Utah has less student loan debt than any other state in the U.S., according to the Institute for College Access & Success. Only 43% of Class of 2016 graduates had student debt, and they had an average balance of $19,975, compared with the national average student loan balance of $37,172.
Utah students can thank low tuition costs for the lighter debt burden — keep reading for those details — but more than 4 in 10 Utahns need student loans to help cover their costs.
If you want to get the best rates and terms on your Utah student loans, it’s critical that you understand your options and how to compare them.
Utah student loans explained
Like residents of other states, Utah students have access to both federal and private student loans. But depending on where you attend school, you might also have access to loans directly from the university.
Short-term university loans
Both Brigham Young University (BYU) and the University of Utah offer short-term tuition loans for the amount of the upcoming semester’s tuition. Since these loans typically require repayment within one or two months, they’re a good option if you don’t have the money to pay for tuition now but expect to have it soon.
Here are some terms to know before you apply.
BYU short-term loan:
- You’ll pay a $20 upfront processing fee.
- The university will place a hold on your account that prevents you from registering for future semesters and terms. It will release the hold when you pay off your loan.
- You’ll pay interest on the loan if you don’t pay it off by the due date.
Utah short-term book and tuition loans:
- You’ll pay a $15 upfront processing fee.
- You must have good credit.
- Your cumulative grade point average must be at least 2.0.
- You can’t have any holds from the financial aid office.
- You must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen.
- You must be attending at least half time.
Federal student loans
For undergraduates, it makes sense to apply for federal student loans first. Not only do they offer low interest rates, but you also might qualify for Direct Subsidized Loans and get help from the Department of Education with your interest while you’re in school.
Here are your options as of March 2018:
|Loan Type||Designed For||Requires a Credit Check?||Interest Rates||Loan Fees|
|Direct Subsidized Loans||Undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need||No||4.45%||1.066%|
|Direct Unsubsidized Loans||Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students||No||4.45% for undergraduate students and 6.00% for graduate and professional students||1.066%|
|Direct PLUS Loans||Graduate and professional students and parents of undergraduate students||Yes||7.00%||4.264%|
Private student loans
If federal loans aren’t enough to cover your cost of attendance, private student loans might be worth considering.
The catch is that private student loans require a credit check. So, if you have no credit history or bad credit, you might need to ask a cosigner to help you get approved. Also, private lenders typically don’t offer income-driven repayment plans or student loan forgiveness.
That said, the best private student loan companies offer competitive interest rates and terms. Here are just a few examples:
|Student Loan Company||Variable Interest Rates||Fixed Interest Rates||Origination Fees|
|LendKey||4.53% to 9.61%||5.36% to 9.69%||None|
|Citizens Bank||3.80% to 11.90%||5.25% to 11.99%||None|
|College Ave||3.54% to 10.81%||5.31% to 12.07%||None|
Compare these and other private student loans to determine if they’re the right choice for you.
Refinancing Utah student loans
If you’ve already graduated from college, it might be worth seeing if you can get a lower interest rate on your Utah student loans. Student loan refinancing companies typically offer both variable and fixed interest rates and can offer different repayment terms to give you some extra flexibility.
You can refinance both undergraduate and graduate student loans, usually at the same rates. But like private in-school student loans, these refinancing loans typically don’t offer access to income-driven repayment plans or student loan forgiveness.
Here are a few student loan refinancing companies and some of the rates and terms they offer:
|Student Loan Company||Variable Interest Rates||Fixed Interest Rates||Minimum Loan Balance||Origination Fees|
|CommonBond||2.54% to 6.65%||3.20% to 6.65%||$5,000||None|
|Earnest||2.57% to 5.87%||3.25% to 6.32%||$5,000||None|
|SoFi||2.56% to 7.40%||3.25% to 7.13%||$5,000||None|
Be sure to shop around and compare several private student loan companies to find the one that works best for your needs.
3 ways to limit your Utah student loans
When I graduated from BYU in 2012, I had just $9,133 in student loan debt. While it was more than I wanted, my efforts to curb my dependence on student loans were mostly successful. Here are a few things I did to keep my Utah student loans to a minimum.
1. I stayed in the state for college
One of the best ways to limit your student loan debt is to attend an inexpensive college. The good news is every major college in the state of Utah has below-average tuition:
Keep in mind, though, that these numbers don’t represent the full cost of attendance, which can also include expenses such as books and supplies, equipment, rent, groceries, transportation, and other related costs.
2. I applied for scholarships and grants
If you’re an incoming freshman, an academic scholarship can go a long way, especially if it’s for multiple years. But don’t give up if you didn’t receive one.
When I transferred from the University of Utah to BYU after my freshman year, I qualified for a two-year, half-tuition academic scholarship. But after two years of good grades, the university upped its offer to a one-year, full-tuition academic scholarship.
Additionally, I found organizations and companies that offer scholarships and applied for as many as I could, getting a few small awards. Then, when I married my wife, we were eligible to apply for Pell Grants.
The point is there are countless opportunities to get free money to help pay for college. Do your research and apply for as many as you can, including the Student Loan Hero $5K Scholarship.
3. I got a full-time job
Getting a job can help you pay for a lot of the living expenses Utah student loans might not cover. And if you have a car, you can look for an off-campus job that might pay better.
For example, I found a job about 10 miles away that paid $10 an hour. Over the next few years, that rate went up to $14 an hour, and I was working full time while going to school full time.
Of course, I wouldn’t recommend that kind of schedule to someone who wants to have a social life. But the income helped me eliminate my need for student loans until I married my wife and switched to part time.
Even a part-time job can help cover costs, so schedule your classes in a way that allows you to work at least a couple of hours a day.
Responsible student loan use can save you in the long run
Don’t get caught up in the ease of getting student loans; sooner or later, you’ll have to start making payments. To reduce how much you’ll owe and the interest you’ll pay over the life of your loans, apply for loans with low interest rates and find ways to limit how much you need to borrow while you’re in school.
If you do so, you’ll be in a much better financial position when you graduate and can help Utah remain the leader in low student loan debt.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Rates (APR)||Eligible Degrees|
|Get real rates from up to 4 Lenders at once
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
|2.56% - 7.40%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit SoFi|
|2.57% - 6.32%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
|2.58% - 8.12%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Lendkey|
|2.80% - 7.02%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.54% - 6.65%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit CommonBond|
|2.90% - 8.34%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|