Stafford loans have a low fixed interest rate, have flexible income-based repayment options, and are based on need
rather than credit. These federal loans are used primarily for tuition, books and on campus housing, whereas private
student loans can also be put toward supplies, off campus housing, transportation and even laptops for schoolwork.
With a subsidized federal Stafford loan, interest does not accrue while you are attending school or during the post-graduation grace period, but there is a maximum amount a student can borrow. Interest does accrue on an unsubsidized Stafford loan, but the interest payments can also be deferred. To qualify for a subsidized Stafford loan, one must show a significant amount of financial need.
The Federal PLUS Loan is borrowed by a parent on behalf of a child in order to contribute to tuition and school related
expenses. The student must be enrolled at least half-time, and the parent must have moderately good credit. PLUS
loans have some of the lowest interest rates available and allow parents to borrow up to the total cost of attendance.
PLUS loans, along with private student loans, can help fill the gap after Stafford loans and scholarships. The primary benefit is that families can borrow federally guaranteed, low interest loans to help pay for their child's education, without needing to worry about collateral, need-based forms, or FAFSA preparation time.
The cost of attending graduate school has increased nearly 35% in the last 10 years. As a result, graduate student
financial aid has become increasingly important. Though still based on financial need, federal Graduate Stafford loan limits
are much higher than undergraduate Stafford loan limits.
Graduate students can also apply for PLUS Loans to help pay for the total cost of education minus any aid already awarded. Similar to the Parent PLUS Loan, the graduate student would need to have a good credit history with minor adversities.
The Perkins Loan is a low-interest federal student loan for undergraduate and graduate students. In the case of Perkins
Loans, the college acts as the lender, drawing funds from a small pool of money provided by the federal government.
Perkins Loans are awarded based on exceptional financial need.
Find student loan tips in our expert advice articles.