How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child?

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Adoption is a life-changing journey. Whether the choice to adopt comes after years of expensive infertility treatments or is a route you’ve always wanted to take, the choice to welcome a new family member is rarely a financial one, but rather a decision of the heart.

But at some point, prospective adoptive parents have to consider the costs. It’s unlikely your decision to adopt will boil down to numbers. But it helps to know what to expect. 

The figures can vary depending on your adoption journey, from almost nothing to upward of $70,000. But you can use them as a baseline to help you financially prepare for starting a family and to make an informed decision about which type of adoption makes the most sense for you.


How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child?

There are three basic types of adoption: domestic infant adoption (sometimes called private adoption), international adoption, and public adoption. 


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But if you’re looking to adopt a baby, private and international adoption are the only two real options. Because of the way the foster care system operates, it’s exceedingly rare to be able to adopt an infant through public adoption. Their primary goal is reunifying families whenever possible, which can take years.     

But regardless of your adopted child’s age, some costs are common to all three, such as the expense of a home study, which involves visits by a social worker and background and financial checks. Other costs are unique to the adoption route you choose, such as the travel expenses involved with international adoption.

And the costs vary wildly, so it’s crucial you understand the ins and outs of each adoption type.


Domestic Infant Adoption

When adopting a baby in the United States, you have two options: adopting through an agency or independent adoption.

Costs of Adopting an Infant Through an Agency: $25,000 – $70,000 

Adopting through an agency is more expensive, but there’s also a higher success rate. Also, some agencies offer a sliding scale for those who need help affording adoption, which can potentially save you a few thousand dollars, depending on your income. However, each state has its own laws that regulate adoption fees, including sliding scale fee structures. 

Average Costs of Domestic Agency Adoption

Agency Fees $15,000 – $45,000
Legal Fees $2,500 – $6,000
Birth Mother Expenses $4,000 – $16,250
Home Study Fee $2,750

Adoption agencies are typically full-service operations. Thus, their fees generally include everything involved in the adoption process, which can be complex. The journey to bring a child home involves many parties, including attorneys, social workers, physicians, counselors, government administrators, and adoption specialists. 

There are also costs associated with matching birth parents and adoptive parents. For example, there are advertising expenses to find expectant mothers. And then there are medical expenses and court costs to ensure the health of the mother and child during pregnancy as well as the safety and security of the child after placement.

When you adopt through an agency, it typically completes the entire process from beginning to end, hence the expense. 

Adoption agencies that charge more include more services. For example, if you find an agency with fees at the lower end, it’s likely because their fee doesn’t include the costs of hiring an attorney, unlimited advertising for birth parents, certain birth mother expenses, or adoption disruption insurance (a guarantee you won’t lose your money if the birth mother changes her mind).

So always ask for a written, line-by-line breakdown of the agency’s costs to see what services its rate covers before signing with it. 

Costs of an Independent Adoption With an Attorney Only:  $10,000 – $40,000

If agency adoption is too expensive but you’d still like to adopt a newborn, you can save a lot of money by hiring an attorney to facilitate an independent adoption. Independent adoption happens when prospective parents locate a birth parent on their own and use an attorney to process the necessary paperwork.

Average Costs of Independent (Attorney) Adoption

Legal Fees $3,000 – $6,000
Advertising Fees $0 – $1,000
Birth Mother Expenses $6,000 – $30,000
Home Study Fee $1,000 – $4,000

The cost of an independent adoption can range from $10,000 to $40,000, though it could go higher based on your circumstances. The final bill depends on how much you need to spend to find an expectant mother and how much you pay for medical and living expenses, which may be regulated by state law. 

Further, adopting independently is a bit like trying to sell a house without a realtor. You must find a birth mom on your own, which means advertising for and vetting birth moms without help. 

So, while it can be cheaper, you still have to go it alone. And if you have trouble finding a birth mother, your costs can quickly add up. Agencies give a flat rate no matter how much advertising it takes. If you have trouble finding someone, you could quickly blow past the $40,000 mark.

Another reason independent adoption costs can vary more widely than those through a private agency is because in most states, adoptive parents won’t have their costs reimbursed if a birth mother changes her mind, what’s commonly called a disrupted adoption. Most adoption agencies build disruption insurance into their fee structures. 


International Adoption: $26,500 – $73,000

Those unfamiliar with the adoption process often believe it’s less expensive to adopt a child from another country. But the reverse is more often true. 

Average Costs of International Adoption

Agency Fees $15,000 – $30,000
Legal Fees $500 – $6,000
Immigration Application Fee $1,000 – $2,000
Dossier Preparation and Clearance $1,000 – 2,000
Home Study Fee $1,000 – $4,000
In-Country Adoption Expenses $2,000 – $10,000
Travel Expenses $5,000 – $15,000
Child’s Passport, Visa, Medical Exam $1,000 – $4,000

The cost of an international adoption can range from just over $20,000 to more than $70,000. The wide variance is due to the different requirements of each country. 

International adoption (also called intercountry adoption) has some similarities to domestic adoption. But it has its own unique steps and expenses that can quickly escalate beyond the cost of domestic adoption.

The costs of international adoptions can include immigration processing and court costs (both in the foreign country and the U.S.), travel expenses, foreign and domestic legal fees, foreign agency fees, passport and visa fees, medical examinations, and in-country adoptions expenses (such as foster care for the child, donations to the orphanage, and payments for the in-country adoption liaisons).

The costs also depend on whether a government or private agency, orphanage, nonprofit organization, attorney, or a combination of entities is managing the adoption. 

Additionally, some international adoptions are finalized in the child’s country of origin, while others must be finalized in the U.S., depending on the laws of your state, further adding to the total cost. And depending on the country’s regulations, you may have to plan an extended stay, which means time off work and (potentially) lost wages.


Public Adoption: $0 – $2,500

The least expensive route to growing your family is unquestionably public adoption, or adopting through the foster care system. It’s very difficult to adopt a baby, though. So this option is best for those who wish to adopt an older child.

Public adoption costs next to nothing because the government subsidizes many associated fees and expenses. 

Average Costs of Public Adoption

Agency Fees Usually $0
Legal Fees $0 – $2,000
Home Study Fee $0 – $500

Federal and state financial adoption assistance programs exist to encourage the adoption of children with special needs that make them difficult to place, such as older children, sibling groups, or those with physical or mental disabilities. 

Thus, most prospective parents who are adopting through public agencies will find their state is often willing to waive most or all of the fees associated with adopting through the foster care system, including both the home study fee and attorney fees. 

Additionally, if you become a foster parent and apply to foster-to-adopt, the government subsidizes some of your future adopted child’s living expenses while you await finalization. 

But if you have your heart set on adopting a newborn, foster care adoption isn’t the route for you. It’s nearly impossible to adopt an infant that way. 

Some babies in the foster care system were abandoned by their biological parents or taken by the state due to abuse, neglect, or drug addiction. But no child in the system — infant or otherwise — is immediately available for adoption. 

The state’s No. 1 priority is to reunite children with their biological families. That includes extensive sessions with counselors and social workers. If that effort ultimately proves unsuccessful, the state next tries to place the child with a biological relative. 

Only after these efforts — which could take several years — are children placed for adoption. Thus, by the time babies in foster care become eligible for adoption, they’re no longer babies. But if they were placed with a foster family, that family gets the first chance at adoption. 
However, if you’re interested in adopting an older child and are prepared to help them work through the trauma, the rewards can be immense. My parents adopted my little brother from foster care at the age of 6, and his presence has enriched our family in myriad ways.

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Factors That Influence Adoption Costs

Every adoption is unique, and though adoption agencies typically try to work within your budget, unforeseen costs can occasionally raise the base projected cost. And that can have a significant impact on your overall family budget.


Birth Mother Expenses

Depending on your state’s adoption laws, a birth mother may be eligible for coverage of certain expenses. You may have to pay medical expenses related to the pregnancy, including insurance coverage if she’s not already covered or eligible for Medicaid.

If you work with an agency, they should take care of helping her find coverage. But you may still be responsible for some medical expenses, such as doctor copays. Once you’re matched with a birth mother, her medical expenses become your medical expenses. 

Adoption agencies typically work these into their overall fee structure but allow for variances that could affect your cost. For example, you may pay more or less depending on what stage of pregnancy the mother’s in when the agency matches you. If you’re matched in the ninth month, there will be fewer expenses.

And if you’re adopting independently, some or all of the medical costs the birth mother incurs as a result of the pregnancy may be your responsibility as defined by the laws of your state. Consult with an adoption lawyer for more information.  

Additionally, in some states, you may need to cover other birth mother expenses. Birth mother expenses are court-approved funds adoptive families provide to help prospective birth mothers with pregnancy-related expenses. In addition to medical care, costs could include living expenses like maternity clothing, groceries, rent, and transportation. 

Some states that allow birth mothers to request living expenses cap the total amount. For example, Ohio caps the amount birth mothers can be reimbursed for living expenses at $3,000 and Connecticut at $1,500. Other states have no cap but permit a judge to set one on an individual basis. 

Thus, these expenses can vary widely from one adoption to another.


Advertising

The longer you have to wait for a birth mother match, the more money an agency must pay toward advertising to find you one. Ask the adoption agency how they deal with this variable cost. Some charge one flat fee regardless of the amount of advertising required; others set a variable cost.

And if you’re doing an independent adoption, you’ll be covering this expense on your own. If you don’t already know a birth mother to adopt from, you’ll need to find one. That means drawing on your personal connections, using social networks or community organizations, utilizing adoptive family websites, posting print ads, or seeking referrals from adoption attorneys. 

It could take a long time to find a birth mother if you don’t have extensive networking options. And that can substantially drive up your adoption costs. Depending on how long it takes you to find someone, fees for print and online advertising can range from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands. 


Attorney Fees

Lawyers are necessary for dealing with the legal aspects of any adoption. These include the original consent to adoption and termination of parental rights as well as the court proceedings to finalize the arrangement. 

However, the fees can vary considerably based on the type of adoption you opt for. Attorney fees can also vary depending on other factors, including:

  • The Complexity of the Case. Will they need to represent you multiple times in court? All adoptions must eventually be finalized before a judge. But some adoptions — such as international adoptions or those in which birth mother expenses must be court-ordered — could require more paperwork or court appearances than others.
  • The Number of Hours the Attorney Works on the Case. Lawyers charge by the hour. Even if you don’t have to appear in court more than once, adoption can involve a lot of paperwork.
  • The Number of Additional Attorneys or Support Staff Needed. Depending on the complexity of your case or who you hire, you may be represented by a law firm rather than a single attorney. Additionally, your lawyer may use a support team to fulfill basic tasks like clerical work.

Depending on your case, rates are often negotiable. And while attorneys often charge by the hour, many offer a flat fee for certain types of cases. 

For example, a family law attorney might charge a flat fee for a straightforward adoption case that requires a simple filing of paperwork and one court appearance. But they might charge by the hour for a more complex case, such as an international adoption.

Regardless, most lawyers offer payment options so clients can find an arrangement that works for their budget. And all lawyers have fee agreements informing clients of costs upfront. So ensure you thoroughly read the agreement beforehand. 


Time Off

Unfortunately, in the U.S., paid parental leave isn’t guaranteed by law, and many workplaces don’t have this benefit. Even when they do, it may not apply to adoptive parents. So check with your human resources department about whether your workplace offers adoption benefits. 

Whether your employer offers paid time off, all adoptive parents are entitled to up to 12 weeks (three months) of leave through the Family Medical Leave Act. The act equally guarantees maternity and paternity leave for biological and adoptive parents.

But it only guarantees your job and health insurance. It doesn’t guarantee paid time off. If your company doesn’t provide paid parental leave, you need to plan for lost wages.


Final Word

The costs of adoption may feel formidable, especially if you have your heart set on adopting an infant through domestic or international adoption. But they don’t have to be insurmountable.

Many resources are available to help families afford to adopt, including options for post-placement reimbursement, like the adoption tax credit. Talk with adoption professionals to explore your options before completely ruling it out. 

Also, talk with other families who’ve adopted. Many are happy to share stories of how they were able to afford adoption, especially if it helps others fulfill their dreams of a family.

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Sarah Graves, Ph.D. is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, parenting, education, and creative entrepreneurship. She’s also a college instructor of English and humanities. When not busy writing or teaching her students the proper use of a semicolon, you can find her hanging out with her awesome husband and adorable son watching way too many superhero movies.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Understanding the Parent Plus Loan Forgiveness Program

Parent PLUS loan forgiveness provides financial relief to parents who borrowed money to cover the cost of their children’s college or career school. It isn’t always a quick fix, but there are certain federal and private programs that might offer the financial assistance needed to help them get on track.

To receive federal relief for Parent PLUS loans, parent borrowers have a few options.

They can consolidate the loan in order to enroll in an Income-Contingent Repayment plan after 25 years, pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness after 10 years, or choose from a number of private student loan assistance programs or refinancing options.

Keep reading to learn more about what the available student loan forgiveness possibilities are for Parent PLUS loans.

Will Parent Plus Loans Be Included in Student Loan Forgiveness?

Parent PLUS loans are eligible for several of the same student loan forgiveness programs as federal student loans for students, including:

•   Borrower Defense Loan Discharge

•   Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge

•   Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

That said, Parent PLUS loans generally have fewer repayment options in the first place and the eligibility requirements for these forgiveness programs can be strict and may require borrowers to consolidate their PLUS loan, such as with PSLF. This can make it tricky for borrowers to navigate how to use these federal relief programs to their advantage.

Refinancing is another option for Parent PLUS loan borrowers — applying for a new private student loan with an, ideally, lower interest rate. That said, some lenders offer less flexibility for repayment and the fine print can be lengthy, so there’s an inherent risk associated with refinancing Parent PLUS loans. It’s also worth noting that refinancing a PLUS loan will eliminate it from any federal repayment plans or forgiveness options.

Recommended: What Is a Parent PLUS Loan?

Parent Student Loan Forgiveness Program

When it comes to student loan forgiveness, the programs aren’t just available for the students. Parents who are on the hook for student loan debt can also qualify for student loan forgiveness.

As previously mentioned, a Parent PLUS loan may be eligible for Parent Student Loan Forgiveness through two specific federal programs:

•   Income-Contingent Repayment

•   The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program

There are also a few private student loan forgiveness options, which we’ll get into below.

Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

An Income-Contingent Repayment plan, or ICR plan, is the only income-driven repayment plan that’s available for Parent PLUS borrowers. In order to qualify, parent borrowers must first consolidate their loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan, then repay that loan under the ICR plan.

•   A Parent PLUS loan that’s included in a Direct Consolidation Loan could be eligible for Income-Contingent Repayment, but only if the borrower entered their repayment period on or after July 1, 2006.

•   A Parent PLUS loan that’s included in the Federal Direct Loan Program or the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) is also eligible for ICR if it’s included in the Federal Direct Consolidation Loan.

ICR determines a borrower’s monthly payment based on 20% of their discretionary income or the amount by which their AGI exceeds 100% of the poverty line. After a 25-year repayment term, or 300 payments, the remaining loan balance will be forgiven.

Typically, the IRS considers canceled debt a form of taxable income, but the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 made all student loan forgiveness tax-free through 2025.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

Borrowers with Parent PLUS loans may be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, but in order to pursue that option must first consolidate the Parent PLUS loan into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Then, after they’ve made 120 qualifying payments (ten year’s worth), borrowers become eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). The parent borrower (not the student) must be employed full-time in a qualifying public service job. PSLF also has strict requirements such as certifying employment so it’s important to follow instructions closely if pursuing this option.

The Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) is another option for Parent PLUS borrowers if some or all of their 120 qualifying payments were made under either a graduated repayment plan or an extended repayment plan. The catch here is that the last year of their payments must have been at least as much as they would if they had paid under an ICR plan.

Refinance Parent Plus Loans

Refinancing a Parent PLUS loan is another option that could provide some financial relief.

For borrowers who don’t qualify for any of the loan forgiveness options above, it may be possible to lower their monthly payments by refinancing Parent PLUS student loans with a private lender.

In doing so, you’ll lose the government benefits associated with your federal loans, as briefly mentioned above, such as:

•   Student loan forgiveness

•   Forbearance options or options to defer your student loans

•   Choice of repayment options

Refinancing a Parent PLUS loan into the dependent’s name is another option, which some borrowers opt for once their child has graduated and started working. Not all loan servicers are willing to offer this type of refinancing option, though.

Transfer Parent Plus Student Loan to Student

Transferring Parent PLUS loans to a student can be complicated. There isn’t a federal loan program available that will conduct this exchange, and, as mentioned above, some private lenders won’t offer this option.

That said, some private lenders, like SoFi, allow dependents to take out a refinanced student loan and use it to pay off the PLUS loan of their parent.

Alternatives to Student Loan Forgiveness Parent Plus

When it comes to Parent PLUS loans, there are a few ways to get out of student loan debt legally, including the scenarios outlined below.

Student Loan Forgiveness Death of Parent

Federal student loans qualify for loan discharge when the borrower passes away. In the case of Parent PLUS loans, they are also discharged if the student who received the borrowed funds passes away.

In order to qualify for federal loan discharge due to death, borrowers must provide a copy of a death certificate to either the U.S. Department of Education or the loan servicer.

Recommended: Can Student Loans Be Discharged?

State Parent PLUS Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Many individual states offer some sort of student loan repayment assistance or student loan forgiveness programs for Parent PLUS loan borrowers.

For an overview of options available in different states, you can take a look at The College Investor’s State-by-State Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness . For information on student loan and aid available take a look at the SoFi guide on state-by-state student aid available for borrowers.

Disability

In the event of the borrower becoming totally and permanently disabled, a Parent PLUS loan may be discharged. To qualify for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge , borrowers must complete and submit a TPD discharge application, as well as documentation showing that they meet the requirements for being considered totally and permanently disabled. Note that in order to qualify for TPD, the parent borrower must be considered disabled. This type of forgiveness does not apply to Parent PLUS loans in the event that the student becomes disabled.

Bankruptcy

If a borrower can demonstrate undue financial hardship upon repaying the student loan, they might be able to discharge their Parent PLUS loan. Note having student loans discharged in bankruptcy is extremely rare. Proving “undue hardship” varies depending on the court that’s granting it, but most rulings abide by the Brunner test, which requires the debtor to meet all three of these criteria in order to discharge the student loan:

•   Poverty – Maintaining a minimal standard of living for the borrower and their dependents is deemed impossible if they’re forced to repay their student loans.

•   Persistence – The borrower’s current financial situation will likely continue for the majority of the repayment period.

•   Good faith – The borrower has made a “good faith” effort to repay their student loans.

Closed School Discharge

For parent borrowers whose children attended a school that closed while they were enrolled or who withdrew from the school during a “lookback period” of 120 days before its closure, a Closed School Discharge is another available form of student loan forgiveness.

In some circumstances, the government may extend the lookback period even further. For example, The Department of Education has changed the lookback period to 180 days for loans that were issued after July 1, 2020.

Borrower Defense

Borrower Defense Loan Discharge is available to Parent PLUS borrowers whose children were misled by their college or university or whose college or university engaged in certain forms of misconduct or violation of state laws.

To make a case for borrower defense, the Parent PLUS borrower must be able to demonstrate that their school violated a state law directly related to their federal student loan.

Explore Private Student Loan Options for Parents

Banks, credit unions, state loan agencies and other lenders typically offer private student loans for parents who want to help their children pay for college and refinancing options for parents and students.

Refinancing options will vary by lenders and some may be willing to refinance a Parent PLUS loan into a private refinanced loan in the student’s name. In addition to competitive interest rates and member benefits, SoFi does allow students to take over their parent’s loan during the refinancing process. Interest rates and terms may vary based on individual criteria such as income, credit score, and history.

If you decide refinancing a Parent PLUS loan makes sense for you, SoFi makes it simple. The application process is entirely online and SoFi offers flexible repayment options to help you land a loan that fits your budget. You can find your rate in a few minutes and checking if you prequalify won’t affect your credit score.*

The Takeaway

Parent PLUS Loan forgiveness offers financial relief to parents who borrowed money to help their child pay for college.

To receive federal relief for Parent PLUS loans, parent borrowers can enroll in an Income-Contingent Repayment plan, pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness, transfer their student loan to another student, take advantage of a state Parent PLUS student loan forgiveness program, or opt for private student loan assistance or refinancing.

Learn more about refinancing a Parent PLUS loan with SoFi.


*Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
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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.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
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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.

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Source: sofi.com

Student Loan Interest Rates for June 2022

There’s no way around it — college is expensive. This means that for many students, taking out a loan is the only way to realistically cover these expenses. And, like most other loans, student loans accrue interest.

In this article, we’ll explore the current interest rates across the most common student loan products, including federal and private student loans.

When we discuss federal interest rates on student loans in this article, we’re referring to what the rates would be when the freeze is lifted.

Comparing Rates Between Federal, Private and Refinance Loans

Something you may notice is that, at the lowest end, private lenders seem to offer better interest rates than federal. It is important to note that these lowest interest rates are very difficult to get — your credit needs to be outstanding.

It’s also important to remember that, although fixed interest rates appear to have a higher range in the tables below, your interest rate by definition can change. So, while you may qualify for a lower interest rate on a variable-rate loan, it’s entirely possible that this rate will eventually go up and become higher than you would have gotten with the fixed-rate loan. This is simply the tradeoff (and risk) of variable interest rates.

Federal Loan Interest Rates at a Glance

Loan Type Borrower Fixed Interest Rate Loan Fee
Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans Undergrad students 3.73% 1.057%
Direct Unsubsidized Loans Graduate or professional students 5.28% 1.057%
Direct PLUS Loans Parents and graduate or professional students 6.28% 4.228%

Federal rates increased across the board for the 2021-2022 school year by nearly a whole percentage point. That’s unfortunate, but they are still lower than they have been for years, and generally much lower than an equivalent private student loan.

Federal loans come in two basic types: subsidized and unsubsidized. The primary difference is around when the interest starts accruing:

  • Subsidized student loan: Interest is paid by the Education Department as long as you’re enrolled at least half-time in college.
  • Unsubsidized student loan: Interest begins to accrue as soon as the loan is dispersed.

There are some other differences, but they’re relatively minor compared to this.

The last thing to cover with federal loans is the loan fee (also known as the origination fee). This fee is calculated as a percentage of the total loan amount and then deducted automatically from each disbursement. In practice, this means you’ll receive a smaller loan than the amount you actually borrowed.

Private Loan Interest Rates at a Glance

Loan Type Interest Rates
Fixed rate 3.34% to 14.99%
Variable rate 1.04% to 11.99%

The wide variation in interest rate ranges is due to two factors: different lenders offering different rates, and the fact that the rate you’ll get is impacted by your credit and other factors.

As mentioned above, fixed interest rates tend to have higher rates on paper, but you don’t have to worry about that rate increasing on you, which is a very real possibility with variable-rate loans.

Loan Refinance Interest Rates at a Glance

Loan Type Interest Rates
Fixed rate 2.59% to 9.15%
Variable rate 1.88% to 8.9%

If your credit is good, it’s possible to refinance your existing student loan to get a lower interest rate. This is not always possible, but it can be an option worth exploring. These refinanced interest rates can themselves be lower than “normal” private rates, so it can be an option worth exploring.

How Student Loan Interest Rates Are Determined

Although federal and private loans are technically different, they often follow similar trends. In other words, when federal student loan interest rates go up, private rates are likely to do the same. Likewise for when they go down. Let’s look at what actually goes into determining federal and private interest rates.

Federal Student Loan Interest Rates

These student loan interest rates are set each year by Congress, based on the high yield of the 10-year Treasury note auction in May. The new rate applies to loans disbursed from July 1 to June 30 of the following year.

Federal student loan rates are always fixed. This means that they won’t change during the life of the loan — whatever interest rate you get when you take out the loan is what you’ll keep until it’s paid off (it changes with student loan refinancing).

Private Student Loan Interest Rates

These loans are funded by banks, credit unions, and other private lenders. As such, interest rates vary between the different lenders, and it’s worth shopping around whenever possible.

Private lenders usually offer both fixed-rate and variable-rate loans. Fixed-rate means that your interest rate remains the same over the life of the loan. It can neither increase nor decrease.

A variable interest rate, on the other hand, means that your interest rate can fluctuate with the market. Sometimes you can get lucky and have it go down for a period of time. However, the risk with variable-rate loans is that the interest rate goes up significantly and you end up paying much more than anticipated.

It’s important to keep this in mind when selecting a loan. It may be worthwhile to take a slightly higher fixed interest rate rather than assume the risks of a variable rate.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Student Loans

The interest rate cuts in 2020 had a major ripple effect on student loan interest rates. Despite the slowly recovering economy, interest rates remain lower than they’ve been in years, for federal student loans and private fixed-rate and variable interest rate loans. This is excellent news for student loan borrowers, and we hope to see these rates remain low in the coming year.

Currently, all federal student loan debt is frozen until Sept. 1, 2022. This means that rates are set to zero and no payments are due until that date. This loan repayment freeze originally began in March 2020  at the outset of the pandemic and has been extended six times at this point.

The Pros and Cons of Federal Student Loans vs. Private Student Loans

Let’s explore the pros and cons of the two major classes of student loans — federal and private. Neither is perfect, as we’ll see. Rather, each is suited to particular situations and types of borrowers.

Federal Student Loans


Pros

  • Flexible repayment plans. Federal loans are eligible for income-based repayment plans and loan forgiveness. These can be a huge help if you find yourself in a tough financial spot.
  • Much lower requirements. It’s almost always much easier to qualify for a federal loan than it is a private student loan, particularly if you want a good interest rate.
  • More affordable overall. Most of the time you’ll end up paying less on federal student loans than on a private student loan.


Cons

  • Origination fees. Federal student loans are subject to small origination fees, which aren’t part of a private student loan. This means your loan disbursements are usually going to be smaller.
  • Borrowing limits for undergraduates. This means some students may actually need to take out a small private loan in addition to the federal loan to cover their full college costs.
  • Can’t choose your loan servicer. Federal student loans are turned over to a loan servicer to handle the payments and administration of that loan. Some of them have sketchy reputations

Private Student Loans


Pros

  • Larger loans. If you know that you’ll need a certain amount of money, and it’s more than federal loans can offer, it might make more sense to simply go private.
  • Potentially lower rates. A private loan may have lower rates, particularly with student loan refinancing. That said, you’ll need an excellent credit score to get these lowest rates.
  • No origination fees. Private student loans don’t have the origination fees that come with federal student loans.


Cons

  • More difficult to qualify for. Private loans have stricter requirements, particularly around credit histories. Federal student loans are almost always easier to qualify for.
  • Generally higher interest rates. Unless your credit is outstanding, you’ll almost always get a better interest rate with a federal student loan.
  • Less flexibility in repayment options. Some private lenders are willing to work with borrowers on this, but there’s no law or regulation forcing them to, and thus, no guarantee.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Student Loan Interest Rates

If you still have questions about student loan interest rates, don’t worry — we’ve got answers. Here are some of the most common questions.

What is the Interest Rate on Student Loans Right Now?

Student loan interest rates range from a low of 1.04% to a high of almost 15%. The rates depend on whether you’re looking at federal or private, which type of loan, which private lender you go with, your credit history, and more. 

That said, here’s the quick bullet list:

  • Federal direct for undergraduate students: 3.34%
  • Federal unsubsidized for grad students: 5.28%
  • Federal Direct PLUS for parents and graduate students: 6.28%
  • Private fixed-rate loans: 3.34% to 14.99%
  • Private variable-rate loans: 1.04% to 11.99%

Will Student Loan Interest Rates Go Up in 2022?

This is a hard question to answer. They are expected to remain fairly low for the foreseeable future, but this can always change. For the 2021-2022 school year, federal rates did increase, but they are still a good bit lower than they were prior to the pandemic.

Are Student Loan Rates Dropping?

Rates increased for the 2021-2022 school year, but remain lower than they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. So while they didn’t drop this year, they have dropped significantly compared to a few years ago.

What’s the Difference Between a Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Student Loan

A subsidized federal student loan is one in which interest is paid by the U.S. Department of Education Department while you’re enrolled at least half-time in college. An unsubsidized loan, on the other hand, begins accruing interest immediately on disbursement, even if you’re still enrolled in school.

Subsidized student loans have a six-month grace period after graduating. During this time, no payments are due, and the Education Department continues to pay the interest on the loan.

An unsubsidized loan, on the other hand, begins accruing interest immediately on disbursement, even if you’re still enrolled in school. The student is responsible for this interest. Unsubsidized loans still have a six-month grace period after graduation, but interest continues to accrue during this time. The interest then capitalizes, which means it gets added to the original loan amount.

When Do Student Loan Interest Rates Start?

Federal student loan rates are set each spring and go into effect July 1, running until June 30 of the following year. At that point, the new interest rate will take effect.

What is Student Loan Refinancing?

Student loan refinancing is a way to decrease the amount of interest paid on your loan. Essentially, when you refinance, the new lender pays off your existing loan and gives you a new one with new terms.  

Not everyone can refinance — there are fairly strict rules to evaluate your credit and income to determine eligibility. Additionally, you generally reset the length of your loan term when you refinance, so it can sometimes end up costing you more money. 

Finally, while you can refinance a federal loan, you lose the extra benefits they come with, including income-based repayment options.

What is Income-based Repayment?

This is a special repayment option available to federal borrowers that lets you tailor your monthly payments to your income. These plans are typically based on a percentage of your monthly disposable income. This can be quite a bit lower than you’d otherwise pay. The tradeoff is that it can take much longer to pay off the loan. 

Additionally, loans on these repayment plans are automatically forgiven after 20-25 years of payments.

Penny Hoarder contributor Dave Schafer has been writing professionally for nearly a decade, covering topics ranging from personal finance to software and consumer tech.

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Best Jobs for Military Spouses and Where to Find Them

All marriages require work and dedication, but being a military spouse to an active-duty member of the armed forces involves extra commitment and flexibility.
You don’t need to be a CPA to be a bookkeeper. You don’t even need to be in the same town as your clients!
If writing isn’t your specialty, there is always a need for freelance graphic designers, video editors, those who know computer coding, and executive assistants. These nine freelance websites will help you start connecting with clients.
Expect to deliver transcription assignments within a few days — or even hours — of receiving them.
There are few costs in setting up a bookkeeping business, and you can earn an hour in this specialty.

Opportunity Abounds With Remote Work

Fast, accurate typists can make to per hour as transcriptionists. Transcriptionists are needed especially in the legal and medical worlds, where lawyers and doctors will often verbalize client and patient notes and then rely on a transcriptionist to convert those audio clips into written notes.
Ready to stop worrying about money?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work is more popular now than ever.
Private tutors can expect to earn to per hour.
Some fields are especially well-suited for military spouses and their often-changing life circumstances. Check out these promising fields.

Resources for Military Spouses on the Job Hunt

Some virtual assistant jobs can begin to mix with other tasks such as creating editorial or social media calendars, having a hand in planning company events, or onboarding other employees.

  • USA JOBS: This website that posts open jobs in the federal government also has an initiative designed to help spouses of active-duty military members find a government job. A job is not guaranteed, but the program allows you to apply in a “non-competitive” environment and then have your resume reviewed to see if you may be a good fit for any open federal government roles.
  • National Labor Exchange: The NLX has an entire search engine dedicated to finding jobs that are not tied to a location and are work-from-home-friendly.
  • Hiring Our Heroes: The organization “connects the military community with American businesses to create economic opportunity and a strong and diversified workforce.” You can leverage Hiring Our Heroes to attend in-person and virtual hiring events, fellowships that allow you to work in the civilian workforce, and networking sessions to meet other military spouses.
  • USO Pathfinder Transition Program: This program serves to help active duty military members, veterans, and military spouses find and keep careers that are rewarding to them. The Program provides professional development and job counseling to help individuals craft an action plan to find a job or career path they love.
  • Military One Source: Military One Source has myriad resources for military spouses considering a job or looking for a new one. Whether you want to search for a job, improve your resume or pursue further education, Military One Source has guidance on how to reach your goals.
  • VirtForce: VirtForce is an online network dedicated to helping military spouses find sustainable telecommuting and remote work. VirtForce has a military spouse community of more than 60,000 spouses, providing them with free training and networking to help land and keep a job.
  • Career Pursuit: This not-for-profit magazine, published annually, provides consolidated career advice to the military spouse community. Career Pursuit has grown so much in popularity it is now backed by the U.K. Ministry of Defense.
  • LockHeed Martin: The technology company that works closely with the U.S. government, is dedicated to helping military spouses explore a variety of career paths. LockHeed Martin provides a military spouse fellowship. The fellowship is similar to an internship and allows military spouses to get hands-on training and experience in the civilian professional world. LockHeed Martin provides training and guidance to spouses in the fellowship, as well.
  • USAA: The military-focused insurance provider, has its own military spouse employment program. You can search by location, level of education and years of experience.
A woman works from home.
Getty Images

Career Paths for Military Spouses

You can proofread transcripts, like court proceedings or medical dictation, blogs, journals and book manuscripts. Using just an iPad, you could make about per hour no matter where in the country (or world) you are located.

1. Freelancing or Contract Work

From kids to adults, tutoring services are always in demand.
Freelancing covers a multitude of fields, but freelance writing is an especially popular pursuit.
Virtual assistants are generally contractors and may work on a fixed-term schedule of employment. This can work well with any predicted moves or hectic times in your life, too.

2. Virtual Assistant

The Penny Hoarder’s Work-from-Home jobs portal is updated five days a week with new remote opportunities, many in customer service positions. Bookmark it and check it often!
If you can catch a typo quicker than anyone, consider working as a proofreader.
Thanks to this trend, military spouses have a wealth of job opportunities to pursue without needing to explain an upcoming move or inability to come into an office.
Even if a job description doesn’t explicitly state it is remote-friendly, it is still worth applying to. You may find via conversations with the recruiter or hiring manager that they will consider remote applicants who are well-suited for a role.

3. Transcribing

Everyone needs their hair cut eventually, right? No matter where your base is, folks will need a haircut. Although you will need some basic training in order to be able to cut hair well, hair stylists make between ,000 – ,000 per year before tips (which can add up to 20% on top of your base salary).
The frequent moves, specificity of military culture and sometimes remote living areas all contribute to the difficulties a military spouse may face when looking to build their career.

4. Hairstyling

Military families are required to relocate, every few years or even more than once in a year, and the moves can sometimes be sudden and unpredictable. This lifestyle can make it tough to hold down consistent jobs as a military spouse, 88% of whom are female.

5. Proofreading

Colorado-based writer Kristin Jenny focuses on military topics, lifestyle and wellness. She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
Here is a guide to finding the best jobs for military spouses.

6. Customer Service

Thousands of call center jobs in retail, health care, airlines and many more fields shifted to remote work during the pandemic.
Virtual assistants provide organizational help all via online applications. You may be asked to manage someone’s meeting schedule and emails or coordinate when an office is due to reorder supplies.

7. Tutor

Freelancing can be an excellent path for military spouses because it is often remote and flexible schedule-wise. As a freelancer, you are self-employed, but may be hired on as a temporary contractor for a company to help them complete a project or to backfill a position for a specific duration of time.
You don’t have to start from scratch searching for a suitable job. Here are free career resources available for military spouses.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

8. Social Media Management

Work with home-schooled students on subjects their parents aren’t confident teaching; offer after-school sessions in students’ homes or at the library; or work with a tutoring company to host SAT prep classes.

9. Bookkeeping

Small business owners know they need to have a social media presence, but many don’t have the time or know-how. If you’re comfortable and knowledgeable about the most popular platforms, you could manage social media accounts for small businesses.
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In fact, many employers view having a widespread workforce as a strength, bringing geographic diversity and tapping talent pools nationwide. <!–

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Becoming a virtual assistant is a fantastic way to earn at least K per year (and as much as in the six-digits) from the comfort of home — wherever that may be.

How to Get Teacher Loan Forgiveness

Private school teachers can also qualify for the Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation.
You meet the additional requirements, depending on whether you’re new to the profession and what grade level you teach.
The takeaway: You’d better enjoy teaching, because you’re going to have to do it for a while if you want to get your student loans wiped out.

Similar to the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, Public Service Loan Forgiveness has quite a few hoops to jump through. But the good news is that the public service program does not restrict teachers to a specific school or subject matter.
The maximum ,500 award is only awarded to “highly qualified” teachers in special education or secondary mathematics or science. You can receive up to ,000 for other subject areas.
The standard repayment term for federal student loans is 10 years. If you have difficulty making payments, you have four main options within an income driven repayment plan (IDRP) for lowering them that take your income and expenses into account:

Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

This loan forgiveness program should be an obvious, easy choice, with the word “teacher” in the title. But there are some rigid requirements.

1. Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF)

The Perkins Loan Program ended on Sept. 30, 2017, so if you’re a recent graduate, this forgiveness may not be of much help. But if you have outstanding federal Perkins loans, you can still qualify for cancellation.

Which Loans Are Eligible?

You’ve attained your bachelor’s degree. Submit a completed Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program application. The head of the school(s) where you completed your service will have to complete the certification section, and you’ll need to submit separate applications for each loan servicer.

Pro Tip
The program was created in 2007 by former president George W. Bush to help public service workers, like teachers, get out of student loan debt. But the guidelines were so strict and confusing, few people actually qualified for forgiveness.

Contact your college’s financial aid or alumni office to find out about its forgiveness program options. For state and local programs, check out this directory from the American Federation of Teachers.

Who’s Eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness?

To qualify, you must either teach at a low-income school or teach one of the following subjects:
You have not had certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary or provisional basis.
As a teacher, your employer matters, but the options are much more plentiful than the restrictive Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. Qualifying employers include federal, state, local or tribal government organizations and not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt.

How Much Can You Get?

You don’t have to teach all five years at the same school, but you’ll need verification from every school you taught at to reach the five-year minimum. You apply for teacher loan forgiveness after you’ve completed the teaching requirement.
Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.

  1. Don’t know which loans you have? Log onto www.studentloans.gov: In the loan information list’s left-hand column, it will identify the type of loan. Or you can call the Department of Education and ask.
  2. Start your AmeriCorps application here.
  3. After completing your AmeriCorps term of service, you are eligible to receive the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, which can be used to repay qualified federal student loans that includes Direct, Perkins Loans, Federal Consolidated Loans and others listed here.
  4. They say that teaching is a calling. It’s just not typically a calling to money.

If you’re thinking about stacking the Teacher Loan Forgiveness with other forgiveness programs, you’ll be waiting a while. That’s because the forgiveness programs count your service sequentially, not simultaneously.

How to Apply

To apply, contact the school where you obtained the Perkins Loan to learn its specific rules.
And while there are a number of programs specifically designed to help teachers pay off student loans, a word of warning to anyone looking for a quick and easy fix. All of the teacher loan forgiveness programs require you to stick to a strict repayment schedule during a qualifying period when you must remain in the teaching profession.

2. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

We cover each of these repayment plans in more detail in this article, but know that these plans aren’t actually forgiveness programs. They’re repayment programs with a forgiveness option at the end. You’ll need to resubmit your income and family size every year to determine eligibility — and the forgiven portion is subject to federal taxes.
Although the Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation is specifically designed for teachers, it’s also specifically for Perkins loans.
This award is subject to federal tax in the year each payment is made, making it taxable income.
Even with federally held student loan forbearance extended until Sept. 1, 2022, you shouldn’t ignore your student loan debt. In fact, this could be an opportune time to explore your possibilities before the freeze ends on interest and payments.

Which Loans Are Eligible?

  • Payments on all Direct loans enrolled in Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE) and Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR).
  • Payments made on all Direct loans that were not in PAYE and IBR are temporarily eligible to count toward forgiveness.
  • Perkins and Federal Family Education Loans (also known as FFEL) can qualify if they are consolidated, but previous payments may count though a limited PSLF waiver.

Who’s Eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

Privacy Policy
To qualify for Teacher Loan Forgiveness, you need to have one of the following loans:

How to Apply

You don’t need to be a math teacher to realize that the ,000-plus average amount of student loans to get a bachelor’s degree would be tough to pay off on a teacher’s starting salary of ,163.

3. Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation

If you are employed as a full-time teacher at a low-income school (you can find the list of eligible schools here) for five complete and consecutive academic years, you’re eligible for the program if at least one of those years was after the 1997-98 school year.
Let’s take a look at the different options for student loan forgiveness. They vary based on the types of loans you have, the amount that’s eligible for forgiveness, the school where you work and even the subject you teach.
Although ,000 to ,500 can put a dent in a debt, if your loans reach into the upper five digits (or six digits) — or you don’t meet the requirements of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program — you do have other options.
AmeriCorps programs place teachers in high-need urban and rural areas across the U.S. The positions are limited-term contracts but come with a full salary and other benefits.

  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Foreign Languages
  • Special Education
  • Subject area that is facing a shortage of qualified teachers in your state

School librarians, guidance counselors, and other administrative staff are not considered teachers for the purposes of this loan forgiveness program. 

How to Apply

The highly qualified requirements are as follows:

4. AmeriCorps

That means you can use both the teacher loan forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness to wipe out federal loans, for instance, but not for the same period of teaching service. So after working five years to qualify for the teacher loan forgiveness, you’ll need to tack on another 120 monthly payments to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Considering a recent study found that 55% of teachers say they plan to leave the profession earlier than they originally planned — and teaching in low-income districts can be extra challenging — you might be better off applying for just the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program if you’re looking to have a large amount of debt forgiven.
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But if you owe a smaller amount, help from the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program could help put a dent in your debt.

How to Apply

The availability of teacher loan forgiveness programs at the state and local level depends on where you live. If you’re struggling with student debt, you might be able to find a sympathetic ear at your alma mater or state agency.

5. State- and School- Forgiveness Programs

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You can use your award to repay defaulted federal student loans, as long as it qualifies.

How to Apply

That’s 15 years total — so if you graduate from college at 22, you’ll need to commit to teaching until you’re at least 37 years old. And there’s no guarantee you’ll receive forgiveness.

6. Income Driven Repayment Plans

This one isn’t specific to teachers, but it’s certainly applicable here.
If you are eligible, up to 100% of your loan may be canceled in increments for years of teaching service.

  • Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)
  • Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR)
  • Pay as You Earn (PAYE)
  • Revised Pay as You Earn (RPAYE)

In 2021, the Department of Education announced an overhaul of the PSLF program, allowing previously non-qualifying payments to be counted toward forgiveness, and in some cases wiping out student loan balances.

An overview of a teacher teaching elementary school students.
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Can You Stack Forgiveness Programs? Sort of.

If you’re employed by a government or non-profit, you’re eligible to qualify for loan forgiveness after 120 payments — that’s 10 years for you non-math teachers. You’ll need verification for each year of qualification.
You must have a full-time job in the public sector, and you’ll need 120 qualifying, non-consecutive loan payments (that’s 10 years worth).
You’ve received full state certification as a teacher.
Almost every state has at least one type of student loan forgiveness program that’s designed for those in public service fields.
Ready to stop worrying about money?
If you’re in default on a loan, you are not eligible for forgiveness unless you have made satisfactory repayment arrangements with the holder of the defaulted loan. <!–

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Login to the Federal Student Aid site and use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness tool to determine whether you, your loan and your employer qualify, as well as to fill out the form.

Guide to Grad PLUS Loans

Grad PLUS loans are federal student loans for graduate and professional students. Although Grad PLUS loans have higher interest rates and fees than some other types of federal student loans, they also have a major benefit — virtually no borrowing limits. You can borrow up to the full cost of attendance of your school, minus any other financial aid you’ve already received.

Read on for more on how Grad PLUS loans work, including their eligibility requirements, interest rates and repayment options.

What Are Grad PLUS Loans?

If you’re planning to attend a graduate or professional program, a Grad PLUS loan could help cover costs. Issued by the Department of Education, Grad PLUS loans are student loans designed for graduate and professional students.

PLUS loans are not the only federal loans available to you as a graduate student — you can also borrow Direct unsubsidized loans. Direct unsubsidized loans have lower interest rates and fees than PLUS loans, but they come with borrowing limits.

If you’ve hit your limit and need additional funding, a Grad PLUS loan could cover the gap. As mentioned above, you can borrow up to the full cost of attendance of your program, minus any other financial aid you’ve already gotten. This flexibility can be helpful for students who are attending pricey programs.

Recommended: How Do Student Loans Work? Guide to Student Loans

What Can Grad PLUS Loans Be Used for?

Grad PLUS loans can be used for tuition, fees and other education-related expenses. These expenses include,

•   Housing

•   Food

•   Textbooks

•   Computers and other supplies

•   Study abroad expenses

•   Transportation

•   Childcare costs

A Grad PLUS loan will first be disbursed to your financial aid office, which will apply the funds toward tuition, fees, room and board, and any other school charges. The financial aid office will then send any remaining funds to you.

Recommended: What Can You Use Student Loans For?

Who Is Eligible for Grad PLUS Loans?

To be eligible for a Grad PLUS loan, you must be a graduate or professional student enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school. What’s more, your program must lead to a graduate or professional degree or certificate.

You’ll also need to meet the eligibility requirements for federal financial aid (more on this below), as well as submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).

Typical Grad PLUS Loan Requirements

Besides being enrolled in an eligible graduate or professional program, you need to meet a few other requirements to take out a Grad PLUS loan:

Meet the Requirements for Federal Student Aid

Since Grad PLUS loans are part of the federal student aid program, you must be eligible for federal aid to borrow one. Here are some of the criteria you need to meet:

•   Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen

•   Have a valid Social Security number (with some exceptions)

•   Have a high school diploma, General Educational Development (GED) certificate or other recognized equivalent

•   Maintain satisfactory academic progress while in school

•   Not already be in default on a federal student loan or owe money on a federal grant

If you’re a non-U.S. citizen or have an intellectual disability or criminal conviction, additional requirements might apply.

Submit the FAFSA

You’ll need to submit the FAFSA before you can borrow a Grad PLUS loan. After applying to grad school, you can submit this form, free of charge, on the Federal Student Aid website, with the myStudentAid mobile app or via the mail. Since the FAFSA only applies to a single academic year, you’ll need to submit it every year you’re in school and want to receive financial aid.

Complete the Grad PLUS Loan Application

Along with submitting the FAFSA, you’ll also need to fill out a separate application for the Grad PLUS loan. You can find and submit this application on the Federal Student Aid website, though some schools have separate processes. Your financial aid office can advise you on the steps you need to take.

If your application is approved, you’ll need to agree to the terms of the loan by signing a Master Promissory Note. If you haven’t borrowed a Grad PLUS loan before, you’ll also be required to complete student loan entrance counseling.

Not Have Adverse Credit History (or Apply With an Endorser)

While you don’t need outstanding credit to qualify for a Grad PLUS loan, you can’t have adverse credit. According to the Department of Education, you have adverse credit if one of the following applies to you:

•   You have accounts with a total balance greater than $2,085 that are 90 or more days delinquent

•   You’ve experienced a default, bankruptcy, repossession, foreclosure, wage garnishment or tax lien in the past five years

•   You’ve had a charge-off or write-off of a federal student loan in the past five years

If you have adverse credit, you have two options:

•   Appeal the decision due to extenuating circumstances. For example, you could provide documentation showing that you paid off a delinquent debt on your credit report.

•   Apply with an endorser who does not have adverse credit. Your endorser will be responsible for repaying the loan if you fall behind on payments.

Grad PLUS Loans Interest Rates

Grad PLUS loans come with fixed interest rates that will remain the same over the life of your loan. They also have a disbursement fee, which is a percentage of your loan amount that gets deducted from your loan.

Congress sets rates and fees on federal student loans periodically. These are the current Grad PLUS loan interest rates and fees:

Interest Rate (for loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2021 and before July 1, 2022) Disbursement Fee (for loans disbursed on or after Oct. 1, 2021, and before Oct. 1, 2022)
6.28% 4.228%

Repaying Your Grad PLUS Loans

Grad PLUS loans are eligible for a variety of federal repayment plans:

•   Standard repayment plan, which involves fixed monthly payments over 10 years.

•   Income-driven repayment, specifically Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), Income-Based Repayment or Income-Contingent Repayment. These plans adjust your monthly student loan payments to a percentage of your discretionary income while extending your loan terms to 20 or 25 years. If you’ve made on-time payments but still have a balance at the end of your term, it may be forgiven. The amount forgiven may be considered taxable income by the IRS.

•   Extended repayment, which extends your repayment term to 25 years and lets you pay a fixed or graduated amount.

•   Graduated repayment, which lowers your student loan payments in the beginning and increases them every two years. You’ll pay off your loan over 10 years, and your final payments won’t be more than three times greater than your initial payments.

Grad PLUS loans are also eligible for certain federal forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Other Options to Pay for Grad School

Grad PLUS loans aren’t the only way to pay for graduate school. Here are some alternative options:

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

You can borrow up to $20,500 per year in Direct Unsubsidized loans as a graduate student with an aggregate loan limit of $138,500, including any loans you borrowed as an undergraduate.

Here are the interest rate and disbursement fee for graduate students:

Interest Rate (for loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2021 and before July 1, 2022) Disbursement Fee (for loans disbursed on or after Oct. 1, 2020, and before Oct. 1, 2022)
5.28% 1.057%

Grants and Scholarships

Besides student loans, you can also pursue grants and scholarships for graduate school. You can find grants and scholarships from a variety of sources, including the Department of Education, your state, your school or a private organization. By earning grants and scholarships, you might not need to borrow as much in student loans.

Private Student Loans

You can also explore your options for private graduate student loans from banks, online lenders or credit unions. Some lenders offer interest rates that start lower than Graduate PLUS loan interest rates and don’t charge an origination fee.

Although private student loans aren’t eligible for federal repayment plans or programs, some lenders offer flexible repayment options or deferment if you need to pause payments. But, because private student loans aren’t required to offer the same borrower benefits as federal student loans, they are generally borrowed as a last resort option after all other sources of financing have been exhausted.

The Takeaway

If you’re looking for ways to pay for graduate school, a Grad PLUS loan could help. You can use this flexible loan to cover your school’s cost of attendance, as well as choose from a variety of federal repayment plans when it comes time to pay it back.

A Grad PLUS loan, however, might not be your most affordable borrowing option. Depending on your credit and other factors, it may be possible to find a private student loan with an even lower interest rate than a Grad PLUS loan.

SoFi offers private student loans with competitive rates, no fees and flexible repayment terms. Learn more about SoFi’s no-fee private student loans.

FAQ

What kind of loan is Grad PLUS?

The Grad PLUS loan is a federal graduate student loan issued by the Department of Education. It is designed specifically for graduate and professional students.

Is there a max on Grad PLUS loans?

There is virtually no limit on the amount you can borrow with a Grad PLUS loan. You can borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance, minus any other financial aid you’ve already received.

Can Grad PLUS loans be used for living expenses?

Yes, you can use Grad PLUS loans to cover your living expenses while at school. You must use your loan on education-related expenses, which can include housing, food, supplies, transportation and other costs related to attending school.


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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.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
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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.

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Source: sofi.com

How to Choose a Side Hustle For Your Lifestyle

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

If you’re like one of the many people looking to be an entrepreneur, you might be wondering how to choose the best side hustle. While there is no one and only perfect side hustle that fits everyone, there are a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself to try and find the right gig work for you. 

What is a Side Hustle?

At its simplest, a side hustle is just something that you do on the side to earn a little bit of extra money. Also called freelancing or gig work, there is a wide range of occupations or time and money commitments to side hustling. A side hustle can be something you do very occasionally all the way to something that would be considered a second full-time job.

Finding the right fit

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all side hustle that will be perfect for everyone, there are many different things that you can do to earn extra money. Here are a few of our top ways to make money at home, no matter your age or skill level:

  • Become a virtual assistant
  • Find and sell used items
  • Become a transcriptionist
  • Rent out your home or car part-time
  • Delivery driver (Uber / Lyft / Doordash / Grubhub / Postmates / etc)
  • Tutor students in your area

These are just a few ideas that you might want to consider. Most people learn if they like something by actually doing it. So the best piece of advice is to just pick something and try it out. Set aside some time and make a space for entrepreneurship in your budget and go for it. 

Set goals and expectations so you can regularly review how your side hustle is going and whether it makes sense to pivot into something else. The worst case is that you find that it isn’t a great fit and isn’t worth your time or money. But if that happens, you at least know a bit more about what types of side hustles will or won’t work for you. And in the best-case scenario, your side hustle may become so successful that you can turn it into your full-time job.

How much time, space and money do you have?

As you look through the list of possible side hustles you choose from, one thing that you’ll want to ask yourself is how much time, space or money you have. Different side hustles have different requirements for each of those three things. Becoming an Uber driver or tutor takes a good amount of time, but not much money or space. If you’re looking to do retail arbitrage and find products to resell, you’ll need time, money AND space.

Consider how much money you might need to put down and how that fits with your overall financial situation. The old adage about how “it takes money to make money” does generally hold, but you’ll also want to consider the potential risk and reward to see if it’s something worth considering. If you’re a stay-at-home mom looking for a side hustle, you also need to consider how you balance your entrepreneurship with your child care obligations.

Is it active or passive income?

Active income is money that you make by actively doing something. Many “traditional” jobs where you go to work for 8 hours a day are active income. You can’t easily double your active income without doubling the amount of time and work that you put in. Passive income is where you make an initial investment and get money on a recurring and ongoing basis.

Side hustles can generate both active or passive income, depending on what the gig is. Being a tutor or a rideshare driver is mostly active income. The amount of money that you put in is limited by the amount of available time that you have. Writing an ebook or recording a podcast can be considered podcasting. That’s because once you write the book or record the podcast, your revenue comes in as people buy your book or download your podcast. Becoming a landlord is another way to generate (mostly) passive income.

The Bottom Line

Finding the best side hustle for your lifestyle is somewhat a matter of trial and error. With so many different ways to earn extra money on the side, there’s bound to be an option for just about everyone. Considering your available time, money and available physical space are some good questions to ask yourself. 

Looking at your timeline for earning money is another great idea. Do you need extra money right now, to solve an immediate financial crunch? Or are you more interested in finding a recurring income stream to supplement or replace your future income? Try out a few gigs and see how you like them. One nice thing about many side hustles is that they don’t take a lot of initial investment — that lets you try them out, see how they fit, and then decide on the best next steps for you.

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Dan Miller

Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids. More from Dan Miller

Source: mint.intuit.com

The Best Student Loans of May 2022

College costs are overwhelming for a lot of families. So students turn to student loans to cover them. Most students, following expert recommendations, start with federal student loans, but those aren’t always enough to cover costs.

When federal student loans don’t cut it, you can turn to private student loan lenders to fill in the gap.

Unlike federal student loans, private student loans offer a variety of options for interest rates, loan amounts and terms that could make picking one daunting. So we’ve pulled together a list of some of the best student loans available to make it easier for you to compare and vet your options.

Federal student loans have been in the news a lot lately as the U.S. Education Department has

Keep reading below the table for more details on every lender, plus all the information you need to find the college funding plan that’s right for you and your family.

Interest rates accurate as of late April 2022 and subject to change. Variable rates listed are margins added to a base rate such as LIBOR or SOFR, which could add around 0.30% to 1%.

Best Student Loans at a Glance

Lender Variable APR with Autopay Fixed APR with Autopay Loans for
Credible 0.94% – 11.98% 3.02% – 14.08% Undergrad and grad, refinancing
Earnest Starting at 0.94% Starting at 2.99% Undergrad and grad
College Ave 0.94% – 11.98% 3.24% – 12.99% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing
Sallie Mae 1.13% – 11.23% 3.50% – 12.60% Undergrad, grad and career training
SoFi 1.05% – 11.78% 3.47% –11.16% Undergrad and grad, refinancing
Ascent .47% – 11.31% 4.36% – 12.75% Undergrad, grad, career training and bootcamp
LendKey Starting at 1.57% Starting at 3.99% Undergrad and grad, refinancing
Citizens Bank n/a 3.48% – 10.78% Undergrad and grad, refinancing
PNC Bank Starting at 1.09% Starting at 2.99% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing
Purefy 1.74% – 7.24% 2.43% – 7.94% Refinancing
Sparrow 0.99% – 11.98% 2.99% – 12.99% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing
Student Loan Authority n/a 2.99% – 4.61% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing
Chicago Student Loans n/a 7.53% – 8.85% Undergrad (juniors and seniors)
Funding U n/a 7.49% – 12.99% Undergrad
Discover 1.79% – 11.09% 3.99% – 11.59% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing
Splash Financial 1.74 – 8.27% 1.99% – 8.27% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Credible

Best for Comparing Loan Rates

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Compares rates from top lenders
  • See multiple offers without hard credit check
  • Variable APR as low as 0.94%

Through Credible’s loan marketplace, you can fill out an application to see pre-qualified rates for multiple lenders in one place. Select options that work for you, like deferred or interest-only payments while you’re in school, fixed or variable rates, and loan terms that fit your plan. Once you choose a loan offer, you can finish your application and sign your loan agreement with the lender directly.

Credible

Variable APR

0.94% – 11.98%

Fixed APR

3.02% – 14.08%

Loans for

Undergrad and grad, refinancing

Earnest

Best for Flexible Repayment Options

5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • 9-month grace period
  • Skip one payment/year
  • Pay monthly or every two weeks

Earnest offers an easy-to-use, modern platform to find loans for undergrad, grad school and professional degrees with a nine-month grace period before beginning repayment after school. Loans come with an option to defer one payment every 12 months with no extra fees or interest. Apply online, and get an offer within 72 hours.

Earnest

Variable APR

Starting at 0.94%

Fixed APR

Starting at 2.99%

Loans for

Undergrad and grad, refinancing

College Ave

Best for Affordable In-School Repayment

3.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Variable APR as low as 0.94%
  • Parent and cosigned loans available
  • 4 repayment options

College Ave is a mainstay in student loans and refinancing. Apply for loans to cover undergrad, grad and professional degrees, and career training programs. The online application is quick and easy, and borrowers tout the company’s customer service, so you’ll be on top of your loan from application to repayment. Choose how you repay while you’re in school to save money and fit your budget.

College Ave

Variable APR

0.94% – 11.98%

Fixed APR

3.24% – 12.99%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Sallie Mae

Best for College Financial Planning

2 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Faster applications for returning borrower
  • Scholarships available
  • Credit cards and banking options

Sallie Mae is a private lender and platform for financial products for students. The business no longer originates or services federal loans, as it’s most known for. Apply for private student loans, credit cards and savings accounts designed for students. With Multi-Year Advantage, returning borrowers have fast applications and high approval rates to make it easier to get your money each year.

Sallie Mae

Variable APR

1.13% – 11.23%

Fixed APR

3.50% – 12.60%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training

SoFI

Best for SoFi Banking Clients

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • No fees
  • Unemployment protection
  • Earn rewards to repay loans faster Summary

SoFi is well known for student loan refinancing, and it offers other types of loans including in-school student loans with no hidden fees. As a SoFi member, you get access to perks, including subscriptions to products like Grammarly, Evernote and Coursera, to support your education. With unemployment protection, you get forbearance on loans for up to three-month increments if you lose your job.

SoFi

Variable APR

1.05% – 11.78%

Fixed APR

3.47% –11.16%

Loans for

Undergrad and grad, refinancing

Ascent

Best for Graduated Repayment

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Graduated repayment available
  • Hardship repayment options
  • Bootcamp loans available

Ascent offers student loans and scholarships for your full academic career. Apply online with no application fees to see your prequalified rates without a hard credit check. Use loans to pay for everything from a traditional undergrad or grad program to career training and even career-boosting bootcamps.

Ascent

Variable APR

1.47% – 11.31%

Fixed APR

4.36% – 12.75%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad, career training and bootcamp

LendKey

Best for Loan Reconnaissance

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Work with community banks and CUs
  • Student loans and refinancing options
  • Rates as low as 1.57%

LendKey is a student loan servicer and a platform for finding the best student loan and refinancing options from partner community banks and credit unions. LendKey’s platform streamlines the process, so you get the benefit of working with a community-oriented institution without the headache of multiple application processes.

LendKey

Variable APR

Starting at 1.57%

Fixed APR

Starting at 3.99%

Loans for

Undergrad and grad, refinancing

Citizens Bank

Best for Citizens Bank Customers

3 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Loyalty discounts
  • Cosigner release option
  • Multi-Year Approval

Citizens Bank is an established financial institution with more than 40 years of experience providing student loans and other financial services. With multi year approval, you can get approved for new loans year after year with a faster application and no hard credit check. Citizens Bank customers can get an interest rate discount up to 0.25 percentage points.

Citizens Banks

Variable APR

n/a

Fixed APR

3.48% – 10.78%

Loans for

Undergrad and grad, refinancing

PNC

Best for Undergraduate Loans

2.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Established traditional bank
  • Cosigner release option
  • Student loans and refinancing options

PNC Bank is one of the largest banks in the United States, with nearly 200 years of experience in financial services. Student loans and refinancing are among its vast services. The PNC Solution Loan is designed specifically for undergraduates, to bridge the gap when federal student loans don’t cover all your expenses. It also offers graduate and professional loans.

PNC Bank

Variable APR

Starting at 1.09%

Fixed APR

Starting at 2.99%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Purefy

Best for Refinancing Student Loans

3 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Student and parent loan refinancing
  • Compare multiple lenders
  • No hard credit check

Purefy is for anyone out of school, repaying student loans and looking for ways to save money. Use the platform to compare student loan refinancing options from multiple lenders side-by-side. The platform is free to use, and you can see prequalified rates in minutes. You can refinance private or federal loans through its partner lenders.

Purefy

Variable APR

1.74% – 7.24%

Fixed APR

2.43% – 7.94%

Loans for

Refinancing

Sparrow

Best for Easy Student Loan Repayment

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Compare offers from multiple lenders
  • App to automate loan repayment
  • Manage private and federal loans

Sparrow is a platform for student loans, refinancing and repayment in one place. You can fill out a single application to see prequalified offers from multiple partner lenders for private loans or refinancing. Then use the app to manage and automate repayment of your private and federal student loans in one place.

Sparrow

Variable APR

0.99% – 11.98%

Fixed APR

2.99% – 12.99%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority

Best for Income-Driven Repayment

5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Income-based repayment available
  • Fixed interest rates
  • Less-than-halftime students eligible

RISLA is a nonprofit organization offering student loans and refinancing for borrowers all over the U.S. Its loans have more borrower protections than most private student loans: You have income-driven repayment options, a fixed interest rate and two repayment terms to choose from (10 or 15 years). Limited loan forgiveness is even available for students who complete internships.

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority

Variable APR

n/a

Fixed APR

2.99% – 4.61%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Chicago Student Loans

Best for Equitable Lending

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Merit-based approval and interest rates
  • No cosigner needed
  • Income-based repayment options

Chicago Student Loans by A.M. Money works with limited schools around the Midwest, but if your school is eligible, this is a great option for equitable lending. Approval and interest rates are determined based on your academic achievement, not your credit or income. And income-based repayment plans are available if you can’t afford your monthly payment.

Chicago Student Loans

Variable APR

n/a

Fix APR

7.53% – 8.85%

Loans for

Undergrad (juniors and seniors)

Funding U

Best for Merit-Based Lending

5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Approval by GPA and non-credit factors
  • No cosigner needed
  • More than 1,000 eligible schools

Funding U makes undergraduate loans based on a student’s GPA, not their family’s credit history. It uses a credit check to set interest rates, but also factors in your GPA and year in school — the rate goes down as you progress nearer to graduation! Funding U works with more than 1,460 nonprofit colleges and universities.

Funding U

Variable APR

n/a

Fixed APR

7.49% – 12.99%

Loans for

Undergrad

Discover

Best for Rewards for Good Grades

3.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • No origination or late fees
  • Cash reward for good grades
  • Variable APR as low as 1.79%

In addition to its full suite of financial services, Discover offers student loans for undergrads, grad students and professional degrees with no origination or late fees. You’ll get rewarded for good grades: Get a 1% cash reward for each new loan if you have a GPA of at least 3.0 for the term(s) the loan covers.

Discover

Variable APR

1.79% – 11.09%

Fixed APR

3.99% – 11.59%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Splash Financial

Best for Refinancing Undergrad and Med School Loans

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Compare offers from multiple lenders
  • No origination fees or prepayment penalties
  • Exclusive interest rates from partner lenders

Splash Financial lets you compare in-school student loans and student loan refinancing (and personal loans) from multiple lenders with a simple and quick online application. In addition to its search function, Splash partners with its lenders to offer exclusive interest rates — with fixed rates as low as 1.99% — to help you get the best deal possible.

Splash Financial

Variable APR

1.74 – 8.27%

Fixed APR

1.99% – 8.27%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Types of Student Loans

The first thing you need to know before applying for any student loans is the difference between federal and private student loans. These two types of loans are treated differently and offer significantly different options for repayment and forgiveness down the line, so know what you’re signing up for before you borrow.

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are backed by the U.S. government and make up the vast majority of student loans borrowed every year in the country.

Application: You apply for federal loans along with other types of federal student aid for college through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a form you fill out every year to demonstrate your family’s financial situation. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) approves basic undergraduate loans and grants based on financial need, not creditworthiness, so students can apply for federal financial aid without a cosigner.

Types of loans: The government makes four types of student loans: Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, Direct PLUS for parents or graduate students, and Federal Perkins Loans for students with exceptional financial need. It also awards grants and work study awards based on financial need. PLUS loans are granted based on creditworthiness, but might still be easier to get than some private loans.

Interest rates: Federal student loan interest rates are standard and not based on a borrower’s credit history. Congress sets them each year for loans disbursed that year, and you keep that rate for the life of your loan. For example, the interest rate for 2021 was 3.73% for Direct undergraduate loans, 5.28% for graduate student loans and 6.28% for PLUS loans.

Repayment plans: The required repayment for federal student loans starts six months after leaving school (or going less than half time), and the standard repayment plan splits monthly payments evenly over 10 years. Subsidized loans don’t accrue interest while you’re in school, while unsubsidized loans do.

Federal student loans are originated and serviced by private institutions, but they’re backed by a guarantee from the federal government, so ED sets repayment terms. You can opt into a graduated payment plan or income-driven repayment, both which would extend your time to repay and could give you a more affordable monthly payment (as little as $0).

Only federal loans are eligible for forgiveness under programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness and for national forbearance periods like we’ve seen during the pandemic. The pause on loan payback has been extended six times since the start of the pandemic.

Refinancing options: Even though you receive one lump payment (if you get a refund) each semester, you might have multiple student loans to your name. You can combine them with a Direct Consolidation Loan, a student loan consolidation option creates one balance and one monthly payment, and sets the interest rate at the average of all the loans. This isn’t a money-saving step, but could make repayment simpler.

You can also refinance federal student loans using a private refinancing option, which could save you money if you have strong credit and can keep up with payments. This would pay off your federal loan balances and replace them with a private loan. It removes the repayment and forgiveness options that come with federal loans.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are consumer loans made by private banks, credit unions and financial institutions. They’re treated differently from other types of private loans, but don’t come with as much flexibility as federal loans.

Application: You apply for private student loans directly with the lender or servicer providing the loan. Lenders approve loans based on creditworthiness, just like other credit products, so you have to have a strong credit history or apply with a creditworthy cosigner to be approved. Most (but not all) lenders include an option to release the cosigner after a few years of steady payments.

Types of loans: Private student loan lenders typically offer student loans for undergraduate students, graduate students and professional degrees. Some also offer loans for career training or alternative education like bootcamps. The loans all offer the same basic terms, but interest rates and loan amounts usually vary based on the degree covered.

Interest rates: Private student loan interest rates are set based on creditworthiness and can range from less than 1% to 12% or more depending on the prime rate. Fixed rates are set when you take out a loan and stay the same for the life of the loan, while variable interest rates fluctuate up and down when the Fed adjusts the prime rate.

Repayment plans: Private lenders don’t offer the same amount of protection in repayment as the federal government, but they usually offer a variety of repayment options so you can choose a plan that helps you save money without being overwhelmed by payments. You usually get to choose whether to pay off interest and/or principal while in school, or defer all payments until six months or more after school.

Many private lenders offer forbearance options of a few months at a time, so you can pause payments due to financial hardship without defaulting on your loan. They don’t, however, offer income-driven repayment, so your monthly payment is unaffected by your ability to pay it.

Private student loans aren’t eligible for forgiveness under federal plans, but you might be able to discharge them in bankruptcy under limited circumstances.

Refinancing options: If your financial situation improves, you can apply to refinance your student loans with the same or a different private lender. This pays off your existing loans and replaces them with a new loan with better terms, like a lower interest rate or lower monthly payments.

Should You Take out a Federal or Private Student Loan?

Nearly every expert will tell you to use private student loans as your last resort to pay for school. First exhaust free funding, like grants, scholarships and work study. Then take on federal student loans. Then, if your costs aren’t covered, take out private student loans to fill the gap.

That’s because private loans are the riskiest of all those options.

Federal student loans may be subsidized to save on interest, and they come with flexible repayment plans that offer relief when your income is low. And they’re eligible for forgiveness for student loan borrowers who qualify. Most private loans don’t have those options.

However, private student loans could come with significantly lower interest rates than federal student loans if you have good credit. Federal loans come with standard rates between 3% and 7% and don’t reward good credit (or punish bad credit).

After exhausting free funding, the most ideal route is to borrow a subsidized federal loan — which won’t accrue interest while you’re in school — then consider refinancing once the repayment period starts, you’ve built a strong credit history and feel confident in your ability to make monthly payments for the term of the new loan.

Even most private student loan lenders encourage borrowers to look into federal funding before taking out a private loan while you’re in school. They’re generally designed to fill gaps for students who aren’t eligible for enough in federal student loans to cover their costs to attend college.

Student Loan Costs to Consider

When you evaluate private student loan offers, you’ll probably focus on the interest rate, because that has a significant impact on the long-term cost of the loan. But there are other costs to consider.

Before accepting any loan offer or signing the agreement, make sure you know how much you’ll pay (if anything) in these common costs:

  • APR: Annual percentage rate is commonly called the interest rate (though they’re a little different). It’s usually the most prominently advertised feature of student loans. Student loan interest rates tend to fall between 3% and 11% and can be fixed or variable — the latter means they’ll change with the prime rate. A higher credit score can get you a lower interest rate and vice versa.
  • Origination fee: Some lenders charge a fee to receive your loan, though that’s less common with student loans than other types of loans. Origination fees are usually around 2% or 3% of the loan amount. They come out of the amount disbursed to the school, so you likely won’t notice them unless you’re very particular about math.
  • Late fee: Most loan agreements come with a fee for late payments, usually a percentage of the payment due. Many student loan lenders are doing away with late fees and building in options for flexible repayment, so shop around to compare your options!

What Is a Cosigner?

A cosigner is someone who shares the responsibility of a loan with the borrower. If you — the borrower — can’t qualify for a loan on your own because of bad credit or no credit, you could apply with a cosigner with good credit to qualify.

You receive the funds, but you both bear responsibility for repaying the loan, and repayment or default impacts both credit scores.

Cosigners are common for private student loans, because many people entering college are young and have almost no credit history. You can cosign with a parent, guardian or other creditworthy person, who basically guarantees the loan in case you don’t repay.

Student loans often come with an option for cosigner release, so the cosigner doesn’t have to stay tied to the loan for years after the student’s left school and gone off on their own. Cosigners can usually be released after around 12 to 36 months of on-time payments, with proof of the borrower’s income.

Who Can Take out a Private Student Loan?

Any student can usually apply for a student loan from a private lender, but creditworthiness determines whether you’ll be approved.

Lenders generally have basic requirements for student loans, as well, including:

  • You must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting institution.
  • You must be the age of majority in your state (usually 18 or 19).
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or resident.

Some lenders make exceptions for these, though. For example, Ascent offers a Bootcamp Loan, which wouldn’t come with the enrollment requirement. Some lenders also make loans for international students who aren’t U.S. residents.

How to Get a Private Student Loan

Follow these steps to apply for a private student loan.

  • Weigh your options. Before turning to private loans, fill out a FAFSA to see your options for federal financial aid. This doesn’t commit you to taking out a federal loan, and it has no affect on your credit score; it just gives you all the information you need to make a decision. If federal aid won’t cover your costs, look into private loans.
  • Find a cosigner. If you don’t have strong credit, get a cosigner on board before you apply. Use a site like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma to check your credit score and history for free to see where you stand.
  • Get pre-qualified. Lenders let you fill out a little information about yourself — usually all online — and run a soft credit check to give you an idea of the interest rate and loan terms you could qualify for. That lets you compare offers before submitting to a hard credit inquiry that impacts your score. Marketplaces like Credible and LendKey let you see and compare several pre-qualified offers with one application.
  • Choose a lender. Choose the loan offer that looks like the best fit for you, and finish your application with the lender. You can usually do this part all online, too. The lender will run a hard credit check and might need more information from you, like proof of income. You could get a decision as soon as the same day or after a few days, depending on the lender’s process.
  • Accept your loan. Once approved, you can review and sign your loan agreement — remember to note any fees! — and accept your funds. Lenders send student loan funds directly to your school to pay for tuition and fees, and the school will send you a refund for any extra amount.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Student Loans

We’ve rounded up the answers to some of the most common questions about where to get the best private student loans.

What Type of Loan is the Best Value to Students?

Which student loan options are best for you depends on your family’s financial situation. Private student loans can be an optimal option financially, because of potentially low interest rates and short repayment terms. But they’re only available to students with good credit or creditworthy cosigners. Federal student loans are available based on financial need and come with a host of repayment and forgiveness options that could protect low-income borrowers in the long run.

What Type of Student Loan Has the Lowest Interest Rate?

Private student loans can have interest rates as low as 1% but might be as high as 12% or more, depending on your credit. Federal loan rates are set by Congress for all borrowers and fall around 3% to 5% for undergraduate loans. If you (or your cosigner) have good credit, a private student loan could get you the lowest interest rate.

What is the Biggest Student Loan You Can Get?

The size of your student loan depends on what kind of loan you take out. For private student loans, it’s determined by your credit and the term of the loan you want. Some private lenders set caps on student loan amounts, and some will lend up to your full cost of attendance. For federal loans, your loan amount is determined based on your cost of attendance and expected family contribution. If you demonstrate financial need, your federal loan might go beyond tuition, and you could receive a refund to help cover living expenses. Undergrads can borrow a max of between $5,500 and $12,500 each academic year, and grad students can borrow up to $20,500. 

Contributor Dana Miranda is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® who has written about work and money for publications including Forbes, The New York Times, CNBC, Insider, NextAdvisor and Inc. Magazine.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

The Best College Towns in California

From ocean-side towns to urban and metro cities, California has hundreds of college towns for students and residents alike to select from and call home. Check out our report card to learn what California college towns have to offer.

California is home to more than 700 public and private universities and community colleges. That means the Golden State has a variety of great California college towns.

So, what are some of the best college towns in California and what makes them so desirable? We’ve done our homework and put together a report card of the best California college towns to live in. Extra credit — people other than students can live in these areas, too!

10 best California college towns

Whether you’re a freshman just starting school or looking to relocate with your family, these college towns in California offer something for just about everyone.

1. Los Angeles

UCLA in los angeles

UCLA in los angeles

You may not immediately think of Los Angeles as a college town, but the city is home to 63 colleges. Some of the most well-known schools include the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Southern California (USC) and Loyola Marymount College. These are just some of the great schools with diverse student populations.

In addition to having several colleges to choose from, there’s so much life in the city of L.A. What’s not to love about living in Los Angeles? You’ll have access to world-class entertainment, countless restaurants and bars, great shopping and hundreds of outdoor parks. L.A. is the center of entertainment so you might even spot a celebrity walking the sunny streets of L.A.

People love L.A. for the year-round, mild climate. There are great hiking trails — like Runyon Canyon Loop or Griffith Park Trails — and outdoor parks to enjoy. Also, you’re also close to beaches like Santa Monica or Long Beach.

Los Angeles is a city that gives you a little bit of everything. You have access to one of the largest cities in the world so you can get your fix of city life while also escaping to the beach or trails. There are many neighborhoods and apartments in Los Angeles, so college students and other renters have plenty of options when looking for their next home.

Renters can expect to pay between $2,700 and $3,600 for a one or two-bedroom apartment.

2. Palo Alto

palo alto, a california college town

palo alto, a california college town

While not technically an Ivy League school, Stanford University is a prestigious, private school that’s comparable to an Ivy League. Located near the city of Palo Alto, Stanford itself is actually the town in Santa Clara county. Home to roughly 16,000 students, Stanford is one of California’s best college towns. Living here, you’ll enjoy mild weather and have access to a variety of great outdoor activities. This entire area is known as the “birthplace of Silicon Valley,” so you’ll be surrounded by tech and innovation.

When you’re living in Palo Alto, you’ll want to check out some of the sights like Hoover Tower or Cantor Arts Center. You can also enjoy the Palo Alto Baylands Natural Preserve. Once you’ve settled into Palo Alto and hit the major spots, ease into hikes, explore the neighborhoods and walk around Stanford Campus on your evening walks. You’ll be a local in no time.

The neighborhoods are beautiful and the climate is great but the rent is steep. Students and renters living near Stanford in Palo Alto will enjoy a great college town but should know that rent here is much higher compared to other cities in California. For instance, rent ranges between $3,700 and $4,300 depending on the size of the apartment. However, if you’re the next Steve Jobs and are ready to change the world with your tech start-up, this is the college town to live in.

3. Riverside

riverside, a california college town

riverside, a california college town

Riverside is home to UC – Riverside, a college that’s part of the 10 University of California schools. With roughly 21,500 students attending each year, this is a great school for students in the Palm Desert area of California. Riverside is one of the best college towns in California for its diverse student population, dedicated researchers and abundance of activities for students and their families.

People like living in the city of Riverside as it’s a vibrant community with mountains, deserts and coastal areas close by. It’s less expensive compared to other Southern California cities, yet you get the perks of California with the rolling hills and close access to beaches in this city.

Riverside is home to the citrus industry, so if you like navel oranges, you’re in luck. If that’s not your thing, don’t worry. Riverside is a sprawling urban area within 60 miles of L.A. Students and residents alike will enjoy the lower cost of living in this city while still having access to everything that makes sunny California great.

The cost of rent averages $1,800 for a one-bedroom apartment and approximately $2,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.

4. Berkeley

berkeley, california

berkeley, california

The college town of Berkeley seems to have it all — a diverse population, great bars and restaurants, a thriving nightlife, great schools from Kindergarten on up, dedicated students and a variety of housing options. Renters are within close proximity to the University of California, Berkeley campus, which is a public land grant university.

People like Cal Berkeley for the diverse higher education programs offered. From liberal arts education to STEM-based degrees, the school offers it all. Renters in Berkeley will love this college town that has a healthy blend of student-related activities near campus and a thriving city apart from the college itself.

Ranked one of the healthiest cities in the nation, Berkeley has great food, fun shops and restaurants and a vibrant live music scene. There are plenty of bike-friendly trails so you can cycle yourself from place to place. It’s a liberal, easy-going area that residents love to call home.

Rent ranges anywhere from $1,850 to $5,100 but rent has decreased by 22 percent overall year-over-year in this college town.

5. Orange

orange california

orange california

Chapman University is in the city of Orange, California. This is a small, private school in a college town located only 15 miles from the beach. The school itself has approximately 10,000 students enrolled but the city of Orange has 139,000 residents. If you live in this California college town, you’ll live near a school dedicated to liberal arts (they’re famous for their film school!) while also getting to enjoy a bigger city atmosphere.

Ninety-two percent of students live on campus during their first year, so as a student, you’re sure to make friends with your dorm buddies. However, if you move off campus you’ll have plenty of rental options and will love living in this vibrant Southern California beach city.

Whether or not you’re a student, residents alike can meander through Hart’s Park or catch a ball game at Angels Stadium. All public schools are highly rated, so it’s a great city for families to settle down. You’ll have access to great parks and the neighborhoods are family-friendly. A lot of young families and professionals settle down here as there are good job prospects, relatively affordable cost of living and easy access to fun things to do.

Rent averages $2,100 to $2,400 for studios, one-bedrooms or two-bedroom apartments.

6. Malibu

malibu, california

malibu, california

Pepperdine is a very small, private university with 9,000 students enrolled annually. Malibu itself is fairly small when compared to other California towns, with 13,000 residents. Pepperdine is a great college town because of the proximity to amenities in Malibu and the tight-knit community on campus. The Pepperdine student community is strong and students can live on or near campus and participate in a variety of student-led activities.

Outside of the campus itself, the city of Malibu is a glamorous Southern California city known for its beaches, amazing climate and frequent celebrity sightings. If you’re a renter looking for a mix of student life nearby and picturesque California glam, Malibu is the college town for you.

Keep in mind that Malibu is as expensive as it is glamorous. Rent is between $4,900 and $5,500 a month. While you’ll pay a pretty penny to live here, residents all love it. There are ample beaches to enjoy, safe neighborhoods with low crime rates and an amazing school system.

7. San Francisco

san francisco, ca

san francisco, ca

The University of San Fransisco is one of the colleges located in this famous tech city. Students and renters will enjoy calling San Francisco their college town while having access to campus life, too. San Fran is known for its liberal and diverse population and the university prides itself on its commitment to inclusiveness, equality and social justice.

Other benefits of living in this college town are your access to the San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge and the amazing downtown scene. You’ll enjoy cooler weather and more foggy days but also have sunny days to enjoy the outdoors. This big college town offers everything from outdoor adventures to downtown life.

San Fran residents love this area. You have a metro downtown with amazing restaurants and shops. There’s access to world-class destinations like the Golden Gate Bridge. You can enjoy an afternoon at Golden Gate Park and then head to the city for dinner that night.

San Fransisco is one of the most expensive cities in the world, though, so keep that in mind before deciding to settle in this California college town. You should plan to budget anywhere from $3,400 to $4,500 to live in the Bay Area.

8. Santa Barbara

santa barbara, a college town in california

santa barbara, a college town in california

Located on the coast, UC Santa Barbara is a college town in — drumroll please — Santa Barbara, CA! The school itself has nearly 24,000 students enrolled each year, making it a large public school in the state. It’s one of the top-rated universities in the country and has produced several Nobel Prize winners.

Not only is it a great college, but the city of Santa Barbara is also top-notch. Renters will enjoy amazing beaches, breathtaking cliff-side views, endless trails and walking paths and good weather almost all year long.

People living in Santa Barbara talk about the sense of community they feel living here. You’ll enjoy a close-knit community in one of the most gorgeous beach-side cities in California. Rent ranges from $2,400 to $3,200 in Santa Barbara.

9. San Diego

san diego, california

san diego, california

San Diego State University is a public university located in San Diego. The school population is large with more than 35,000 students. Living in this college town near campus, you’ll be surrounded by students who are eager to learn and cheer on the basketball team, the Aztecs. Another college located in this city is the University of San Diego.

Living in San Diego comes with perks, too. You’ll be located near the beach and can visit the famous San Diego Zoo. If that’s not your thing, you can enjoy great seafood, try a new coffee shop or go whale watching, hiking or biking. Renters can expect to pay between $2,300 and $3,400 in rent, but prices may vary for on-campus housing. San Diego is one of the best places to live in California.

10. Claremont

homes in claremont, california

homes in claremont, california

Claremont is a great California college town and is home to Pomona College, a small, liberal arts college. With a small student body of 2,000 students, residents of Claremont can live close to the college campus without having the overwhelming number of students that other state schools have.

Living in Claremont you’ll have a suburban feel and are friendly with your neighbors, but L.A. is only 35 miles away so you have quick access to a big city, too. Claremont is great for parks, fine arts and food. Rent ranges from $1,600 to $1,900 for one and two-bedroom apartments.

Living near a college town

Like all things, living near a college town has its pros and cons. Pros include lots of housing options, a younger population of eager students, several restaurants and bars and a thriving nightlife. Depending on your perspective, cons can include too many young students and party-goers and potentially worn-down housing from college students residing in them.

However, we can all agree that living in California near a college town, you’ll enjoy the perks of California weather, good food, friendly people and a variety of housing options that fit your needs and budget.

Source: rent.com