Federal and Private Loans for Oregon College Students

FAFSA and Federal Loans: Your First Step

Federal loans should be your first choice when pursuing college funding. Federal loans are the most affordable option, they don’t require a credit check, and better yet, almost everyone qualifies for some level of aid.

To begin applying, your first step is to complete the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

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Here are some guidelines for completing this step of the process:

  • Check deadlines for the colleges and universities you’re applying to, as well as the official FAFSA deadline. Sometimes these two deadlines are different, so you must be careful to finish your FAFSA before the earliest of the two deadlines.
  • You will also need income and tax information for your immediate household, and possibly your parents’ information, before you begin the process.
  • After you’ve collected your information, visit the FAFSA (fafsa.ed.gov), and follow the detailed instructions.

Here is a brief outline of the federal loans:

  • Stafford loans are the most affordable and most frequently disbursed loan in the country, making them your best-bet when it comes to financial aid. You could qualify for subsidized, unsubsidized or a combination of both. Stafford loans feature a 6-month grace period, flexible repayment plan, and low fixed interest rate.
  • Grad PLUS Loans are designed for graduate students that have reached the lifetime borrowing limit on their Stafford loans, but still need aid to make it through graduate studies. These are especially useful for some programs, like med and law school, which are financially intensive.
  • Parent PLUS Loans give parents of undergrads a bit more affordable financial leverage than a traditional home equity line of credit or second mortgage. These are the only loans that require a credit check, but they feature lower fees and interest rates.

Find out more about federal student loans.

Federal loans and other federal financial aid options should be exhausted before pursuing any other types of loans.

Other loans should be a second choice because most often, your other options will be private loans, which are made directly from banks. These private loans are less affordable, and the higher interest rates generally make them a risky proposition. Private loans also are credit-based, and many students will require a co-signor because they don’t have the stellar credit score these loans require.