As the cost of college continues to rise, many students are trying to find ways to get a higher education without going broke. One of those ways could be choosing to attend school part time.
An estimated 6.7 million undergraduate students will attend school part time in 2018, according to Statista. By enrolling half time in school, you maintain some flexibility to work, look after your family, or take care of other responsibilities. And with fewer course credits, you’ll pay less each semester.
But what does financial aid for part-time students look like? Here’s everything you need to know about paying for college when you’re not a full-time student.
Part-time vs. full-time students
Before you can even worry about paying for college, you should know the difference between a part-time and full-time student.
Colleges may define full-time and part-time enrollment differently. In general, though, a full-time student takes between nine and 12 credits per semester. To be eligible for most financial aid, you must take at least six credits a semester.
Financial aid for part-time students
Even if you aren’t taking the traditional route of enrolling full time in college, you still have many ways to fund your education. Knowing these options will help you make the best financial decision for your future.
Federal aid for part-time students
Even if you’re attending school part time, you’re eligible for federal financial aid. The Department of Education stipulates that you only have to be enrolled half time to qualify for Direct Loans. This is good news for part-time students; federal loans tend to have lower interest rates and more flexible repayment terms than private student loans.
Here are the three federal loans available to undergraduate part-time students.
Direct Subsidized Loan
To qualify for Direct Subsidized Loans, you have to prove financial need and be enrolled no less than half time. It’s up to the school to determine how much you’re allowed to borrow. What makes this type of federal loan great is that the government will cover interest charges while you’re in school and during your grace period. That helps you reduce your cost of borrowing.
Direct Unsubsidized Loan
As with Direct Subsidized Loans, the school will decide how much you can borrow in Direct Unsubsidized Loans. But you don’t need to demonstrate financial need to qualify.
With an unsubsidized loan, you’re responsible for all interest charges. Although you can defer payments until after you graduate, interest will accrue while you’re enrolled.
Direct PLUS Loan
Parent PLUS Loans are also an option for part-time students. Your parents can take out this type of loan to help cover your educational costs. They can borrow up to your cost of attendance minus other financial aid you’ve received.
To qualify, your parents must not have an adverse credit history. Your parents can defer payments until after your graduation. However, they’re responsible for all interest charges.
How to apply for federal financial aid
The process for obtaining federal financial aid for part-time students is the same as for full-time attendees. You need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and submit it by June 30. Double-check deadlines with your school, though. It might have an earlier deadline.
Private student loans for part-time students
Before taking out private student loans, you should exhaust all other options, from scholarships and grants to federal student loans. If you still have a gap in coverage, then you’ll want to consider private student loans.
Unlike a federal loan, which is issued by the government, a private loan is offered by an independent financial institution, such as a bank or credit union. College Ave, for example, is a reputable lender you can consider.
Since these loans are offered by private companies, your eligibility, interest rates, and repayment terms can vary. That’s why it’s important to shop around to find the best private student loans.
To qualify, your credit score and debt-to-income ratio will be considered. If you have poor or unestablished credit, you can get a cosigner. The better your or your cosigner’s credit score, the more likely you are to get a lower interest rate.
Keep in mind that many lenders have loan minimums. If you’re attending college half time, you might not be looking to borrow enough money to meet this requirement. Speak with your potential lender to determine whether you’ll qualify for a loan.
Paying for college as a part-time student
If you’ve decided to attend college on a part-time basis, you should feel confident knowing you have a lot of financial aid options available.
It’s always best to secure as much money through scholarships and grants before considering your loan options. If you need loans, prioritize federal ones before looking into private lenders. But remember: If you drop below half-time status, you won’t qualify for federal aid.
Also, since you won’t have a full course load, you might want to consider getting a part-time job. This could help you keep college costs down and eliminate your need for student loans. The less money you have to borrow, the less interest you’re liable to pay.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
|1 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
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.
Information advertised valid as of 11/1/2018. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
2 Important Disclosures for Discover.
3 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.
* 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 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.
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.
7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
8 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.
9 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|3.94% – 12.78%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.04% – 13.04%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.34% – 12.99%2||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.12% – 10.98%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.03% – 11.23%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.12% – 13.13%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.92% – 10.01%7||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.72% – 9.68%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.26% – 12.13%9||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|