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In today’s world, it’s almost required to have a college degree to get a well-paying job. While it isn’t true in every case, even entry-level jobs nowadays are beginning to require a minimum of a two-year degree.

As degree requirements become more and more common - the cost of obtaining a degree continues to increase. Continue reading to learn more...

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Compare Undergraduate Student Loans

The United States currently ranks second in the world in the average tuition cost for a public university. With costs continually rising, the need for financial assistance has never been higher. Students all across the country have been turning to undergraduate student loans to help pay their way through school.

What is an undergraduate student loan?

An undergraduate student loan is a type of loan that is intended to help students pay for their undergraduate education. The loans can help students pay for the cost of their tuition, books, housing, food, and other various educational expenses.

Compared to other types of loans, student loans are designed to have lower interest rates that make it easier for students to pay them back.

They will also often have the initial payments deferred until the student graduates from school. This allows students to find a job before beginning payments.

In the United States, there are private student loans and federal student loans. Federal student loans make up the majority of loans in the United States and tend to be cheaper than their private counterparts.

How do undergraduate student loans work?

Undergraduate student loans are financial instruments designed to help students cover the costs of their education. They typically come in two main forms: federal student loans and private student loans.

Federal student loans are provided by the government and have certain advantages. To obtain them, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The amount students can borrow depends on factors like their financial need, dependency status, and grade level. These loans offer fixed interest rates and various repayment options, such as income-driven plans that adjust monthly payments based on income. They also provide deferment and forbearance options, allowing borrowers to temporarily pause or reduce payments in certain circumstances. Federal loans may offer loan forgiveness or cancellation programs for individuals who meet specific criteria, such as working in public service.

Private student loans, on the other hand, are offered by private lenders such as banks and credit unions. Eligibility and loan terms vary based on the lender's criteria and the borrower's creditworthiness. Private loans may have fixed or variable interest rates, and repayment options can differ from federal loans. These loans typically require a cosigner if the borrower has limited credit history or poor credit. Private loans may not offer the same borrower protections and forgiveness options as federal loans.

Both federal and private student loans require repayment, usually beginning after the student graduates, drops below half-time enrollment, or leaves school. Repayment terms, including interest rates, monthly payments, and loan duration, differ based on the loan type and specific terms of the loan agreement. It's important for borrowers to understand the terms of their loans, make timely payments, and consider their long-term financial goals when managing their undergraduate student loans.

Compare best undergraduate student loans of 2024

Below are the current rates offered by various lenders for undergraduate student programs.

How do undergraduate student loans work?

Like any other loan in the US, the process begins with a loan application. Depending on what type of loan you decide to take out, the application process can vary greatly.

For federal student loans, the process begins with the student filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. The FAFSA is required for most financial aid whether federal, state, or private.

The FAFSA will take into account the income and financial situation of your parents or household. Depending on the results of the FAFSA, the potential scholarships, student loans, and other financial aid offers will come directly from the university that you’re attending.

For private student loans, filling out a FAFSA is not required. Unlike federal loans, private student loans require a credit check to ensure that you qualify. If you don’t have a high credit score or have no credit history at all, you will likely require a cosigner for your private loan. In fact, over 90% of private student loans in the US today have a cosigner.

The money from the student loans, regardless of whether you have private or federal loans, will be sent directly to your school. From here, the school will use the money for tuition, room and board, and other fees. If there is any other money left over, it will be sent directly to you for spending on other academic expenses.

When it comes to repaying the loans, most federal loans have a grace period attached to them. This means that you won’t need to begin paying the loans back until six months after you graduate. While private loan terms vary, many lenders today are also offering a grace period on their loans.

Once repayment begins, the loan works just like any other loan, accumulating interest and requiring payments every month.

What are the benefits of an undergraduate student loan?

Undergraduate student loans offer numerous benefits to borrowers.

  1. Access to Education: The primary benefit of an undergraduate student loan is that it enables individuals to pursue higher education when they might not have the financial means to do so otherwise. It opens doors to educational opportunities, empowering students to expand their knowledge, skills, and career prospects.
  2. Deferred Payment: Unlike most other loans, undergraduate student loans often provide a grace period during which borrowers are not required to make payments. This period extends from the time of graduation or enrollment less than half-time until a specified time (typically six months). This flexibility allows borrowers to focus on transitioning into the workforce and finding stable employment before starting loan repayments.
  3. Credit History Building: Student loans offer an opportunity to establish a credit history. For many young individuals, taking out a student loan is often their first encounter with credit products. By responsibly managing their student loans, borrowers can begin building a positive credit history, which is crucial for future financial endeavors such as obtaining other loans, securing favorable interest rates, or even renting an apartment.
  4. Favorable Interest Rates: Student loans, especially federal ones, tend to come with comparatively lower interest rates than other types of loans such as mortgages or vehicle loans. These favorable rates can save borrowers money over the life of the loan and make repayment more manageable. Federal student loans also offer fixed interest rates, providing stability and predictability in repayment.
  5. Potential Loan Forgiveness or Repayment Options: Depending on the type of loan and career path, borrowers may have access to loan forgiveness or repayment assistance programs. For instance, public service professions, such as teaching or working for a non-profit organization, may qualify for loan forgiveness after a certain number of years of service. Additionally, federal loans offer income-driven repayment plans, which can adjust the monthly payment based on the borrower's income and family size.

Types of undergraduate student loans

  1. Federal Direct Subsidized Loans: These loans are available to undergraduate students with financial need. The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on these loans while the student is in school, during the grace period, and during deferment periods.
  2. Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students regardless of financial need. Unlike subsidized loans, interest accrues on unsubsidized loans while the student is in school, during grace periods, and during deferment periods.
  3. Federal Perkins Loans: Perkins loans are low-interest federal loans for undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need. These loans are awarded by the school, and not all schools participate in the program.
  4. Parent PLUS Loans: These loans are available to parents of dependent undergraduate students. Parents can borrow these loans to cover the cost of their child's education. Eligibility is not based on financial need, but a credit check is required.
  5. Private Student Loans: Private loans are offered by private lenders such as banks, credit unions, and online lenders. These loans are not backed by the government and typically require a credit check. Private loans may have variable interest rates and different repayment terms compared to federal loans.

How do I qualify for an undergraduate student loan?

To qualify for an undergraduate student loan, it is essential to follow these expert-recommended steps:

  1. Begin with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): Initiating your journey for federal student loans involves completing the FAFSA. This crucial form evaluates your eligibility for various types of federal financial aid, including grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and loans. The FAFSA considers factors such as your family's income, assets, household size, and the number of family members attending college.
  2. Thoroughly Review Your Financial Aid Award Letter: Once you submit the FAFSA, you will receive a financial aid award letter from your college or university. This letter comprehensively outlines the specific types of aid available to you, including federal student loans. Take the time to carefully analyze this letter, paying close attention to the terms, conditions, and repayment obligations associated with the loans being offered.
  3. Deliberate and Decide: After thoroughly reviewing the financial aid award letter, it's time to make an informed decision. Consider your current financial needs and future responsibilities before accepting any loans. Remember, loans require repayment with interest, so it is crucial to borrow only what you truly need and can comfortably manage.
  4. Complete Entrance Counseling: If you are a first-time borrower of federal student loans, it is mandatory to complete entrance counseling. This valuable online session provides essential information about your rights and responsibilities as a borrower. It covers topics such as loan repayment, interest rates, and the consequences of defaulting on your loans. By completing entrance counseling, you gain a comprehensive understanding of your obligations and how to manage your loans responsibly.
  5. Sign a Master Promissory Note (MPN): To formalize your borrowing of federal student loans, you must sign a Master Promissory Note (MPN). This legally binding document outlines the terms and conditions of your loan, including interest rates and repayment options. It is crucial to carefully read and comprehend the terms of the MPN before signing to ensure you are fully aware of your commitments as a borrower.
  6. Maintain Academic Progress: It is essential to maintain satisfactory academic progress according to your institution's standards to remain eligible for federal student loans. This typically involves meeting minimum GPA requirements and successfully completing a specified number of credits each semester. By prioritizing your academic success, you not only maintain eligibility for federal loans but also set yourself up for a bright future.

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Will I need a cosigner for an undergraduate student loan?

Most borrowers that are using a private loan will need a cosigner. This is because the majority of private lenders require a credit check and at least some credit history before extending the loan.

There are certain situations where a borrower can receive a private loan without a cosigner. Some lenders today are allowing alternate methods of approval that do not take into account (or at least not as much) the credit score of the borrower.

Choosing a co-signer is important for both you and them. The cosigner shares responsibility for the loan, so if you are not able to pay for the loan, the responsibility will fall onto the cosigner.

How much can I borrow with an undergraduate student loan?

The amount you can borrow with an undergraduate student loan depends on several factors, including the type of loan, your dependency status, your grade level, and the cost of attendance at your chosen institution.

For federal student loans, the maximum amount you can borrow each year varies. There are two types of federal student loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. The maximum annual amount you can borrow in subsidized loans is typically lower, and it is based on your financial need. Unsubsidized loans, on the other hand, are not need-based, and the maximum amount you can borrow is higher. The specific loan limits are determined by the U.S. Department of Education and may change from year to year.

It's important to note that the maximum loan amounts for federal student loans differ for dependent students (whose parents' information is used on the FAFSA) and independent students (who meet specific criteria to be considered independent). Independent students generally have higher borrowing limits due to the assumption that they have less financial support from their parents.

What is the cost of an undergraduate student loan?

The cost of an undergraduate student loan can vary depending on factors such as the loan amount, interest rate, repayment term, and the type of loan (federal or private). Here are some recent statistics to provide a general overview:

  1. Average Debt at Graduation: According to data from the Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), the average student loan debt for undergraduate borrowers in the United States who graduated in 2021 was around $38,255.
  2. Federal Student Loan Interest Rates: For federal student loans, the interest rates are set annually by the U.S. Department of Education. As of the 2021-2022 academic year, the interest rates for undergraduate Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans are fixed at 3.73%. Parent PLUS Loans have a fixed interest rate of 6.28%. These rates may change from year to year.
  3. Private Student Loan Interest Rates: Private student loan interest rates vary based on factors such as the borrower's creditworthiness and the lender's policies. As of recent data, private student loan interest rates can range from around 3% to 14% or higher, depending on various factors. It's important to shop around and compare offers from different lenders to find the best interest rate and terms available.
  4. Loan Fees: Federal student loans may come with loan origination fees, which are deducted from the loan disbursement. For example, for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, the loan fee for loans disbursed on or after October 1, 2021, and before October 1, 2022, is 1.057%. Private student loans may also have origination or processing fees, depending on the lender.
  5. Repayment Terms: The repayment term for undergraduate student loans can vary. Federal student loans typically offer standard repayment plans with a 10-year term, but borrowers may also choose from other repayment options that extend the term up to 25 years or offer income-driven repayment plans. Private student loan repayment terms vary by lender and can range from 5 to 20 years or more.


What is the interest rate of an undergraduate student loan?

The interest rates for undergraduate student loans can vary depending on whether they are federal or private loans. As of July 1, 2021, the fixed interest rates for federal undergraduate student loans are 3.73% for both Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, while Direct PLUS Loans have a fixed interest rate of 6.28%. Private student loan interest rates, on the other hand, are set by individual lenders and can range from around 3% to 14% or higher. It's important to compare rates and terms from different lenders to find the most favorable option for your specific circumstances.

What type of payment options are available for undergraduate student loans?

Undergraduate student loans offer various payment options to accommodate borrowers' needs and financial situations. Here are some common payment options available for undergraduate student loans:

  1. Standard Repayment Plan: This is the default repayment plan for federal student loans. It involves fixed monthly payments over a 10-year term. The payments are calculated to ensure the loan is fully paid off by the end of the term.
  2. Graduated Repayment Plan: This plan starts with lower monthly payments that gradually increase over time, usually every two years. The repayment term is typically 10 years, but it can be extended up to 30 years for some borrowers.
  3. Extended Repayment Plan: This plan allows borrowers to extend the repayment term beyond the standard 10-year period. Depending on the borrower's eligibility, the term can be extended up to 25 years. This option can lower monthly payments but may result in higher overall interest costs.
  4. Income-Driven Repayment Plans: These plans adjust monthly payments based on the borrower's income and family size. The four main income-driven plans for federal student loans are Income-Based Repayment (IBR), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), and Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR). Payments are typically capped at a percentage of the borrower's discretionary income and are recalculated annually.
  5. Extended Graduated Repayment Plan: This plan combines aspects of the extended and graduated repayment plans. It offers lower initial payments that increase gradually over time, with a repayment term that can be extended up to 25 years.
  6. Loan Forgiveness and Discharge Programs: Certain borrowers may qualify for loan forgiveness or discharge programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), Teacher Loan Forgiveness, or Total and Permanent Disability Discharge (TPD). These programs have specific eligibility criteria and require meeting certain conditions to qualify for loan forgiveness.

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