What Future Undergrads Ought To Know About Student Loans And Online Resources

Navigating the student loan process can be a challenge, starting from ground zero. Since the federal government got in the student loan business in 1965, something like 65 million Americans have taken advantage of it. There have been several bills run through Congress over the years, creating a variety of loan programs - for students, vets, returning students, and so forth. The primary government online resource for information on government student aid is http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/fsa/index.html.

For basic information on what is available through federal programs, perhaps the most basic resource is the Department of Education's site entitled "Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid". It is a comprehensive resource on grants, loans, and work-study programs which are the three major forms of aid available through the Department's Federal Student Aid office. This material tells you about the programs and how to apply for them. http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/publications/student_guide/index.html.

In order to qualify for any sort of federal assistance and for most privately underwritten financial support, including that which comes through the school's financial aid office, you're going to need a FAFSA score. This ranking is produced through the process of filling out a FAFSA application and submitting it to the U.S. Department of Education, which returns a valuation that shows how much loan money you will be eligible for and how much your parents are expected to provide in support. So the best place to begin your application process is through the FAFSA site: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. You can make an electronic application from their website.

Apart from the standard federal student loans, there are several campus-based federally financed opportunities for students. Extensive information on work-study and other federal money available through the campus financial aid office can be found at http://www.cbfisap.ed.gov/CBSWebApp/welcome.jsp. It's going to ask you to go through a registration process but it's probably worth your time. Putting together education money is often a process of assembling a number of working parts. For many students, that includes camping outside the campus financial aid office and getting to know the counselors inside. It pays to know what they have to offer. Don't be shy: they expect to see you coming.

There are many online sites that offer a combination of information and loan applications. Many of these sites address issues such as loan consolidation and other debt considerations. One site that is highly informative about the loan process and the programs available and that includes a list of potential private lenders is http://www.edfund.org/edfund/edfundmenu.html. This is a non-profit site that can break down some of the detailed components in the loan process; it helps to be able to sort through the details on a non-governmental site.

To their credit, the Federal Government has recognized that the cost of education and the subsequent debt has overwhelmed millions of graduates. The Department of Education has a loan consolidation program with a variety of payment plans, a lot of flexibility, and the ability to avoid using a commercial lender. They have a website devoted to their services at http://loanconsolidation.ed.gov/. The Department develops a weighted interest rate based on any commercial loans you have outstanding, caps it at 8.25 percent and offers four different payment plans.

There are also a multitude of commercial lenders that offer student consolidation loans, but be careful of artificially low interest rates that can accelerate through an adjustable rate program much like a mortgage. Before you venture into the commercial refinancing arena, see what the Department of Education has to offer.

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