Ask a Hero: With No Plus Loan for Independent Students, How Can I Pay for College?

 September 25, 2020
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Private Student Loan rates starting at 2.49% APR

2.49% to 13.85% 1

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2.55% to 11.44% 2

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3.25% to 13.59% 3

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  • Variable APR

Note that the government has paused all repayment on federally held student loans through the end of 2022, with no interest to be charged during that period and no loans to be held delinquent or in default.

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Dear Student Loan Hero,

My parents have been taking out PLUS loans to help pay for my college. But my school just told me that now that I’m 24, there’s no PLUS loan for independent students seeking a bachelor’s degree. I was unaware of this, and now I am stuck not knowing how to pay for my senior year. Obviously, getting a loan is my only option, but where do I start or what I should be looking out for?

Dear Student Loan Borrower,

Unfortunately, yes, there’s no such thing as a PLUS loan for independent students pursuing an undergraduate degree.

No, not even Parent PLUS loans for independent students are an option. These PLUS loans are reserved for parents of dependent undergraduates (and graduate students). Any undergrad turning 24 before Dec. 31 of the school year becomes an independent student, at least in the eyes of the Federal Student Aid (FSA) office.

On the bright side, as an independent student with little income, you could qualify for need-based aid, including grants and direct subsidized loans. Grants don’t need to be repaid in most circumstances, and subsidized loans don’t accrue interest while you’re enrolled or enjoying your postgraduate grace period.

Your new dependency status could also qualify you for additional non-need-based aid. The FSA, for example, allows independent upperclassmen to borrow more in direct unsubsidized loans ($12,500) than their dependent peers ($7,500).

To access this pool of aid, start by correcting your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), noting your new independent status this time around. If you’re skeptical that your aid package would change much, test out the FAFSA4caster tool.

Keep in touch with your campus financial aid office, too. You might learn about last-minute aid, such as school-offered scholarships and work-study opportunities.

If you’re still unable to cover your senior year’s cost of attendance, there are always private student loan options. Your parents could take one out for you, or you could ask them to cosign your application. About 91% undergraduate private student loan applications are cosigned, according to data research firm MeasureOne’s June 2020 report.

Keep in mind that private loan interest rates are awarded based on your (cosigner’s) credit. Private loans also don’t include many government-exclusive protections, such as access to income-driven repayment, mandatory forbearance and loan forgiveness programs. Ensure you and your family understand the private loans definition before signing on the dotted line.

So, while PLUS loans for independent students at college aren’t possible, you can find the funding you need with the available options above.

Good luck in life and repayment,
Andrew P.
Student Loan Hero

Read more in the Ask a Hero series.

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