, parents must qualify and their credit history will be checked. Interest will also accrue.

Private Student Loans

If a student does not receive enough aid through federal student loans or maxes out his or her eligibility for federal student loans, they can seek additional funding through private student loans. Private student loans can be borrowed from banks, credit unions, or other lenders.

Each institution has its own eligibility requirements so each borrower will have to check with individual lenders to see about qualifications. Like federal loans, there is usually a limit to the amount you can borrow with private loans, which can vary by lender. The limit might be the cost of tuition, less the amount of aid the student is already receiving, for example. However, the limit on some private loans may be higher than the federal loan limit.

Furthermore, government student loans come with deadlines to apply , while students may apply for private student loans at any time. But one major downfall of private student loans is the fact that they may also come with higher eligibility requirements, like a specific credit score, to even be considered. Additionally, private lenders aren’t required to offer the same borrower protections as federal student loans, such as a grace period or income-driven repayment plans. Because of this, private student loans are generally considered only after all other financing options have been thoroughly reviewed.

Other Options For Community College Student Loans

Federal and private student loans aren’t the only options. And this is where, as a student, you can really do some homework.

Several states also offer their own student loan programs to help students. To qualify for many of these loans, a student must be a resident of the state program you’re applying for, or an out-of-state student enrolled in a college or university within that particular state. Check out each state’s student loan offerings here .

Saving Post-Graduation

Even if you went to community college, you may still graduate with student loan debt. But, there’s a way you can save after graduation as well. Upon completion of your degree (or, if you’ve already finished school), you may want to consider looking into student loan refinancing with SoFi.

This way, you may be able to get a better interest rate than what you originally qualified for or change the terms of your loan to fit your post-grad life. And you can focus on earning and saving for your future thanks to your hard-earned education.

When you refinance with SoFi there are no prepayment penalties or origination fees. Plus you’ll gain access to benefits like community events, career coaching, and unemployment protection. To see what your student loans could look like after you refinance with SoFi, take a look at our easy to use student loan refinance calculator.

Private Student Loans With SoFi

Community college students have a variety of options available to them when paying for their education. In addition to some scholarships or grants, students may use student loans, either federal or private, to help pay for college.

Private student loans can be an option for students who are looking to fill in financing gaps. SoFi offers no fee student loans with competitive interest rates available for qualifying borrowers. SoFi student loans also allow borrowers to select one of four flexible repayment plans.

Find out more about the student loan options available from SoFi. You can get a quote from SoFi in just a few minutes.


Will student loans pay for all of college?

Student loans can be used to pay for college expenses. There are borrowing limits depending on the loan type. For example, first-year dependent students may be eligible to borrow up to $5,500 in Direct Loans. Of this, no more than $3,500 can be subsidized loans. Students may look to alternatives like private student loans to fill in gaps. The borrowing limit for federal student loans is determined by the individual lender.

How much are student loans for an associate’s degree?

Student loans for community college are available, including for associate’s degrees. In order to borrow a federal student loan, potential borrowers must be enrolled in an eligible degree granting program, as defined by the U.S. Department of Education. These programs may include associate degree programs.

What do you do if you can’t afford college?

If you can’t afford college, consider evaluating the costs and programs available at different colleges. Consider factors like location and room and board, in addition to tuition. Also fill out the FAFSA form, which allows students to apply for federal financial aid including grants and scholarships (which don’t typically need to be repaid) and federal student loans (which do need to be repaid). Consider contacting the financial aid office at your school for more personalized information.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs.
SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Source: sofi.com

It’s been a long road for…

People wait outside Everest College in Industry, Calif.
Robert Bruce is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.

Corinthian Colleges had more than 110,000 students enrolled across 105 campuses in 2010 at its height. After the 2015 findings, the school sold or closed all its campuses, which included schools under the names of Heald, Everest and WyoTech.
The Department’s findings allowed borrowers to apply for “borrower defense”, a provision that, if approved, allows a defraudent student to receive loan cancellation. Around 100,000 borrowers have had their loans canceled because of the provision, according to the DOE. Thousands of other borrowers may also be eligible for automatic student loan forgiveness.
This most recent move enables borrowers who have yet to apply for borrower defense to have their loans canceled.

What do former, defrauded Corinthian students need to do to get their loans forgiven?
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
The DOE followed up on Harris’ case with its own findings in 2015, determining that Corinthian made “pervasive misrepresentations related to a borrower’s employment prospects, including guarantees they would find a job.” Corinthian also effectively lied about students’ ability to transfer credits and its own public job placement rates.
This move is the latest by the Biden administration to address student loan forgiveness. In the last year, the administration has revamped the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and erased .8 billion in loans for borrowers with disabilities.

Next Steps for Corinthian Students

The plan to discharge nearly billion in student loans originated in 2013, when California’s then-attorney general, Kamala Harris, sued Corinthian for deceptive advertising and recruiting practices.
Students took on debt based on those false promises — and saw it all forgiven this week when the DOE announced the discharge of .8 billion in student loans for 560,000 borrowers affected by Corinthian’s deceptive practices. This is the largest single loan discharge in U.S. history, according to the DOE.
It’s been a long road for former students of Corinthian Colleges, a chain of for-profit schools that closed in 2015 after the U.S. Department of Education found Corinthian had misrepresented borrowers’ future job prospects.
Students wait outside Everest College in Industry, Calif., hoping to get their transcripts and information on loan forgiveness and transferring credits to other schools on April 28, 2015. Their wait recently ended when the U.S. Department of Education discharged .8 billion in student loans for 560,000 borrowers affected by deceptive practices at Everest and other Corinthian Colleges. Christine Armario/AP Images

Absolutely nothing, according to a statement released by the DOE: “The department will soon begin notifying students who attended Corinthian of this decision, with the actual discharges following in the months after. Borrowers will not have to take any actions to receive their discharges.”

[Targeted] American Express Business Platinum 160,000 Point Offer, No Lifetime Language

Update 6/1/22: More people got a targeted email today with this offer. Subject line, in some cases, is ‘You can earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points if you are approved to add the Business Platinum Card to your wallet. Learn how.’ (Some of these offers are actually for 160,000 points with an extra 10k coming with employee card.)

Update 2/15/22: More people targeted. E-mail subject line is ‘You can earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you add the reimagined Business Platinum Card to your wallet.’

Update 11/18/21: A lot more people have been targeted for this now.

Update 11/15/21: Many people are getting now an email with this 160,000 offer: 150,000 after spending $15,000 and 10,000 after adding an employee card.

Update 7/14/21: There is a new 150,000 point link. You also earn $100 for every transaction greater than $1,000 made on Vendor Pay in the first 3 months. Hat tip to DDG

The Offer

160,000 link | 150,000 link | 150,000 link

  • Get 100,000 points after $15,000 in spend within the first three months of card membership

Card Details

Our Verdict

If you’ve never had this card before, then the call in method is better due to the lower minimum spend requirement. The real nice thing about this offer is the fact it has no lifetime language meaning it’s possible to get the bonus if you’ve gotten the card before.

Hat tip to reader CreditDingo

Update History:

Update 6/15/21: Here’s a link for the 160,000 offer: same 150,000 for $15,000 spend, plus 10,000 for adding an employee card within the first 3 months. Updated below. As always – YMMV.

Update 6/9/21: There is also an offer for 160,000 points. Same as the 150,000 point offer but also another 10,000 for adding an employee card. E-mail subject line is ‘<name>, You’re invited to apply for an American Express Business Bundle’ Hat tip to bedogworthy.

Update 6/9/21: There’s now a public link to this offer (and here’s another link). Won’t work for everyone, YMMV. There’s a stated expiration of this offer of 12/31/21; of course it could get pulled earlier. (There’s also a no-lifetime-language offer on the Business Gold card.) Hat tip to Frequentmiler

Update 6/6/21: Another e-mail has gone out, 150k points again. Email has lifetime language, but actual application page does not. Subject line is ‘Limited-Time Offer for <name> You could earn 150,000 points’

Update 5/10/21: Another round, this time 150k points.

Update 4/24/21: Another round, try this link.

Update 4/5/21: Another round sent out.

Update 3/16/21: Another round sent out.

Update 2/16/21: Another round sent out.

Update 2/5/21: Another round has been sent out, this time the e-mail states the lifetime language but application page doesn’t. $595 annual fee is mentioned on application page. Hat tip to reader BS

Update 12/28/20: Another round has gone out.

Update 12/15/20: More people targeted. Remains to be seen if this new batch ends up having the annual fee waived first or not, just assume it doesn’t.

Update 12/10/20: Despite the terms stating the annual fee is not waived first year, multiple people (1,2,3) have reported applying and then card member approval paperwork showing the $595 annual fee waived first year. This is American Express though so every chance they try to add the annual fee back. I’d apply expecting to pay the annual fee and then it’s a happy surprise if you don’t have to

Source: doctorofcredit.com

Which Student Loans to Accept or Turn Down

If you need financial aid to help pay for college, you’ll fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), which allows you to apply for federal unsubsidized student loans, subsidized student loans, work-study, and grants.

When your FAFSA has been processed, you’ll receive an aid offer that explains the types and amount of aid that a college is offering to you. If you’ve applied to multiple schools, you’ll receive an aid offer from each. You’ll be asked to tell them which forms of financial aid you would like to accept before they apply it to the amount you owe your school.

But you don’t have to accept all the aid on offer, including student loans, so consider your options carefully.

What Are Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans?

There are two basic types of federal student loans: Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans. They help eligible students cover the cost of four-years colleges, community colleges, and trade, career, and technical schooling. Here are the major differences between unsubsidized versus subsidized student loans.

Direct Subsidized Loans are student loans for undergraduates with financial need. Your school will determine how much you can borrow, and that amount cannot be more than your financial need.

The government pays all interest on Direct Subsidized loans while you’re in school at least half-time, during the six month grace period after you leave school, and during periods of deferment.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to undergraduates and graduate students. They are not awarded based on financial need.

Again, your school will determine how much you are able to borrow, and you are responsible for paying all interest on the loan amount at all times. If you choose not to pay interest while you’re in school, during the grace period, or if your loan is in deferment or forbearance, the interest will still accrue. At the end of the deferment period, the interest will be added to the principal of the loan.

Interest rates for each type of loan are fixed. For example, for loans disbursed before July 1, 2022, the interest rates for Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans is 3.73% for undergraduate borrowers. The interest rates for Direct Unsubsidized Loans is 5.28% for graduate or professional borrowers.

There are also limits to the amount of money that you can borrow, and the loan amount that you receive may be less than this limit. For dependent students, except those whose parents can’t receive PLUS loans, the aggregate loan limit is $31,000, of which no more than $23,000 can be in subsidized loans.

For dependent undergraduates whose parents can’t obtain PLUS loans, the limit is $57,500, of which no more than $23,000 can be in subsidized loans. For independent graduate students or professionals, the limit is $138,500, of which no more than $65,500 can be in subsidized loans.

When Might You Be Offered More Loans Than You Need?

You don’t have to accept all of the federal loans that are offered to you. To figure out if you’ve been offered more loans than you actually need, you’ll need to do a bit of budgeting.

Federal loans can only be applied to tuition, fees, housing and meal plans. These won’t be the only expenses you’ll need to cover, however. Consider other costs like transportation, travel, eating outside the dining hall, etc. Add up the costs to which your federal loan would apply and any extra expenses to get a sense of the total cost of going to school.

Now figure out your total funding sources, excluding the sources in your offer letter. This might include money from your parents, scholarships, grants, and any money you may have saved on your own. If your total expenses exceed your sources of funding, you may need to accept the federal loans on offer. However, if they don’t, you might not need to accept all the funding.

Which Loans Should You Accept?

If you don’t anticipate needing the amount of money offered to you through loans, you do not need to accept them. Schools will allow you to decline a loan, accept it, or even accept a portion of it.

That said, if you do decide to take on federal loans, it’s generally wise to accept subsidized loans first because they offer more benefits in the form of government interest payments.

Unsubsidized loans, on the other hand, put you on the hook for all of the interest that accrues on the loan. These loans however are still eligible for other federal benefits and borrower protections.

Can Your Return Unused Student Loans?

If you accept a loan and realize that you don’t need it, the good news is you can cancel the loan, or a portion of it, within 120 days of disbursement. By canceling the loan, you’ll return the money you received, and you won’t owe any interest or be charged any fees.

Alternatives to Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans aren’t the only way to help pay for schooling. Here’s a look at three alternatives:

Private Loans

Students can apply for private student loans which are offered by private institutions, such as banks and credit unions. These lenders will determine the amount you can borrow, interest rates, and terms largely based on financial factors such as your income and your credit score, or that of a cosigner if you need to have one.

Private student loans are not subject to the same loan limits imposed on federal loans, so students can potentially borrow more to cover costs. Though, this also means that private loans aren’t afforded the same borrower protections (like income-driven repayment plans) as federal student loans. For this reason, they are generally considered only after a student has thoroughly reviewed all of their other options.

Personal Loans

Personal loans are also provided by private lenders who, again, set the loan amount, interest rates and terms, based on a person’s financial history. The terms of the loan do not dictate how the money must be used, so they may be a way to cover expenses outside of tuition, fees, room, and board.

Financial Aid

There are a variety of types of financial aid available from public and private sources that can help you pay for school.

Grants and scholarships are money given to you that you don’t need to repay. Scholarships are often given based on academic merit or talent, or they’re given to students wishing to pursue a particular area of study.

The Federal Work-Study Program allows students to work part-time to earn money to pay for schooling.

The Takeaway

When you’re offered a student aid package by the federal government, it may include federal subsidized and unsubsidized student loans. You can accept or decline these loans, or even accept a small portion of them. Consider declining if your sources of funding exceed your expenses. Doing so may be cheaper in the long run, as it allows you to avoid making interest payments.

Private student loans are another potential source of funds to help you pay for school. To learn more about the options available to you to meet your student loan needs, visit SoFi.


Is it better to accept subsidized or unsubsidized loans?

When choosing between subsidized and unsubsidized loans, consider accepting subsidized loans first, since the federal government will pay your interest while you are in school at least half-time, during the six month grace period after you leave school, and during periods of loan deferment.

Can you accept student loans and not use them?

You can accept student loans and not use them, but you’ll still be responsible for paying them back with interest. If you find you don’t need the loans, you can cancel them within 120 days of loan disbursement.

How are subsidized and unsubsidized loans different?

Subsidized and unsubsidized loans differ mainly in who they are available to and who must make interest payments. Subsidized loans are available to undergraduate students, and the government makes interest payments while you are in school at least half-time, during the six month grace period after you leave school, and during periods of loan deferment. Unsubsidized loans are available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, who are responsible for all loan payments.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs.
SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

Source: sofi.com

Medicare Vision Coverage: How to Save Money on Eyeglasses and Exams

These services are free to qualifying older Americans. It’s one of the only national programs that offers free eye exams for people on Original Medicare.
Members of AAA and AARP can get the following discounts at LensCrafters:
Like Walmart, Costco eye exam costs vary, but you can expect to pay anywhere from to 0 for an exam.
Medicare Advantage plans also restrict the vision benefits they offer, including:
Finally, numerous local nonprofits offer free eye exams throughout the year. Call United Way’s 211 service to see if a program exists near you. Or Google “free eye exams near me.”

How Medicare Covers Vision

Plans are generally inexpensive — usually to a month — and premiums usually don’t increase with age like other types of health insurance.
Medicare Part B covers 80% of the cost for: 
Ready to stop worrying about money?
You can see if you qualify and apply for the program by filling out this form.

Original Medicare

The OneSight Vision Voucher program helps people in need receive free eyewear if they’re not able to cover the cost of eyeglasses with insurance.
Both retailers also offer a wide selection of eyeglasses in the to range.
Some diseases and conditions — such as lupus and shingles — can affect your vision even though they aren’t traditional eye diseases. Medicare Part B covers treatment for your eyes if you have one of the many conditions on this list from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Medicare Advantage

Original Medicare does not cover routine vision exams, eyeglasses or contact lenses. Lasik surgery isn’t covered either.
Retailers like Costco and Walmart offer optical centers with affordable pricing on eye exams and glasses.
Veterans can also qualify for free eyeglasses or contact lenses by meeting one of the following criteria:

  • how often you can replace glasses and/or contact lenses.
  • how often the plan will pay for eye exams.

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Older people with low incomes may also qualify for free or reduced eye exams at their local county health department.

Need a refresher on how Medicare works? Check out answers to seven frequently asked questions. 

Medicare Coverage for Other Eye Treatments and Conditions

There is also a program that provides free eyeglasses to those who qualify — but be prepared to jump through some hoops first.
In states that do provide vision benefits, basic eye exams are covered. Prescription glasses with basic frames are also usually covered, but each state has specific caps.
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.
Students at optometry schools sometimes provide free or discounted eye exams during clinics.

  • Certain treatments for serious eye conditions, including micro-invasive glaucoma surgery.
  • Cataract surgery. Medicare will pay to implant a conventional intraocular lens. It will also cover one pair of standard-frame eyeglasses or a set of contact lenses after cataract surgery.
  • Detached retina treatment.
  • Treatment for certain dry eye conditions.
  • Eye exam for people with diabetes to detect glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
  • Annual glaucoma test for people at high-risk of developing the disease or with a family history of glaucoma.
  • Some tests and treatments for age-related macular degeneration.
  • An eye prosthesis (artificial eye) for patients with absence or shrinkage of an eye due to birth defect, injury or surgical removal.
Pro Tip
If you have an eye disease that causes low vision, such as macular degeneration or glaucoma, Medicare Part B will cover screening tests and standard treatment.

Here’s how it breaks down.

How to Save Money on Vision Care Costs

If you are also enrolled in Medicaid or Veterans Affairs health benefits, you may qualify for free or low-cost vision care.
Original Medicare does cover eye care related to illness or injury, including cataract surgery and glaucoma screenings. More on that shortly.
Many of these sites offer virtual “try on” features and come with convenient return policies so you can find frames and lenses that work for you.

How to Save Money on Eye Exams

If you have a serious eye disease like cataracts or glaucoma, Medicare Part B will generally pay for treatment.
You can use this tool to search for schools in your area — although the eye exams and care provided vary from school to school.

Discounts for AAA and AARP Members

To receive your AAA or AARP member discount, make sure to present your membership card at participating locations. 
Buying eyeglasses online is a cheap alternative to paying hundreds of dollars for a fancy pair at your optometrist’s office.

  • 30% off comprehensive eye exams.
  • 50% off a complete pair of eyeglasses (frame and lenses) and prescription sunglasses. Valid in-store and online.
  • 10% off disposable contact lenses.
  • 30% off non-prescription sunglasses.

According to a recent survey from Consumer Reports, people who bought glasses online paid a median of , while those who shopped in-store spent 4.

  • $55 comprehensive eye exam at participating independent eye doctors (Use this tool to find a location near you).
  • $10 off best in-store offer on a complete eyewear purchase at Target Optical.
  • 10% off contact lenses at Target Optical.
  • $10 off non-prescription sunglasses at Target Optical.
  • 30% off a complete pair of glasses at Glasses.com (Use code RP_30OFF_GL at check out).
Pro Tip
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Costco and Walmart

Medicaid will cover eye exams for adults ages 21 and older in most states — but not all.
Talk to your VA primary care provider or contact your nearest VA medical center or clinic for more information.
Here are the steps you need to take:
So how do you know, in your own case, what’s covered and what’s not?

EyeCare America

Its Seniors Program provides comprehensive eye exams and up to one year of followup care for any eye condition diagnosed during the initial exam.
The services above are covered whether you have Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. 
Fortunately, several programs and organizations offer free or discounted eyeglasses and exams for older adults.
EyeCare America is the public service arm of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  • Be age 65 or older.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.
  • Not belong to an HMO or have eye care benefits through the VA.
  • Not have seen an ophthalmologist in three or more years.

Medicaid is a federally funded health insurance program for people with low incomes. It’s administered at the state-level, so each state determines its own vision benefits and limitations.
By law, both Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage must cover the same basic vision services for eye diseases and chronic conditions.

Lions Club International

Check out OneSight’s website to learn more about its vision voucher program.
Research your specific state’s Medicaid vision coverage or contact your local Medicaid office for more information. Speaking with a local Medicaid office and your individual plan provider is the best way to understand your specific vision benefits.

Optometry Schools and Senior Discounts

If you’re enrolled in Medicare, routine vision care isn’t guaranteed.
Finally, to get these vision benefits, you will need to use certain eye care professionals and services within your specific Medicare Advantage plan network.
If you have VA health care benefits, the program will cover your routine eye exams and preventive vision testing.
At Walmart, eye exams average about , but prices vary by location.
Copays for eye exams with Medicaid are affordable, usually or less.
Here are some of the best ways to reduce your out-of-pocket costs on routine vision care when you’re enrolled in Medicare.

A man tries on eyeglasses.
Getty Images

Where to Get Free or Cheap Eyeglasses

For more information, reach out to your local Lions Club chapter.
Just a heads up: This program does not cover the cost of eyeglasses.

OneSight Vision Voucher Program

Medicare may not be your only form of insurance.
Here are a few ways to keep more money in your pocket without forgoing important eye care.

  1. Get a referral letter from a nonprofit organization verifying your visual and financial need for glasses. The letter must be written on company letterhead and include the Tax ID# of the nonprofit organization. Recommended nonprofits include churches, the Lions Club, Prevent Blindness, Red Cross and United Way.
  2. You’ll need a valid prescription from an eye doctor. If you don’t have a prescription that is less than two years old, you can ask the onsite doctors at a Luxottica Retail location if they can donate a free eye exam.
  3. Take your referral letter and prescription from an eye doctor to a participating Luxottica Retail location — which includes LensCrafters, Target Optical and Pearle Vision corporate stores — to get your free pair of eyeglasses.

Some privately administered Medicare Advantage plans cover eyeglasses and eye exams.

Cheap Online Eyeglass Retailers

Medicare beneficiaries can purchase private vision insurance to help offset the cost of eyeglasses and routine eye exams. According to KFF, medicare patients spent an average of 0 out of pocket on vision care in 2018.
The following groups can also qualify for free eyeglasses through the VA:
But that’s not the case for routine exams and eyeglasses.
You should carefully examine any private vision insurance plan benefits and costs before signing up. Make sure the plan actually saves you money on eyeglasses and routine exams.

Does It Make Sense to Buy Private Vision Insurance on Medicare?

But Original Medicare — which provides health insurance to about 37.7 million Americans — doesn’t pay for your new eyeglass frames or an annual vision exam.
Privacy Policy
Another option is asking local vision care providers if they offer any senior discounts or in-house financing plans. Make sure to call ahead and ask before scheduling an appointment.
To qualify for the EyeCare America Senior Program, you must:

Does the VA or Medicaid Cover Eyeglasses and Eye Exams?

You’ll pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for these covered treatments and services after meeting your Part B deductible.
The national average cost of a comprehensive eye exam is , according to All About Vision and other sources, but the figure can vary from to 0.

Medicaid Vision Coverage

However, vision benefits are pretty modest — plans offer about 0 worth of eyewear and eye exam coverage a year on average, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).
AARP members also receive these discounts through other providers:
These undergraduates are closely supervised by faculty members, so it can be a cheap way to score a routine vision test.

  • At least 42 states offer some coverage for optometrist services.
  • At least 33 states offer some coverage for eyeglasses.

Some online retailers, like Zenni Optical, offer single prescription glasses starting at just . You’ll pay more for special coatings, progressive lenses and other add-ons.
For example, 47% of Medicare Advantage plans limit beneficiaries to one pair of eyeglasses every two years, according to the KFF analysis.
However, private insurance monthly premiums, copayments and deductibles may not make it worthwhile.
Once you’re clear on your coverage, make sure your eye doctor accepts Medicaid before scheduling an eye exam.

VA Vision Coverage

AAA and AARP members can receive discounts at participating LensCrafters and other retail locations nationwide.
Affordable eyeglass lenses and frames are easy to find online or at large retail stores like Walmart and Costco.
You’re on the hook for the full cost unless you have a separate private vision care policy or secondary insurance like Medicaid.

  • Have a disability linked to your military service for which you’re receiving VA disability payments.
  • Are a former prisoner of war,
  • Were awarded a Purple Heart.
  • Receive benefits under Title 38 United States Code (U.S.C.) 1151.
  • Receive an increased pension because you’re permanently housebound and in need of regular aid.
  • Experience vision problems caused by another  illness — such as stroke or diabetes — for which you’re receiving VA care.
  • Suffer from geriatric chronic illnesses (long-lasting illnesses that affect the elderly).

Eyeglasses and routine vision exams are pricey for Original Medicare beneficiaries.

  • Veterans with significant functional or cognitive impairments.
  • Veterans with a vision impairment severe enough that it interferes with their ability to participate in their own medical treatment.
  • Veterans who have service-connected vision disabilities rated 0%.

Whether you’re new to Medicare and wondering what to expect at your next eye exam, or you’re a long-time beneficiary trying to save money on glasses, our guide to Medicare vision coverage and affordable eye care is here to help.


Nearly all Medicare Advantage plans — which are administered by private insurance companies like United Healthcare and Cigna — include some routine vision coverage.