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Loan Considerations

Why borrow federal student loans?

Federal student loans are an investment in your future. You should not be afraid to take out federal student loans, but you should be smart about your choice to borrow.

Federal student loans offer many benefits compared to other options you may consider when paying for college:

  • The interest rate on federal student loans is almost always lower than that on private loans—and much lower than that on a credit card!
  • You don’t need a credit check or a cosigner to get most federal student loans.
  • You don’t have to begin repaying your federal student loans until after you leave college or drop below half-time (6 credits for undergraduate and 4.5 for graduate students).
  • If you demonstrate financial need, you can qualify to have the government pay your interest while you are in school.
  • Federal student loans offer flexible repayment plans and options to postpone your loan payments if you’re having trouble making payments.
  • If you work in certain jobs, you may be eligible to have a portion of your federal student loans forgiven if you meet certain conditions.

Learn more about the differences between federal and private student loans.

Interest Rates

Interest rates on educational loans are usually lower than those for personal bank loans, and the repayment period is extended. Some educational loans defer repayment until you graduate or are no longer enrolled. Educational loans carry specified interest rates and repayment schedules. You will be informed of these at the time the loan is made and you must adhere to the schedule to avoid defaulting on the loan.

Be a responsible borrower

Before you take out a loan, it’s important to understand that a loan is a legal obligation that you will be responsible for repaying with interest. You may not have to begin repaying your federal student loans right away, but you don’t have to wait to understand your responsibilities as a borrower.

  • Keep track of how much you’re borrowing. Think about how the amount of your loans will affect your future finances, and how much you can afford to repay. Your student loan payments should be only a small percentage of your salary after you graduate, so it’s important not to borrow more than you need for your school-related expenses. 
  • Research starting salaries in your field. Ask your school/college advising office for information pertaining to starting salaries of recent graduates in your field of study to get an idea of how much you are likely to earn after you graduate. You can use the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook to estimate salaries for different careers or research employment opportunities advertised in the area where you plan to live to get an idea of a local starting salary. You also can use the Department of Labor's career search tool to research careers and view the average annual salary for each career.
  • Understand the terms of your loan and keep copies of all loan documents. When you sign your promissory note, you are agreeing to repay the loan according to the terms of the note even if you don’t complete your education, can’t get a job after you complete the program, or you didn’t like the education you received.
  • Make payments on time. You are required to make payments on time even if you don’t receive a bill, repayment notice, or a reminder. You must pay the full amount required by your repayment plan, as partial payments do not fulfill your obligation to repay your student loan on time.
  • Keep in touch with your loan servicer. Notify your loan servicer when you graduate; withdraw from school; drop below half-time status; transfer to another school; or change your name, address, or Social Security number. You also should contact your servicer if you’re having trouble making your scheduled loan payments. Your servicer has several options available to help you keep your loan in good standing.