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What is the Difference Between Federal and Private Student Loans?

Oct 17, 2012

With the high cost of a college education most students are forced to apply for student loans. Many people know of the existence of federal student loans but they don't know there are also private loans available also. Knowing the difference between the two are necessary because they have different rules for borrowing and repayment.

Key Differences Between Federal and Private Student Loans


There are several different types of federal student loans: Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans; Direct PLUS Loans; and Federal Perkins Loans.

Your financial aid package will outline which loan(s) you’re eligible for. You might also qualify for private student loans, but keep in mind that these are generally more expensive than federal student loans and may not have fixed interest rates or attractive repayment plans.

Some of the key differences between federal and private student loans are listed below.


  • Repayment requirements – federal student loans don’t need to be paid until six months after you graduate, leave school, or change your enrollment status. Private student loans typically have to be repaid while you are still in school.
  • Interest rates – interest rates are fixed on federal student loans are usually much lower than private student loan rates. Also, some federal loans feature subsidized loans, where the government pays the interest on the loan while you’re in school. Private student loans are not subsidized so you are responsible for paying all the interest on the loan.
  • Credit checks – you won’t need a credit check for a federal loan, but private student loans will require you to have a good credit score and clean credit report.
  • Cosigner – federal student loans typically don’t require a cosigner; most private student loans do have this requirement.
  • Tax advantages – interest on federal student loans may be tax-deductible; interest on private loans typically are not tax-deductible.
  • Consolidation options – federal student loans can be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan; you don’t have this option with private loans.
  • Repayment options – if you end up having struggling to make your loan payments on a federal loan, you may be able to reduce your monthly payment or postpone loan payments temporarily. Most private lenders don’t offer as many types of loan deferment or forbearance option, so these loans are less flexible in terms of repayment terms.
  • Prepayment penalty fees – federal loans don’t impose a penalty fee for paying off the loan before the loan term. Private loans can impose prepayment penalty fees, so be sure to review the terms carefully.
  • Loan forgiveness – if you work in public service – say, you are a police officer, social worker or a nurse – you may be eligible to have a portion of your federal loans forgiven. Lenders typically don’t offer any type of loan forgiveness program for private loans.
  • Loan assistance – you can get free help for federal loans by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID and review information on the U.S. Department of Education website. Recently, the federal government announced plans to oversee private lenders. As part of that effort, there will be an advocate for borrowers with private loans. To reach this advocate, you will need to contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s private student loan ombudsman.

Got further questions? Catch me on twitter and DM me @529SavingsPlans or e-mail me at 529CollegePlans at Gmail.comWant to be heard? Leave a reader comment below.

1 comment

  1. Students don’t have an easily life in today's economic climate in both cases. Expensive living standards make them search for options to afford the most necessary things. They use student loans, loans till pay day and other borrowing options. If you want to find out which these options are then check it immediately. But it is very important to manage your budget carefully in order to avoid debts.

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