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Florida residents have it pretty good. Year-round sunshine, discounts to theme parks, and no personal income tax. But not all is perfect in Florida. Student loan debt is as prevalent there as anywhere else in the United States.
Students from Florida colleges and universities are graduating with more than $24,000 in debt, according to a report from The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS). Depending on where you attend school, that amount could be higher.
Whether you’re planning to attend college in Florida or you’ve already graduated, there are a few different options for how to tackle Florida student loans.
What Florida student loans are doing to graduates
Florida has one of the lowest student loan debt averages among graduates, according to TICAS. But some parts of the state come with a high cost of living. Miami, for example, has some of the most expensive home prices in the country.
Even with lower-than-average student loan debt, the cost of living can force some borrowers to choose between paying off student loans and having a place to live.
Skipping college to avoid student loan debt isn’t a great option either. The difference in median salary between someone with at least a bachelor’s degree and someone without one is $12,000 a year, according to the Good Jobs Project.
Federal student loan options in Florida
If you’re on your way to college in Florida, start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Florida Department of Education’s Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) is the guaranty agency for the state. The site offers information on the FAFSA, grants and scholarships, and student loans.
The award letter you receive from your college will detail how much money you can get in grants, scholarships, and federal loans. The amount you receive is based on the information you provide in your FAFSA.
Private Florida student loan options
The money you receive from grants, scholarships, and federal loans might not be enough to cover the cost of college. You might need to get a private student loan to cover a funding gap.
Once you receive your award letter, you’ll know how much college will cost you and how much you’ll be receiving in aid. If you’ll need a private student loan to cover some expenses, you can start looking into different lenders.
Private student loans aren’t offered by the federal government. Instead, they’re offered by individual private lenders. So if you’re a student with little or no credit, you might need a cosigner to qualify for a private student loan.
Free money for college in Florida
While the FAFSA helps determines your federal aid, there are ways you can get money at the state level. You might need to submit the Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA) to get state-funded scholarships and grants. Here’s a look at the aid offered:
State scholarships and grants
Once you fill out the FAFSA and the FFAA, you’ll be eligible for a few different scholarships and grants, depending on your needs.
The Access to Better Learning and Education (ABLE) Grant, for example, is for Florida residents who are attending private colleges or universities in the state. The Bright Futures Scholarship is funded by the Florida lottery and offers aid that can be used for both public and private schools.
Here’s a list of Florida scholarships and grants:
Bright Futures Scholarship
First Generation Matching Grant
Florida Resident Access Grant
Florida Student Assistance Grant
Florida Work Experience Program
Jose Marti Scholarship Challenge Grant
Mary McLeod Bethune Scholarship
Minority Teacher Education Scholarship
Rosewood Family Scholarship
Scholarships for Children and Spouses of Deceased or Disabled Veterans
OSFA has more information on these scholarships and grants, including which ones require FFAA completion.
Florida Prepaid College Plan
The Florida Prepaid College Plan has helped over 1 million families save for college. If you’re a parent, you can start saving money now for your child’s future. The plan is also good if you want to lock in the cost of college, especially if you suspect tuition and fees to rise by the time your child applies for school.
The funds can go to your child’s education, be transferred to another eligible relative, or can be refunded.
The Florida 529 Savings Plan can be used in conjunction with the Florida Prepaid College Plan. It can be used for qualifying education expenses, including tuition and fees, room and board, books, and supplies.
How to refinance student loans in Florida
If you already have federal loans but are having trouble paying them off, refinancing might be a good idea. Refinancing allows you to consolidate multiple loans into a single private loan. You can also refinance a loan in order to get a lower interest rate or better repayment plan if you qualify.
But not everyone is a good match for refinancing. It’s important to see if you qualify and whether it makes sense for your financial situation. If you decide to move forward, there are many refinancing options to choose from.
Getting Florida student loans that are right for you
Getting student loans might not be necessary. However, having access to different loan options gives you the opportunity to get into college when you might otherwise be unable to afford it.
But keep your other financing options in mind. Florida scholarships and grants are a great way to reduce your dependency on loans. If you do end up with student loans, keep an eye on your refinancing options to ensure repayment is as easy as possible.
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|
|4.25% – 11.10%*,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|