Types of Loans Available in the Financial Aid Award Letter

Over 70% of families finance a portion of their children’s education, and many families need help understanding the long-term consequences of borrowing loans to pay for college.  The college funding decision should include a more detailed knowledge of your financing options, the legal responsibility of any loans, and the various loan repayment options.  Depending on the college and the state you live in, there are multiple options you need to consider.

Before the student decides, every student and parent should have a basic knowledge of the various types of loans available to pay for college.  They need to understand what the loan repayment will look like at graduation for both the student and the parent.

In this article, PayForED breaks down the types of loans available on the Financial Aid Award Letter.  Access to the funding is relatively easy if you have average credit since there is no formal underwriting process.  It is our most significant purchase, where third-party approval is not required.  That is the problem and an issue often overlooked.

Why is Student Debt Structure so Critical?

Unlike most loan approvals, access to student loans is much easier and quicker.  Borrowers do not see the financial consequences until years later, which is a growing problem.  Most students only worry about their student debt after graduation.  With most other personal loans, the repayment process is almost immediate, while student loan repayment could be delayed years before repayment even begins.

Most families minimize student loan planning.  The student debt structure will determine the student’s and parent’s loan repayment and forgiveness options.  Borrowing decisions, such as picking federal or private loans and who should take the loan, can significantly impact the outcome.  Little adjustments in these decisions can reduce the parent’s legal exposure and credit rating.

Over the first four years, a traditional dependent student is limited to just $27,000 in their name.  Any loans over that amount will require a co-signer or Parent PLUS Direct loan.  As a result, the parents are legally tied to this debt.

It is also essential to understand the type of loan a borrower uses.  Direct Federal Student loans offer better repayment and forgiveness options.

Why should families use Direct Federal Student Loan First?

To qualify for Direct Federal Student Loans, the student must submit the FAFSA.  Your award letter may show both a Subsidized and an Unsubsidized Direct Loan.  Your financial need at each college will determine whether you receive just an Unsubsidized loan or a combination of both.

To qualify for a Subsidized Direct Loan, your Student Aid Index (SAI) must be below that college’s Cost of Attendance (COA).  If the family’s SAI exceeds that amount, you will only see an Unsubsidized Direct Loan.

The difference between the two loans is that a Subsidized Direct Loan interest is paid while the student is in college at least half-time.  An unsubsidized direct loan will charge interest while the student is in college.  Direct Loans are sometimes called Stafford Loans on the award letters.

These Direct Federal student loans should be taken each year as they will improve the student debt structure for repayment and future debt if a postgraduate school is in the plan.  These loans have both annual and lifetime limits based on the student’s academic progress.  For freshman year, the limit is $5,500.  Within that total, a student could have up to $3,500 in Subsidized Direct loans.

Why should you ignore Parent PLUS Loans on the Award Letter?

Some colleges include a Direct Parent PLUS loan in the list of award letter items.  These loans are legally for the parents and can be misleading in determining the actual net cost of the college.  They are a possible financing option but should be ignored during the college cost comparison.  The PayForED College Cost Analyzer helps families properly organize which loans should be entered when comparing each college award letter.

Parent PLUS Loans have higher rates and fees than Direct Student Loans.  Like the other loans, the amount accessible under the Parent PLUS loan is limited.  To find your allowable amount, subtract the cost of attendance from the financial award.  Under current rules, Parent PLUS loans are limited to that amount.

What are State and College Loans?

Colleges and some states offer student loans as part of their financial award packaging.  The student must evaluate these loan terms and compare them to the alternatives.  These loans do not qualify for federal loan repayment and forgiveness options, so you must be careful when making that decision.

When does the Federal Interest Rate on Student Loans change?

The federal interest rates are not established at the time of the award letters.  They are based on the Treasury auction that happens in May.  The new rates are established and become effective on July 1 of each year.  You are unable to pre-borrow the money.  The federal loan interest rate is based on the time of distribution.

Financial Aid Award Letter Summary

One of the most important details for a student’s financial future is the amount of debt they will graduate with and how it is structured.  Families must understand their student loan options for better college affordability and planning decisions.

The PayForED student loan solutions provide the needed transparency that helps students understand student loan issues.  This information allows for better borrowing decisions and helps families understand the types of loans available on the financial aid award letter.

To properly fund college, families need to combine the financial aid process, college saving plans, educational tax strategies, student loans, and repayment strategies.  Now, with the IRS integration, the college financial aid offices and loan servicers cannot provide complete advice.  Financial advisors with the College Funding Student Loan Advisor Designation (CFSLA) can help you navigate and envision the financial outcome and future.


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