How to Get Student Loans for Acting School

 May 6, 2020
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student loans for acting school

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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

If you’re pursuing a degree in acting, theater or drama, you may very likely need student loans to pay for acting school — especially if you choose an elite program.

For instance, tuition and fees at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts was $58,552 for the 2019-20 school year — not including room and board. At The Juilliard School, the cost of tuition, course materials, and room and board in a shared room was $68,968 for the 2019-20 school year.

Those numbers may give you sticker shock, but there are several different types of student loans for acting school — and grants and scholarships may also be an option. Here’s what to consider:

Student loans for acting school with accreditation

Most of the top acting schools are accredited, which means you have two main options for student loans: federal and private. Here’s the rundown on each…

Federal student loans

Federal student loans, which are from the U.S. the Department of Education, are generally the best option if you need to borrow money to pay for acting school. To apply, you must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is known as the FAFSA. (The FAFSA is also necessary in order to apply for government grants and many college scholarships.) There are three types of federal student loans you might be offered:

  • Direct subsidized loans: These loans are only for undergraduate students who have a financial need (as determined by the information you report on the FAFSA). For 2019-20, the interest rate on direct subsidized loans is 4.53%. The maximum amount you can borrow ranges from $3,500 to $5,500 per year, depending on which year of school you’re in.
  • Direct unsubsidized loans: Any undergraduate or graduate student can take out these loans — regardless of your financial need. For the 2019-20 school year, the interest rate is 4.53% for undergraduates and 6.08% for graduate students. The maximum amount you can borrow per year is $20,500 for graduate students. For dependent undergraduate students, the annual borrowing limit ranges from $5,500 to $7,500, depending on the year of school you’re in.
  • Direct PLUS loans: These loans are only for graduate students or parents of undergraduate students. For the 2019-20 school year, the interest rate is 7.08%. Unlike with direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, there are no borrowing limits for PLUS loans, other than your school’s cost of attendance minus other financial aid you’ve received.

Federal loans are eligible for certain protections that private student loans aren’t. These protections include:

  • Income-driven repayment plans, which cap your monthly payments at 10%, 15% or 20% percent of your income and offer potential forgiveness after 20 or 25 years.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which offers to erase your loan balance after you make 120 qualifying monthly payments while working for the government or a qualifying nonprofit.
  • Deferment and forbearance, which allow you to temporarily pause payments (and with subsidized loans, deferments are interest-free). Some private lenders also offer deferment and forbearance.

Private student loans

Only consider private student loans if you’ve hit the borrowing limits on federal student loans and you still need more money to pay for acting school — or if your acting school doesn’t qualify for federal student loans (more on that below). With private loans, you can generally borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance minus other financial aid.

Unlike federal student loans, private loans come from banks, credit unions and online lenders. In order to qualify, you’ll need good credit (or a creditworthy cosigner). The better your credit, the lower the interest rate you’ll likely qualify for. Compare private student loans to see which lender offers you your best rate.

Student loans for unaccredited acting schools

If you’re attending an acting school that’s not accredited, you’re only eligible for private student loans — not federal ones. To check if you’re eligible for federal student loans, look up your school or program in the Department of Education’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

However, just because a program is accredited, that doesn’t mean it’s endorsed by the Department of Education. Before choosing a program, it’s a good idea to do your own due diligence. Search for schools using the department’s College Scorecard and look at statistics including the graduation rate, as well as the typical student loan debt and earnings among graduates.

Acting school scholarships and grants

While student loans for acting school may be necessary, you can reduce the amount you need to borrow by getting as many scholarships and grants as possible. However, grants for drama school are often aimed at middle and high school theater programs, so acting school scholarships may be your best bet. Options include:

How to pay for acting school

Between public and private colleges across the country, there are many acting school options ranging from summer training programs to four-year degrees. As you research schools, pay attention to the type of acting each program specializes in — whether that’s stage performance or on-screen acting — as well as the price tag.

At the same time, keep looking for scholarships and grants to help pay your way. For whatever loans you do take out, have a gameplan in mind for repaying them. But don’t worry too much — many famous actors and other celebrities have come through student loan struggles of their own, so there’s no reason why you can’t too.

Kat Tretina contributed to this report.

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