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Thinking of going to school in Georgia? If so, you may need Georgia student loans.
Six out of 10 students who obtain a four-year degree in the state graduate with debt, according to the Institute for College Access & Success, and the average debt balance is $27,657.
Student debt is fairly common, but you should secure grants and scholarships before leaning on student loans. Once you’ve exhausted your options for free money, you can consider borrowing funds for your education.
Check out this guide to federal, private, and state loans for Georgia schools and ways you can refinance or consolidate your existing student debt.
Your guide to finding Georgia student loans
Before you apply for Georgia student loans, exhaust your options for scholarships and grants, which are sources of college funds you don’t have to repay. These resources for finding Georgia scholarships can help you start your search.
GAfutures also provides information on sources of financing for school, including scholarships, grants, and student loans.
GAfutures is run by the Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC), which was originally created to provide loans. It now administers scholarships and grants funded by the state and by the lottery and offers free financial aid counseling. Students also can receive loans through GSFC that may be cancelable through service work.
Federal student loan options
If you need to borrow money after obtaining scholarships and grants, federal student loans usually are your best bet. These loans provide competitive interest rates and can be easy to qualify for. Federal loans also allow you to choose affordable and flexible repayment options. Plus, they provide borrower protections you may not get with private loans.
Your options for federal loans include:
- Direct Subsidized Loans: For undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need, these loans typically are the best option because the government covers interest charges while you’re in school, during your grace period, and during deferment.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: While interest isn’t subsidized on these loans, qualifying is easy for both undergraduate and graduate students. There’s no requirement for you to demonstrate financial need.
- Direct PLUS Loans: Both parents and graduate students can obtain PLUS Loans. Unlike with Direct Loans, however, your credit matters in determining your eligibility. PLUS Loans aren’t always a better deal than private loans, so comparison shopping is important.
To obtain federal student loans, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Georgia student loans
The Georgia Student Finance Authority administers the Student Access Loan Program (SAL). This program offers fixed-rate loans at 1.00% interest to eligible undergraduate students who need help funding their education. Students can obtain financing to attend a private postsecondary institution or a school within the University System of Georgia or within the Technical College System of Georgia.
The loan application and eligibility requirements are available online. However, funds for the 2018-19 academic year are no longer available. Students must submit the FAFSA before being considered for loans through SAL.
Private student loans
Some students need to fill a funding gap left by grants, scholarships, and state and federal student loans. Private student loans may be a good option, and they’re available through banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Loan terms vary among private lenders, so make sure you shop around.
Consider the interest rates, repayment terms, and borrower protections offered by lenders. Keep in mind that private loans won’t qualify for federal borrower protections or income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. You’ll also need good credit or a cosigner with good credit to qualify for private loans.
Refinancing or consolidating Georgia student loans
Graduates who leave school with Georgia student loans may be interested in making repayment easier. Student loan consolidation and refinancing are possible options.
Loan consolidation through the federal government allows you to combine multiple federal loans, including Direct Loans, into one loan. A Direct Consolidation Loan makes repayment simpler because you’ll have only one loan to repay instead of several. It also can give you access to additional IDR plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
A Direct Consolidation Loan won’t reduce your interest rate, however. Your new rate will be the weighted average of the rates on your consolidated loans.
Refinancing isn’t offered by the federal government. Instead, you’ll need to work with a private lender to refinance your student loans. When you refinance, you take out a new loan with different terms to repay your existing education debt. Students should shop carefully to find a lender offering the best rates and terms.
It’s also important to weigh the pros and cons of refinancing before you trade your federal debt for a private loan.
Which Georgia student loans are right for you?
Choosing the right Georgia student loans is important because you don’t want to be burdened with unaffordable debt after graduation. You should, however, prioritize applying for grants and scholarships before turning to student loans.
In many cases, federal student loans are preferable to private debt, thanks to borrower protections and flexible repayment plans offered by the government. Compare loan terms carefully so you get the most affordable loan. It may take time to do the research, but it’s worth it to make a smart investment in your future.
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