13 Steps to Help You Navigate the Financial Aid Maze

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College costs have exploded over the past decade, increasing by a massive 33 percent from the 2004-2005 school year to 2014-15, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. For today’s average student, 70 percent of colleges are more expensive than they can afford. But while college is more expensive than ever, family incomes and college savings rates have not kept pace.

This leaves a huge gap between what college costs and what today’s students and their families can afford to pay. That’s why it’s crucial for families to apply for financial aid to help bridge the gap.

The process to apply for financial aid can be long and confusing. But successfully navigating it will net you as much money for college as possible to keep up with rising costs. Here’s everything you need to know to begin tackling this crucial process.

13 steps to help you apply for financial aid

Unfortunately, applying for financial aid for college is usually anything but easy. “The most challenging aspect of financial aid is how overwhelming it can seem,” said Fastweb contributing editor Kathryn Knight Randolph. The complexity of the process can keep many students and families from getting the college aid they need.

Still, the potential payoff of applying for financial aid makes it worth it. It can make a world of difference if you put in the time and effort to understand the process and how to get the full financial aid you’re entitled. For some students, it’s the only reason they can complete a degree rather than dropping out of college. For others, financial aid helps them leave school with some student loans — but limits the debt to a manageable amount.

For prospective students and their families, it will take time and effort to apply for financial aid for college. But if you follow the tips here, you can more quickly get a grasp of the process and understand how to make the most of your financial aid.

1. Start planning and learning now

Ideally, students and their families should start planning for college costs years in advance. “Students and their parents can educate themselves on the process before diving in,” Randolph said. Applying for aid can be a long and complicated process — the sooner you start learning about it the better.

“The college admissions process takes some students months – even years – to complete; it should be the same with financial aid,” Randolph said. Starting early will also give you time to plan and avoid costly mistakes. You’ll have plenty of time to apply for financial aid ahead of deadlines and employ strategies that can help you receive more aid.

But you won’t know what you can do to help yourself now unless you d

edicate time to learn and work on your financial aid applications. “Research the process, apply, and then figure out which type of financial aid package is right for you through further research and seeking counsel,” Randolph said.

2. Talk to a financial aid expert

As you’re wrapping your head around the process involved for financial aid, it helps to know what resources are at your disposal.

One of the first places to start is with experts. “Ask for help – from high school guidance counselors, financial aid officers, and professionals in the community,” Randolph suggested.

High school guidance counselors and college aid officers are there to help students plan for a successful future and find financial aid. They provide individualized advice based on a student’s academic and financial situation. A counselor will also be aware of scholarships, financial aid, or tuition-assistance programs specific to a student’s school, community, or state.

3. Do your reading and research

There is a wealth of information available to students and parents on how to apply for financial aid. “There are so many free resources to help students and parents walk through the process – take advantage of those,” Randolph advised.

For instance, these awesome resources can help you started:

  • The non-profit educational group Khan Academy offers “Paying for College,” a free online course with in-depth information on the financial aid process.
  • The help section of the FAFSA.ed.gov site answers many tricky questions parents and students might have.
  • The Financial Aid Shopping Sheet helps students quickly understand and compare financial aid offers from different colleges.

4. Always file a FAFSA

So where can you start learning about financial aid? With the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You fill out the FAFSA at FAFSA.ed.gov to provide the information about you and your family’s financial circumstances. The federal government uses that information to determine how much student aid you need.

Completing a FAFSA can be a time-consuming process that some students or parents might be tempted to skip. “On one end of the spectrum, you have students that don’t think they qualify for aid so they don’t [apply],” Randolph said. “On the other end, you have students that are so confused by the application, verbiage, and choices, that they struggle, perhaps even to the point of not finishing the FAFSA.”

However, filling out a FAFSA is the only way college students can access all forms of federal financial aid, from Pell Grants to Direct Subsidized Loans. Thus, taking the time to file your FAFSA is a must. The video below is a great introduction to FAFSA and federal student aid in general.

5. Project and estimate your financial aid

You don’t have to wait until your FAFSA is filed and processed to get an idea of what kind of financial aid and assistance you can expect. You can use the FAFSA4caster tool on the official FAFSA site to project the amount of financial aid for which you’d be eligible.

It can also be helpful to understand how the Federal Student Aid Office uses the information on the FAFSA to decide how much aid each student gets. The financial details are used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is the Federal Student Aid office’s estimate of what your family should reasonably be able to pay toward college costs, based on these factors:

  • The family’s taxed and untaxed income, and benefits
  • Financial assets, including college savings
  • Family size
  • Number of family members attending college concurrently

You can use this tool to estimate your own EFC.

Generally, the FAFSA compares your EFC to the costs you’ll face in college — your cost of attendance — and offers financial aid to help bridge that gap. Here’s the general formula to illustrate:

Cost of attendance (COA) – EFC = Financial need

The higher your EFC, the less financial aid you will receive. Unfortunately, according to Randolph, “there isn’t too much a student can do to change their financial circumstances.” However, Randolph noted it is possible to “maximize aid eligibility” and lessen your EFC if you plan well in advance — find out how in this FastWeb guide.

6. File your FAFSA correctly

The information you provide on your FAFSA directly determines how much aid you can receive. So, “the best way to get the most out of the financial aid process is by providing the biggest, most accurate picture of your financial circumstances on the FAFSA,” Randolph said.

On top of simply filing a FAFSA, making sure you do it correctly will smooth the process and could even help you qualify for more aid. Randolph gave her tips for avoiding common FAFSA mistakes:

  • Go through the FAFSA “slowly and don’t leave anything blank,” she said. “If the answer to a question is zero, or it doesn’t apply to you, write in ‘0’.”
  • Make sure you get your family size right. Don’t forget to “include the student in the household size,” Randolph said. “Step-parents’ information must be on the form, too.”
  • “The biggest mistake students make is actually forgetting to sign the form,” she added. “So sign the form!”

If this is the first time as a parent or student that you have filed a FAFSA, you might need some extra help — and it’s often out there. “Many communities will host free FAFSA workshop days, where professionals will help you through the application,” Randolph said.

Lastly, you should never lie or purposely misrepresent any information on the FAFSA. Not only can this jeopardize your chance of getting financial aid, it’s illegal.

7. Beat financial aid deadlines

FAFSA submissions open on Oct. 1 every year, and they remain open until the end of June a year and a half later. But you shouldn’t wait to file. “File [FAFSA] before the deadline, and if you can, file as soon after October 1 as possible,” Randolph advised.

But if you have a whole 21 months to submit a FAFSA, what’s the rush? Well, filing early can have a few benefits:

  • Your FAFSA will be received and processed well before the school year when you will need it.
  • Find out earlier what aid you qualify for. This can help you plan ahead, budget for college costs, and even compare colleges to choose the most affordable option.
  • If there are any errors in your FAFSA, you’ll have time to correct or amend the application so you can receive the correct amount of aid.
  • You could get more non-federal aid: “Schools and states have a limited amount of aid, and a bunch of states have a FAFSA deadline of ‘as soon as possible after October 1,’ (meaning they actually could run out of financial aid) so it’s good to be at the front of the line!” according to a post on the Department of Education blog. If you apply early, you’ll have a better chance to qualify for these non-federal financial aid programs.

8. Apply for state student aid programs

Another reason to submit a FAFSA early is that many state- and school-level aid programs rely on this information to assess need and grant assistance. “States also have individual deadlines for when the FAFSA must be submitted in order to be considered for state aid,” Randolph said. And these are often earlier than FAFSA deadlines.

You should also do your own legwork to find state-sponsored grant or scholarship programs. This State Financial Aid Programs locator tool from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is a great place to start.

9. Seek out institutional aid

“Schools will offer students ‘merit aid,’ which is just a fancy term for scholarships,” Randolph said, as well as more need-based aid. This is the institutional aid offered by your specific college. Ask your college for a comprehensive list of the institutional aid it offers, including scholarships and grants.

If it’s unclear how to apply for each grant or scholarship, follow up and keep asking questions to understand which awards you could get. Persistence and initiative will pay off when it comes to getting financial aid from your school.

Check if your state or college needs additional paperwork or information from you. “Some colleges have a supplemental form that they require students and parents fill out for a bigger, better picture,” Randolph said. The most common form that colleges require is the CSS Profile, for example.

10. Treat applying for scholarships like a part-time job

“Students should make applying for scholarships a part-time job,” Randolph said. There are many college scholarships out there, and you might have a better chance at qualifying than you think.

While many are granted based on academic performance, not all are. Many simply have a minimum GPA requirement or have other eligibility considerations that can be relatively easy to meet.

Here are a few top scholarship search sites to get you started:

Because there are so many opportunities, you should “set a goal to apply to one or two scholarships a week,” Randolph said. “It’s a numbers game,” she said. The more scholarships students find and apply for, “the better their chance of winning.”

11. Prioritize free financial aid first

Once your FAFSA is completed, processed, and used to determine your financial need, you’ll get a financial aid award letter from the colleges to which you’ve applied. Each letter will outline the financial aid package you’ll receive at the school.

However, they often will not explain in detail what each type of federal financial aid is. You should do your own research to understand how each kind of financial aid works — whether it’s a gift with no financial obligation or a loan that you’ll have to repay. To help you, MyFICO has an excellent overview of different forms of financial aid.

Among the types of financial aid that take the form of gifts are:

  • Grants: These are gift awards that can include Pell Grants from the federal government and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants awarded by the college. “Students should prioritize merit aid [such as scholarships] and grants in their financial aid package,” Randolph said. “Neither of these have to be paid back.”
  • Scholarships: These, too, are gifted awards to help cover college costs. Unlike grants, scholarships are usually offered by private entities and granted based on merit as well as need.
  • Work-Study: “Work-study will require that you work a campus job,” Randolph said, “and you can either use the paycheck for personal expenses or put it toward your tuition bill. If you qualify for work-study, take that over any loans in your package.”

12. Then borrow strategically through student loans

Fully take advantage of the above financial aid. If you still have a gap between what this aid covers and your total costs, student loans can be an option to make up the difference.

Here are the types of loans you might see on a financial aid award letter, in order of which is best to prioritize in choosing the loan portion of your aid:

  1. Direct Subsidized Loans: These loans for undergraduate students are the best way to finance college costs. They carry low interest rates — 4.45% currently. And due to a student loan interest subsidy, interest charges on these loans are also partially paid for by the government.
  2. Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Unsubsidized loans have the same low rates as the subsidized loans, but the student borrower is responsible for paying all interest on these. Thus, borrowing through unsubsidized loans will cost you more.
  3. Direct Graduate Unsubsidized loans: These are unsubsidized loans available to graduate students, and they carry a higher interest rate of 6.00% for the 2017-18 school year.
  4. Grad PLUS loans: Also available to graduate students, Grad PLUS loans are some of the most expensive, with an interest rate of 7.00% and a loan fee of 4.276%.
  5. Parent PLUS loans: These carry the same high costs as Grad PLUS loans, but they can only be used by parents of dependent undergraduate students.
  6. Private student loans: Financing from private lenders might also be listed in your financial award letter, or you can find it on your own. Using federal student loans first is often the best move, Randolph said. However, “if you still need money to bridge the gap between financial aid and the cost of attendance, you’ll have to look at private student loans.”

Be smart and strategic about how you use student loans. Borrow only what you need to cover college costs after using all other aid. Project your future student loan payments, and start learning about different student loan options to understand what it will take to repay this debt after graduation.

13. Appeal for more financial aid

Even after you get your financial aid award letter, there still might be hope to get more aid. If you feel you did not receive enough funding, or it was less than you expected, you might consider appealing for more financial aid.

“You can call the school’s financial aid office and begin talks about a professional judgment case, which will enable the school to potentially offer you more financial aid based on your circumstance,” Randolph said.

You’ll need a good reason to appeal your financial aid. For instance, if your circumstances changed between when you received your financial aid package and the time school starts. Maybe your sibling decided to enroll in college at the last minute, your parent lost a job, or there’s been a family financial emergency. You might also be able to appeal for more financial aid if you’re in an abusive family situation.

Meet with your financial aid office as soon as possible, and come prepared with documentation of your new or unusual circumstances. In these cases, financial aid administrators can often adjust your financial need and find additional aid sources.

Apply for financial aid to afford college

Financial aid clears the path to a college degree and helps you minimize student loans to lessen your debt burden after graduation. It’s about more than just covering college costs.  Applying for financial aid is at the heart of a sound foundation for a lifetime of healthy money management, income growth, and career development.

Whatever your family’s money situation, financial aid is there to help students surmount college costs. Following the steps above will point you to the best strategies and resources to help you apply for financial aid, qualify for more assistance, and receive all the help to which you’re entitled.

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1 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or Nationwide Bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

  1. All rates shown include the auto-pay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
  2. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7% variable Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 96 monthly payments of $179.28 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $17,211.20. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
  3. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000. Information advertised as valid as of 07/1/2018. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

2 Important Disclosures for Discover.

Discover Disclosures

  1. At least a 3.0 GPA or equivalent qualifies for a one-time cash-reward of 1% of the loan amount of each new Discover student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
  2. View Terms and Conditions at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/AutoDebitReward.

3 Important Disclosures for Ascent.

Ascent Disclosures

Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB) or Turnstile Capital Management, LLC (TCM), which are not affiliated entities. Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. All loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Other terms and conditions apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of TCM and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.

  1. Competitive rates calculated monthly at the time of loan approval. (Rates are effective as of 8/01/2018 and include a 0.25% discount applied when a borrower in repayment elects automatic debit payments via their personal checking account.)
    Ascent Tuition: Variable rate loans are based on a margin between 2.00% and 11.00% plus the 1-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), rounded to the nearest 1/100th of a percent. The current LIBOR is 2.069%, which may adjust monthly. Your interest rate may increase or decrease, based on LIBOR monthly changes, resulting in an APR range between 3.82% – 12.82%. Fixed rate loans have an APR range between 5.54% and 14.59%.
    Ascent Independent: Variable rate loans are based on a margin between 4.00% and 12.50% plus the 1-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), rounded to the nearest 1/100th of a percent. The current LIBOR is 2.069%, which may adjust monthly. Your interest rate may increase or decrease, based on LIBOR monthly changes, resulting in an APR range between 5.49% and 12.77%. Fixed rate loans have an APR range between 7.06% and 13.72%.
  2. Payments may be deferred. Subject to lender discretion, forbearance and/or deferment options may be available for borrowers who are encountering financial distress.
  3. Making interest only or partial interest payments while in school will not reduce the principal balance of the loan. There are three (3) flexible in-school repayment options that include fully deferred, interest only and $25 minimum repayment. Click here for a Tuition repayment example.
  4. Flexible repayment plans may be offered with up to a fifteen (15) year repayment term for a variable rate loan and ten (10) year repayment term for a fixed rate loan. Students must be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school. Minimum loan amount of $2,000. Ascent borrowers who choose a fixed rate option may ONLY select a loan term of five (5) or twelve (12) years (60 or 144 months, respectively). For certain loans with low balances the minimum monthly payment amount may cause the loan amortization schedule to be less than the selected term. Click here for Ascent Tuition cosigned loan current rates and repayment examples.
  5. Interest rate reduction of 0.25% for enrollment in automatic debit applies only when the borrower and/or cosigner signs up for automatic payments and the regularly scheduled, current amount due (including full, flat, or interest only payments, as applicable) is successfully deducted from the designated bank account each month. Interest rate reduction(s) will not apply during periods when no payment is due, including periods of In-School, Deferment, Grace or Forbearance. If you have two (2) returned payments for Nonsufficient Funds, we may cancel your automatic debit enrollment and you will lose the 0.25% interest rate reduction. You will then need to re-qualify and re-enroll in automatic debit payments in order to receive the 0.25% interest rate reduction.
  6. All applicants (individual and cosigner) are required to complete a brief online financial literacy course as part of the application process to be eligible for funding.
  7. Eligibility, loan amount and other loan terms are dependent on a number of factors, including: loan product, other financial aid, creditworthiness, school, program, graduation date, major, cost of attendance and other factors. Aggregate loan limits may apply. The cost of attendance is determined and certified by the educational institution.
  8. The legal age for entering into contracts is eighteen (18) years of age in every state except Alabama where it is nineteen (19) years old, Nebraska where it is nineteen (19) years old (only for wards of the state), and Mississippi and Puerto Rico where it is twenty-one (21) years old.
  9. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions, click here for details.
  10. Students can apply to release their cosigner and continue with the loan in only their name after making the first 24 consecutive regularly scheduled full principal and interest payments on-time and meeting the other eligibility criteria to qualify for the loan without a cosigner.

* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.


* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

5 Important Disclosures for PNC.

PNC Disclosures

  1. Interest will continue to accrue during periods of deferment. You will receive quarterly interest statements during this deferment period. Paying the interest as it accrues each quarter will save you money over the repayment term of the loan because any accrued interest that you do not pay will be added to the principal balance at the end of the deferment period.
  2. If automatic payment is discontinued, you will no longer receive an automatic payment discount. A federal regulation limits the number of transfers that may be made from a savings or money market account. Please contact your financial institution for more information on transfer limitations on savings accounts.
  3. A request to release a co-signer requires that you have made forty-eight (48) consecutive timely payments with no periods of forbearance or deferment within the forty-eight (48) month timeframe. “Timely payment” means each payment is made no later than the 15th day after the scheduled due date of the payment. “Consecutive payment” means the minimum monthly payment must be made for forty-eight (48) months straight without any interruption. To qualify for a co-signer release, the borrower must submit a request, meet the consecutive, timely payment requirements, provide proof of income and pass a credit check.

PNC Bank is one of the nation’s largest education loan providers. For over 40 years, PNC has been committed to helping students and their families make possible the adventure of college.


6 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.

SunTrust Disclosures

Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.

Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.

SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.

  1. Interest rates and APRs (Annual Percentage Rates) depend upon (a) the student’s and cosigner’s (if applicable) credit histories, (b) the repayment option and repayment term selected, (c) the requested loan amount and (4) other information provided on the online loan application. If approved, applicants will be notified of the rate applicable to your loan. Rates and terms effective for applications received on or after 8/01/2018. The current variable APRs for the program range from 3.876% APR to 12.875% APR and the current fixed APRs for the program range from 5.351% APR to 14.051% APR (the low APRs within these ranges assume a 7-year $10,000 loan, with two disbursements and no deferment; the high APRs within these ranges assume a 15-year $10,000 loan with two disbursements). The variable interest rate for each calendar month is calculated by adding the current One-month LIBOR index to your margin. LIBOR stands for London Interbank Offered Rate. The One-month LIBOR is published in the Money Rates section of The Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition). The One-month LIBOR index is captured on the 25th day of the immediately preceding calendar month (or if the 25th is not a business day, the next business day thereafter), and is rounded up to the nearest 1/8th of one percent. The current One-month LIBOR index is 2.125% on 8/01/2018. The variable interest rate will increase or decrease if the One-month LIBOR index changes. The fixed rate assigned to a loan will never change except as required by law or if you request and qualify for the auto pay discount.
  2. Any applicant who applies for a loan the month of, the month prior to, or the month after the student’s graduation date, as stated on the application or certified by the school, will only be offered the Immediate Repayment option. The student must be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for the partial interest, fully deferred and interest only repayment options unless the loan is being used for a past due balance and the student is out of school. With the Full Deferment option, payments may be deferred while the student is enrolled at least half-time at an approved school and during the six month grace period after graduation or dropping below half-time status, but the total initial deferment period, including the grace period, may not exceed 66 months from the first disbursement date. The Partial Interest Repayment option (paying $25 per month during in-school deferment) is only available on loans of $5,000 or more. For payment examples, see footnote 7. With the Immediate Repayment option, the first payment of principal and interest will be due approximately 30-60 calendar days after the final disbursement date and the minimum monthly payment is $50.00. There are no prepayment penalties.
  3. The 15-year term and Partial Interest Repayment option (paying $25 per month during in-school deferment) are only available for loan amounts of $5,000 or more. Making interest only or partial interest payments while in school deferment (including the grace period) will not reduce the principal balance of the loan. Payment examples within this footnote assume a 45-month deferment period, a six-month grace period before entering repayment and the Partial Interest Repayment option. 7 year term: $10,000 loan disbursed over two transactions with a 7 year repayment term (84 months) and a 8.468% APR would result in a monthly principal and interest payment of $199.90. 10 year term: $10,000 loan disbursed over two transactions with a 10-year repayment term (120 months) and an 8.938% APR would result in a monthly principal and interest payment of $162.92. 15 year term: $10,000 loan disbursed over two transactions with a 15-year repayment term (180 months) and a 9.423% APR would result in a monthly principal and interest payment of $136.90.
  4. The 2% principal reduction is based on the total dollar amount of all disbursements made, excluding any amounts that are reduced, cancelled, or returned. To receive this principal reduction, it must be requested from the servicer, the student borrower must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher and proof of such graduation (e.g. copy of diploma, final transcript or letter on school letterhead) must be provided to the servicer. This reward is available once during the life of the loan, regardless of whether the student receives more than one degree.
  5. Earn an interest rate reduction for making automatic payments of principal and interest from a bank account (“auto pay discount”). Earn a 0.25% interest rate reduction when you auto pay from any bank account and an extra 0.25% interest rate reduction when you auto pay from a SunTrust Bank checking, savings, or money market account. The auto pay discount will continue until (1) automatic deduction of payments is stopped (including during any deferment or forbearance) or (2) three automatic deductions are returned for insufficient funds during the life of the loan. The extra 0.25% interest rate reduction when you auto pay from a SunTrust Bank account will be applied after the first automatic payment is successfully deducted and will be removed for the reasons stated above. In the event the auto pay discount is removed, the loan will accrue interest at the rate stated in your Credit Agreement. The auto pay discount is not available when payments are deferred or when the loan is in forbearance, even if payments are being made.
  6. A cosigner may be released from the loan upon request to the servicer provided that the student borrower is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, has met credit criteria and met either one of the following payment conditions: (a) the first 36 consecutive monthly principal and interest payments have been made on-time (received by the servicer within 10 calendar days after their due date) or (b) the loan has not had any late payments and has been prepaid prior to the end of the first 36 months of scheduled principal and interest payments in an amount equal to the first 36 months of scheduled principal and interest payments (based on the monthly payment amount in effect when you make the most recent payment). As an example, if you have made 30 months of consecutive on-time payments, and then, based on the monthly payment amount in effect on the due date of your 31st consecutive monthly payment, you pay a lump sum equal to 6 months of payments, you will have satisfied the payment condition. Cosigner release may not be available if a loan is in forbearance.
  7. If the student dies after any part of the loan has been disbursed, and the loan has not been charged off due to non-payment or bankruptcy, then the outstanding balance will be forgiven if the servicer is informed of the student’s death and receives acceptable proof of death. If the student becomes totally and permanently disabled after any part of the loan has been disbursed and the loan has not been charged off due to non-payment or bankruptcy, the loan will be forgiven upon the servicer’s receipt and approval of a completed discharge application. If the student borrower dies or becomes totally and permanently disabled prior to the full disbursement of the loan, and the loan is forgiven, all future disbursements will be cancelled. Loan forgiveness for student death or disability is available at any point throughout the life of the loan.

7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey


8 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.

Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.

Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
If you are unable to pay your government loan, the government can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount. In addition, the government has special powers to collect the loan, such as taking your tax refund and applying it to your loan balance.

A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If you refinance your government loan, your new lender will use the proceeds of your new loan to pay off your government loan. Private student loan lenders do not have to honor any of the benefits that apply to government loans. Because your government loan will be gone after refinancing, you will lose any benefits that apply to that loan. If you are an active-duty service member, your new loan will not be eligible for service member benefits. Most importantly, once you refinance your government loan, you will not able to reinstate your government loan if you become dissatisfied with the terms of your private student loan.

If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you are a borrower with a secure job, emergency savings, strong credit and are unlikely to need any of the options available to distressed borrowers of government loans, a refinance of your government loans into a private student loan may be attractive to you. You should consider the costs and benefits of refinancing carefully before you refinance.

If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.

Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.


9 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Student Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 4.04%-12.01% (4.04%-11.91% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 5.25%-12.19% (5.25% – 12.09% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown requires application with a cosigner, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.
  2. Multi-year approval funds available for future use are subject to a soft credit inquiry at time of your next request to verify continued eligibility. After we make the initial Loan to you, we may refuse to allow you to take out additional loans under the multi-year approval feature, terms and conditions will be outlined in your promissory note. Please Note: International students are not eligible to receive an offer for multi-year approval. Please Note: International Students are not eligible for the multi-year approval feature.
  3. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  5. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
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