You’ve managed to be one of those lucky, talented people and want to hone your craft in graduate school. Unfortunately, the cost of paying for your education might deter you. The average master’s degree student spent $24,812 on school tuition from 2016 to 2017, according to the How America Pays for Graduate School report by Sallie Mae, and that’s after any undergraduate costs.
Even if you’ve scored some scholarships and grants, you still might have some tuition and living expenses left to pay. Loans could help cover that gap and let you pursue your dreams. Here’s how to get student loans for your Master of Fine Arts (MFA).
How to get student loans for your MFA
You might have filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for your undergraduate education, but it should be the first step for securing student loans for your graduate education as well.
Like with any undergraduate federal loans, filling out the FAFSA will unlock several loan options offered by the government. These loans tend to have lower interest rates and more repayment choices compared to private loans, so start there to help pay for your MFA.
Fine arts graduates should file the FAFSA to find out if they’re eligible for either of these two types of federal loans:
Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to graduate students, and you don’t need to show any financial need. With this type of loan, you will have to start paying the principal and interest once you graduate or when the funds are fully dispersed. Just remember, interest will accrue while you’re in school.
The maximum amount you can borrow is $20,500 a year, with a total of $138,500 including any federal loans you got as an undergraduate student. The current interest rate for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan for graduate students is 6.00%, and there’s a loan fee, which is a percentage of the loan amount.
Direct PLUS Loan
With this loan, a credit check is required to determine eligibility, and you must be enrolled at least half-time in an MFA school program that accepts Direct PLUS Loans. A poor credit history could prevent you from securing this loan on your own, but you could get a cosigner.
Out of these two, Direct Unsubsidized Loans should be the first federal loan type to consider because Direct PLUS Loans have a higher interest rate (7.00%) and an origination fee of 4.264%.
For both loans it’s the same application process as if you were an undergrad, it’s just as important to check with your school to clarify any specific deadlines for submitting your FAFSA. It’s also important to understand that not all universities take Direct PLUS, so be sure to inquire beforehand.
Private MFA loans
Even if you’ve landed some scholarships, grants, a work-study gig, and received federal aid, you still might not be able to cover all the costs of your MFA program. Private loans can help.
While federal loans are regulated by the government, private student loans for your MFA are controlled by private lenders. Since there is no governmental oversight, the eligibility requirements, interest rates, and repayment terms are up to the lenders, which can include banks or loan-specific lenders such as Citizens Bank or College Ave.
When deciding how to get student loans through a private lender, consider these pros and cons:
Pros of using private student loans for your MFA
There are some key advantages private student loans have over federal loans that can benefit MFA-seeking borrowers.
- Private loans tend to have higher borrowing caps, allowing you to take out as much as the cost of your full tuition and living expenses.
- Since private lenders take your credit score into consideration, a good score could help you secure a lower interest rate compared to a federal loan.
- Unlike federal loans, private student loans don’t have a deadline, meaning you could apply for one in the middle of the semester if you experience and unforeseen financial burden and can’t pay for school.
Cons of using private student loans for your MFA
While there are some great positives when it comes to private student loans, it’s important to know the serious drawbacks as well.
- There are fewer repayment options compared to a federal loan, so you could face penalties if you’re unable to pay.
- While having a good credit score can help you get a better interest rate, a lower score could mean you’ll pay more interest.
- Some lenders will require you start making some payment while still in school, which could be difficult if you don’t have a job.
Consider all of these details when thinking about how to get student loans. Always shop around when looking for a private student loan, and make sure you understand the terms of the loan before accepting, so you’re not stuck paying when you can’t afford it.
Chat with others who have taken out private student loans and read lessons from other grad students who used loans to fund their education. All of this will ensure you’re prepared to make an important financial decision.
Paying for your MFA is possible
Opting to pursue your Master of Fine Arts is a big time and money commitment. It can seem overwhelming at first trying to figure out how to finance your education, but know that there are many options available to you.
Whether you secure federal loans, private loans, or both, having an understanding of how they work and what is required on your end is key when making the decision.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
1 = Citizens Disclaimer.
2 = CollegeAve Autopay Disclaimer: 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.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of
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