Depending on your career path, getting an extra certification or some other form of continuing education might be necessary. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education found that 27% of adults have a non-degree credential, such as a certificate, certification, or license.
But continuing education programs can be expensive, and you typically can’t use regular college loans to pay for them. If you need help financing your career training, some continuing education loans are available to you. We’ll run through the top three options and help you figure out whether they’re a good fit.
The 3 best college loans for continuing education
As you read about these college loans, consider your needs to determine which is the best option for you.
Unfortunately, there are no continuing education loans for bad credit. But if you’re in that camp, you might be able to qualify for these loans if you can find a cosigner with a solid credit history.
1. Federal Direct PLUS Loan
The Federal Direct PLUS Loan is available to students who are seeking a degree or certificate at an eligible school. Unlike federal student loans for undergraduate students, PLUS Loans require a credit check, so you might not get approved if your credit score is low.
Since this loan is considered federal student aid, you’ll need to fill out a FAFSA to qualify.
If you get approved, you can borrow up to $20,500 per year. You’ll pay a 7.00% interest rate for loans disbursed before July 1, 2018, and a 4.264% loan fee will be deducted from the loan disbursement. So, if you need $10,000 for your program, borrow at least $10,445 to make sure you have enough to cover the full cost.
You’ll have between 10 and 25 years to repay the loan, and you’ll have access to income-driven repayment plans.
2. Citizens Bank
If you’re considering a major career change or want to pursue a graduate or professional degree, Citizens Bank offers a private student loan for students who are in school at least half time.
You can borrow as little as $1,000 or as much as $110,000 during your time in college. Citizens Bank offers terms of five, 10, and 15 years. You can start making payments immediately, make interest-only payments while you’re in school, or defer your payments until you’re no longer enrolled.
Citizens Bank offers both variable and fixed interest rates. Here’s what to expect when you apply, as of February 2018:
- Variable interest rates: 3.46% to 11.46% APR
- Fixed interest rates: 5.74% to 11.90% APR
You also can get a rate reduction of up to 0.50% — 0.25% if you set up automatic payments and another 0.25% if you have a qualifying Citizens Bank account when you apply for the loan. The lender doesn’t charge an application, origination, or disbursement fee. There’s also no penalty if you pay off the loan early.
3. Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo’s student loan for career and community colleges might be a good choice if you’re an existing Wells Fargo customer. The loan is designed for students attending a two-year school, a career-training program, or a nontraditional school.
You can borrow up to $20,000 per year, depending on the type of school you attend, and the lifetime limit can be as high as $100,000. You’ll have 12 years to repay the loan.
Like Citizens Bank, Wells Fargo offers variable and fixed interest rates. Here are the ranges, as of February 2018:
- Variable interest rates: 5.91% to 11.65% APR
- Fixed interest rates: 7.46% to 12.65% APR
If you already have a consumer checking account with Wells Fargo, you can get a 0.25% discount on your interest rate. You’ll get another 0.25% discount if you set up automatic payments.
Wells Fargo doesn’t charge any application or origination fees, and there’s no penalty if you want to pay off the loan before it’s due.
How to choose between these college loans for continuing education
For undergraduate students, taking out federal student loans is usually a no-brainer. Federal student loans typically charge lower interest rates than private student loans do, and they offer extra features and protections.
If you’re doing continuing education, though, private student loans for certificate programs, licenses, and other career training might be a better option. For starters, the ones we’ve listed don’t charge an upfront loan fee like the Direct PLUS Loan does.
And while some of the interest rates private student loan companies offer are higher than the rates the Department of Education offers, you could qualify for a lower rate if you get help from a cosigner. These lenders also offer interest rate reductions to help lower your costs.
To make sure you get the best deal, though, compare the features of these lenders. You can apply for each one to see what offers you qualify for without getting hit with multiple credit inquiries. FICO considers this process rate shopping. For 30 days, it consolidates all your inquiries into one.
If you do your due diligence with these college loans, you’ll have a better chance of getting the best loan for your needs and your budget.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
|1 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
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). 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. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
2 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 2/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
* 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 SunTrust.
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. ©2019 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
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.
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 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 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.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|4.23% – 13.23%1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.20% – 11.44%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.84% – 13.49%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.50% – 10.11%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 13.25%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.85% – 6.99%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.95% – 9.81%7||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.45% – 12.42%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|