Guide to Finding an Alternative Student Loan

By: Mark Kessler

Although US Department of Education student loans are the most common form of financial aid, sometimes families find they need an alternative student loan to get their children through college. For one thing, competition is rising to secure the limited number of federal student loans, and if your application is not received early, you might not receive any aid. At the same time, the maximum loan amount available through a Stafford loan has stayed the same for over ten years, while tuition costs continue to soar. Furthermore, most federal student loans presume that parents will foot part of the bill, but some parents are unable or unwilling to contribute to the studentís education fund, leaving even more money for the college applicant to come up with. If federal student loans are not enough to cover a college attendeeís bill, then he or she needs to find an alternative student loan.

The most common form of alternative student loan is the private loan, which is offered by banks and other lending institutions. Students with poor or no credit might require a co-signer on the loan, however, and alternative loan rates might not be as stellar as with Department of Education loans. The financial aid office of most universities will be able to help students find a banker that offers an alternative student loan at a fair interest rate. The personal bank of the studentís parents might also offer educational loans. Young adults searching for an alternative student loan should be very careful to read the fine print of any private lender and to shop around to receive the best rates.

Of course, before signing on the dotted line, students might consider ways to avoid an alternative student loan altogether. Some creative ways to lower college costs include researching accelerated study courses which take less time to earn a degree, attending a less expensive community college for the basic credits and then transferring to a more prestigious school for the last few years (and the precious degree), and scholarships. There are oftentimes more scholarships available than people realize; a local grant may be enough to bring college expenses to a manageable level. There are even colleges that charge no tuition at all, requiring instead that their students work a few hours a week at jobs related to their course of study. Not only is this a way to secure an inexpensive education, but it also provides valuable experience in your field. Finally, some investment groups offer creative ways to fund college by banking on the studentís future earnings. They will pay the college costs in exchange for a percentage of future earnings (usually between 1% and 4%) for a fixed period.

Whether you finance your college fees through alternative student loans or simple ingenuity, there is no reason today for tuition costs to hinder students from receiving an education. Even if federal student loans do not seem to be enough, there are many ways to get an excellent education and to secure a brighter future.

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