How to Get Student Loans When Returning to School

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If you’re looking to advance your career or increase your earning potential, going back to school for a master’s degree or professional certification can be an important step. However, the cost of returning to school can be expensive. According to education resource Peterson’s, annual tuition at a public university is nearly $30,000. A private university could cost you close to $40,000 per year.

If you don’t have that much money in the bank, and few people do, you’ll likely have to turn to student loans to cover the bill.

How to get student loans for grad school

Depending on the cost of your program, you could rely on federal student loans, private loans, or a combination of both. Here’s how to get student loans to fund your master’s or professional degree program.

Federal student loan options

When you’re deciding how to finance your education, look to federal student loans first. Federal loans tend to have lower interest rates, more generous repayment terms, and more perks than private student loans. These perks can make student loan repayment easier on your budget.

For example, federal loans are eligible for repayment plans that are based on your income, which can reduce your monthly payment. Also, you might be able to get some or all of your student loans forgiven if you work in certain fields.

To apply for federal loans, you must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). As a returning student, you might qualify for the following federal loans.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

As a graduate or professional student, you can take out a Direct Unsubsidized Loan with an interest rate of 6.00%. There’s a limit on how much you can borrow; graduate students can take out $20,500.

To qualify for the loan, you must enroll in school at least half time. There’s also a fee of 1.066% deducted from each loan disbursement, adding to the cost of your loan.

Direct PLUS Loans

If you’re a graduate or professional student enrolled in school at least half time, you could qualify for a Direct PLUS Loan. Direct PLUS Loans have an interest rate of 7.00%. In addition, there’s a loan fee of 4.264% deducted from each loan disbursement, which adds to your education costs.

Although Direct Unsubsidized Loans limit how much you can borrow, PLUS Loans work differently. The maximum amount you can borrow in PLUS Loans is your cost of attendance minus any other financial aid you received.

Unlike other federal student loan options, the government will check your credit when it reviews your PLUS Loan application. If you have an adverse credit history, you might not be able to receive a loan on your own. Instead, you’ll need to apply with an endorser or pursue other funding options.

Private student loans

In some cases, federal loans alone won’t be enough to cover the cost of your education. Private student loans can help fill the gap and allow you to complete your education.

Unlike federal student loans, which are issued by the government, private student loans are issued by private banks and financial institutions. The lender will look at your credit history and income to decide whether to give you a loan. Each bank has its own eligibility criteria, so you have to apply with each lender to see if you qualify. If you don’t qualify on your own, you might be able to take out a loan by applying with a cosigner.

When it comes to graduate school, private student loans offer some unique benefits. Depending on your program and area of study, you could qualify for student loans that cover cost-of-living expenses or even relocation. With Discover Student Loans, for example, you can take out a loan to cover the cost of medical residency and relocation or cost-of-living expenses while you prepare for the bar exam.

Some lenders also allow graduate students to defer payments while they establish their careers. For example, Citizens Bank offers medical and dental students a four-year residency deferment.

Keep in mind that private student loans usually have higher interest rates than federal ones. However, many lenders offer both fixed and variable rates. If you’re determined to pay off your debt as quickly as possible, you could opt for a variable-rate loan to take advantage of lower interest rates.

Private loans are ineligible for federal repayment programs, such as income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness. However, they can be a useful tool to finance your education if you run out of federal funding.

Financing your education

Going back to school can help you earn more money over the course of your career. If you’re trying to figure out how to get student loans to finance your education, it’s a good idea to consider both your federal and private options.

To save money and reduce the amount you need to borrow, check out some scholarships and grants for adults returning to college.

Need a student loan?

Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
LenderRates (APR)Eligibility 

1 = Citizens Disclaimer.

2 = CollegeAve Autopay Disclaimer: 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.

* 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.

3 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
4.12% – 11.85%*3Undergraduate and GraduateVisit SallieMae
3.69%
12.07%
2
Undergraduate, Graduate, and ParentsVisit CollegeAve
4.07%
12.19%
1
Undergraduate, Graduate, and ParentsVisit Citizens
3.83% – 12.11%Undergraduate and GraduateVisit Ascent
4.63% – 9.71%Undergraduate and GraduateVisit LendKey
3.62%
9.79%
Undergraduate, Graduate, and ParentsVisit CommonBond
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.