From pure maple syrup to Cabot cheese, Ben & Jerry’s to craft breweries, and hiking trails to skiing slopes in the Green Mountains, there’s so much to love about Vermont. But you won’t get to fully enjoy all its delicious and outdoorsy offerings if student loan debt is dragging you down.
Before heading to campus at Middlebury College, the University of Vermont, or another college in the Green Mountain State, take time to compare your options for student loans. By exploring your choices thoroughly, you can avoid taking on a burdensome amount of debt.
And if you already have student loans from college or graduate school, you might refinance them for a lower rate. Whether you’re a new student or already graduated, read on to learn about borrowing or refinancing student loans in Vermont.
|Vermont student debt: At a glance|
|Average debt at graduation||$28,662|
|Percent of students that graduate with debt||63|
|National ranking for amount of debt||26|
|National average debt at graduation (Class of 2017)||$39,400|
|Info current as of 2015-16 school year, except when noted
Source: The Institute for College Access & Success
How to get Vermont loans
If you’re looking for student loans in Vermont, you have three main options: federal, state, or private loans. Here’s what you need to know about each type.
Federal and Vermont student loans
Before going into debt to pay for college, apply to as many scholarships and grants as you can. Once you’ve exhausted this gift aid, consider taking out a federal or Vermont student loan.
Any student in an eligible school can borrow Direct Loans from Federal Student Aid. These come with an interest rate of 5.05% for undergraduates, and you can defer repayment while you’re in school and for six months after you graduate.
Once you start repayment, you’ll go on the standard 10-year repayment plan. If your bills are too high, you could adjust them with an income-driven plan or graduated student loan repayment plan. Plus, you have options for deferment or forbearance in the case of financial hardship.
Because of their low rates and flexible repayment plans, federal student loans tend to be better options than private student loans. But they don’t always cover the full cost of college since you can only take out a certain amount in federal student loans each year.
If you’ve maxed out your borrowing limit, your parents could consider borrowing a federal Parent PLUS Loan, which comes with a 7.60% interest rate. Or you or your parents could explore Vermont student loans from Vermont Student Assistance Corp. (VSAC).
VSAC was created by the Vermont Legislature in 1965 as a public nonprofit to promote access to higher education. It provides student loans for undergraduates, graduate students, and parents.
The Vermont Student Advantage Loan has APRs from 5.90% to 7.78% as of Sept. 7, 2018, depending on when you start repayment. You can borrow from $500 up to the cost of attendance of your school and will need a creditworthy cosigner to qualify.
The Vermont Parent Advantage Loan has APRs from 5.90% to 8.11% as of Sept. 7, 2018, and repayment terms of 10 or 15 years. The parent must pass a credit check to qualify. If your parent could get a 5.90% rate, this Vermont loan could be an even better option than the Parent PLUS Loan. Note that VSAC’s Vermont student loans are available to Vermont residents and nonresidents attending college in Vermont.
Finally, you could check with your Vermont college to see if it has a student loan program. The University of Vermont, for instance, funds loans for undergraduates that come with a relatively low interest rate of 5.00% and a nine-month grace period. This loan has even better terms than federal loans, though it wouldn’t be eligible for federal student loan repayment plans.
If you’ve exhausted your federal student loan eligibility, check with VSAC or your Vermont college for additional borrowing options.
Private student loans
After federal and VSAC student loans, you might have all the funds you need to pay for college. But if you’re still looking for extra money, you could consider taking out private student loans from a bank, credit union, or online lender.
Like VSAC, private lenders have credit requirements, so you’ll likely have to apply with a cosigner to qualify. Your interest rate will depend on you or your cosigner’s creditworthiness, as well as the repayment term you choose.
Typically, you can choose a fixed or variable rate and repayment terms between five and 15 years. Choose your student loan repayment term carefully, since private student loans aren’t eligible for federal income-driven repayment plans.
Some lenders will work with you if you lose your job or otherwise run into financial hardship, but you won’t have the same protections as you would with federal student loans. Nor will your private student loans be eligible for federal forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness or Teacher Loan Forgiveness (you might still qualify for certain student loan repayment assistance programs).
Before you borrow a private student loan, make sure you’ve thought through the details of repayment. For instance, you can estimate your future bills and interest accrual with our student loan payment calculator.
Once you understand the costs of borrowing, you can choose a lender. Here are some options for finding private student loans in Vermont:
- Vermont Federal Credit Union
- Finances a student line of credit up to $50,000
- Offers a variable interest rate of 6.00% and fixed rate between 6.75% and 7.00% as of Sept. 7, 2018
- Offers membership to those who live, work, worship, or go to school in Chittenden, Grand Isle, Franklin, Lamoille, Washington or Addison counties, as well as those related to a current member
- NorthCountry Federal Credit Union
- Finances a student line of credit starting at $1,000
- Has variable rates between 6.00% and 8.50% as of Sept. 7, 2018
- Heritage Family Credit Union
- Partners with Sallie Mae to provide the Smart Option Student Loan
- Offers variable rates between 4.50% and 11.35% and fixed rates between 5.74% and 11.85%
- Members Advantage Community Credit Union
- Provides a student line of credit starting at $1,000
- Offers variable rates between 6.25% and 9.25% and fixed rates between 7.50% and 10.75% as of Sept. 7, 2018
- Citizens Bank
- Lends a maximum of $100,000 for your undergraduate degree (and higher amounts for a graduate degree)
- Offers variable rates between 4.45% and 12.32% and fixed rates between 5.25% and 12.09%
- Finances loans starting at $1,000 and up to your school’s cost of attendance
- Offers terms of five, eight, 10, or 15 years
- Offers variable rates between 3.99% and 11.32% and fixed rates between 4.74% and 12.78%
- Offers student loan repayment terms of five, 10, or 15 years
- Offers 1% cash-back award when you graduate if you meet certain terms and conditions
- Offers variable rates between 4.23% and 13.23% and fixed rates between 5.08% and 14.16%
Each private lender sets its own rates, so make sure to shop around for a student loan with the best terms.
How to refinance Vermont loans
The average Vermont student graduated college owing $28,662. If you left school with loans, you’re probably thinking about how to get rid of them ASAP. One strategy for conquering debt is to
refinance your student loans.
When you refinance student loans, you can qualify for a lower interest rate than your current one. You can also restructure your debt by choosing a longer or shorter term. A longer term could mean lower monthly bills, while a shorter one will save you money on interest and get you out of debt faster.
Refinancing could also involve consolidating multiple loans, whether federal or private, into one. Instead of tracking several payments and due dates, you’ll only have to pay a single bill each month. Note that refinancing is different than Direct Loan Consolidation, which only consolidates federal loans and doesn’t result in a lower interest rate.
Along with its benefits, though, refinancing student loans could come with downsides. For one, you might not qualify for low rates if you or your cosigner don’t have strong credit or a steady income.
And second, if you refinance federal student loans into a private one, you lose eligibility for federal programs. In effect, you’ll no longer be able to apply for income-driven plans or qualify for federal forgiveness programs.
This loss might not matter if your goal is to pay off your student loans ahead of schedule. But if you’re struggling to pay your bills, you might want to think twice before you refinance student loans with a private lender.
If you’ve thought through the pros and cons of student loan refinancing and decided it’s the right move for your finances, consider these providers for refinancing student loans in Vermont.
- Vermont Federal Credit Union
- Refinances up to $50,000 in private or federal student loans
- Offers repayment terms of five, 10, or 15 years if you choose a variable rate, and five or 10 years if you go with a fixed rate
- Has rates between 6.00% and 7.75% as of Sept. 7, 2018
- NorthCountry Federal Credit Union
- Refinances federal or private student loans between $5,000 and $100,000
- Offers a 15-year repayment term and variable rates between 7.35% and 11.25% as of Sept. 7, 2018
- Refinances student loans between $5,000 and $500,000
- Offers variable rates between 2.49% and 7.27% and fixed rates between 3.50% and 7.89%
- Refinances student loans starting at $5,000
- Offers variable rates between 2.49% and 6.65% and fixed rates between 3.89% and 8.07%
- Citizens Bank
- Refinances student loans starting at $10,000
- Offers student loan repayment terms of five, 10, 15, or 20 years
- Offers variable rates between 2.98% and 9.72% and fixed rates between 3.89% and 9.99%
As with borrowing a private student loan, make sure to get offers from multiple lenders before you refinance. By comparing offers, you can find one that will save you the most amount of money on your student debt.
Finding the best student loans in Vermont
Vermont is home to some picture-perfect New England college campuses, but you might have to take out student loans to earn your degree at one. According to The Institute for College Access and Success, 63% of Vermont students left school with student debt.
As long as you’re strategic about borrowing, that debt doesn’t have to be a burden. Research your options before you borrow, and take time to estimate your future monthly payments and interest accrual.
By crunching the numbers now, you’ll be better prepared to handle your bills when repayment kicks in. After a few years, you might even be able to refinance your student loans for a lower rate and get out of debt ahead of schedule.