There’s a lot of information out there about how to pay for college. But if you’re looking to pursue a career in aviation, you might be feeling a bit lost.
Just because you want to become a pilot and not a professor doesn’t mean it costs any less. In fact, studying to be a commercial pilot could easily run $70,000 for one year. That’s compared to the average cost of a four-year private university, which sits at $33,480 a year.
Don’t worry though; you still have options. Here’s everything you need to know about student loans for flight school.
How to get student loans for flight school
Like college, aviation school is expensive, and it’s unlikely you have the savings or income to pay for it in full. That means you’ll likely have to rely on loans. But getting student loans for flight school is a bit different from securing them with your traditional university. Here’s what you need to know.
Federal student loans for flight school
When applying to college, the first thing you’re told to do is fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, that’s not always the case when it comes to flight school.
Filling out the FAFSA unlocks federal financial aid, which is only available to accredited colleges. Unfortunately, most flight schools and training programs don’t fall under this accreditation. But some, such as the National Aviation Academy, do qualify.
It’s best to ask schools you’re considering if they accept federal financial aid. Here’s what types of federal student loans for flight school you could receive:
Direct Subsidized Loan: This type of loan is available to students who prove they have financial need. You can borrow up to a certain amount as determined by your school. The Department of Education pays the interest on subsidized loans while you’re in school, during deferment, and for the first six months after you leave.
Direct Unsubsidized Loan: Your school will decide how much you can borrow, but you don’t need to show financial need. You’re responsible for paying all interest, and the interest will accrue while you’re in school.
Direct PLUS Loan: This type of loan is available to parents of aviation school students. They can borrow up to the cost of tuition minus any financial aid. However, they’ll need to submit to a credit check to qualify.
In addition to possibly getting federal student loans for flight school, filling out the FAFSA could also unlock the Federal Pell Grant. Since this is not a loan, it doesn’t need to be paid back. You just need to demonstrate financial need to qualify. The maximum award amount is $5,920.
Private student loans for flight school
Many flight schools are ineligible for federal loans. But even if you can get them, they might not cover your full cost of attendance. In these cases, you might need to consider private student loans to fund your education. But there are a few important things to know before applying:
1. Not all private lenders offer flight school loans
It’s important to note that not all private lenders will issue a loan for flight school, as it’s considered a trade school. But you still have options. Some companies, such as Wells Fargo, have specific loan programs geared toward those in trade school programs, including aviation school.
2. Private loans differ from federal loans
Federal student loans are issued by the government, whereas private student loans are offered through lenders and other financial institutions. For private loans, the eligibility requirements, interest rates, and repayment terms are determined by the lender. Be sure to shop around to find the best private student loan rates.
3. Pros and cons of private student loans
Private student loans can help you cover any funding gaps. They can have higher borrowing limits and lower interest rates than federal loans.
But since eligibility for a private student loan is dependent on your credit history, you might not be able to get one if you have a low credit score. Likewise, a low credit score could mean you’ll pay a much higher interest rate compared to a federal loan.
Also, you might have to start making payments on your loan while still in school, which can be hard if you don’t have an income yet. Be sure to know all the terms before taking out a private loan.
Other ways to pay for flight school
In addition to your federal options and private student loans, you still have ways to fund your aviation training. Make sure to consider some of these:
Talk to your school
Many nationally recognized flight schools have financing options available as part of their program. Talk with them when applying to see how they can help you fund your education.
For example, top commercial pilot school Airline Transport Professionals (ATP) works with companies to provide loans to enrolled students. Meanwhile, students enrolled in the Aviator College of Aeronautical Science and Technology are eligible for federal financial aid as well as student loans through PNC, Suncoast Credit Union, and College Ave.
Pilot training financing
In addition to student loans for flight school, you can find financing specifically for aviation training.
AOPA Aviation Finance, for example, offers multi-rating (private and instrument) financing for as little as $50 per month for 84 months, depending on your credit score and how much you borrow.
American Airlines Federal Credit Union is available to Air Transportation Industry employees for loans up to $40,000. WE Florida Financial has the We Fly program where it will provide a fixed-rate line of credit for up to $30,000.
Scholarships and grants
There are scholarships and grants available to aviation school trainees. Take a look at FlightScholarship.info to find funding opportunities. You can also check AOPA’s recommendations and the National Air Transportation Association.
Don’t forget to seek out nonaviation scholarships that reward you for your background, interests, and community service.
Airline training programs
Some airlines have training programs you might want to consider. You could land a job and reduce the cost of flight school.
JetBlue, for example, launched its four-year Gateway Select program. While it costs $125,000, accepted students are:
- Provided with all required commercial flight training
- Guaranteed a job upon completion
- Paid as flight instructors
PSA Airlines has a Cadet Program that offers tuition reimbursement. It’ll pay for ATP-CTP courses and will expedite the interview process with American Airlines.
If there’s a particular airline you’re interested in working for, check to see what training programs are available.
Paying for flight school is possible
Don’t let the high price tag of training deter you from pursuing your dreams. There are plenty of options available to aspiring air captains, from federal aid and scholarships to private student loans for flight school. Look into all your options to see which combination works best for your budget.
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