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Student Loans

Flight School Loans

Updated Jul 19, 2023   |   8-min read

When you’re interested in attending flight school, one of the first concerns that may come to mind is how you’re going to pay for it. If getting a pilot’s license is a hobby for you, you prefer to pay a certified flight instructor for hours of instruction per month. 

But if it’s a career change, it can make sense to take out a loan to finish your schooling as soon as possible. While the funding options aren’t as plentiful as those for a traditional four-year degree, there are still ways to find financing.

Not all flight schools qualify for federal aid, and not all private lenders offer student loans for flight school. But some do, and we will cover your best options below.

In this guide:

Federal student loans for flight school

Students interested in flight school should maximize their federal loan options before turning to private loans. Federal loans offer more income-driven repayment plans, longer deferment periods, and lower interest rates than private loans.

To qualify for federal student loans, you must attend an accredited flight school, which you can find through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE). You can also contact the school’s financial aid office directly and ask if they qualify for federal aid.

If your school is accredited, the next step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Filling out the FAFSA is required to qualify for all types of federal aid, including student loans, work-study programs, and grants. Depending on your situation, you may have to include financial details about your parents.

Your application will be used to determine if you qualify for need-based aid or not. Even students who aren’t eligible for need-based aid can still receive access to federal student loans.

Students may be able to take out Direct Subsidized Loans or Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Parents of students can borrow with Parent PLUS loans. Here’s how the types of loans differ:

Direct Subsidized Loan

The annual limit for a Direct Subsidized Loan is between $3,500 and $5,500, depending on your year in school. The total limit is $23,000. The interest rate for new loans is currently 4.99%.

With Direct Subsidized Loans, interest will not accrue while you are in school at least half-time and during any deferment periods. If you max out your Direct Subsidized Loans and you still need money, then Direct Unsubsidized Loans may be an option.

Direct Unsubsidized Loan

The annual limit for Direct Unsubsidized Loans is between $5,500 and $7,500 for dependent students and between $9,500 and $12,500 for independent students. The total limit is $31,000 for dependent students and $57,500 for independent students.

If you have Direct Unsubsidized Loans, interest will accrue at all times. The interest rate for new undergraduate loans is currently 4.99% and 7.05% for graduate and professional loans.

Parent PLUS Loan

The annual limit for a Parent PLUS loan is the cost of attendance minus other financial aid. Students are not required to max out their own student loans before their parents can take out a Parent PLUS loan. The interest rate is currently 7.54%.

Private student loans for flight school

Students who have maxed out their federal loans can take out private student loans as well. Students who plan on attending a school that is not accredited, and therefore do not qualify for federal student loans, have this option too.

Private student loan companies will run a credit check. If you have poor credit or no credit history, you may need to add a cosigner to be eligible for a loan. You can also add a cosigner if you want to qualify for a lower interest rate.

A cosigner is usually an adult with good credit and a source of income. The cosigner agrees to accept full responsibility for your student loans if you default or stop making payments.

Your particular flight school may have arrangements with specific private lenders, including banks, credit unions, online lenders and more. The list of lenders who will cover flight school is ever-growing. Read below to learn about some of your options.

College Ave

Editorial Selection: Best Overall

  • $150 cash back when you complete your degree
  • Up to 100% of costs can be covered
  • Choose between 16 different repayment schedules

College Ave offers a Career Loan that can help you cover the cost of flight school. It offers a variety of in-school repayment options, and students can apply in just three minutes. International students are eligible for these loans if they have a cosigner.

Here are some important details about the loan:

  • Fixed APR: 3.22%14.96%
  • Variable APR: 0.94%13.95%
  • Loan amount: $1,000 – 100% of certified costs
  • Repayment terms: 5, 8, 10, or 15 years

Sallie Mae

Editorial Selection: Best for Cosigners

  • Release a cosigner after 12 consecutive, on-time payments
  • Cover up to 100% of your costs

The career loan offered by Sallie Mae can be used to cover flight school and other certificates or professional training programs. Borrowers can pick from a fixed or variable interest rate, and there are no origination fees or prepayment penalties. They also have access to several in-school repayment options.

Here are some important details about the loan:

  • Fixed APR: 3.75%14.08%
  • Variable APR: 2.00%12.83%
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 – 100% of the certified costs
  • Repayment terms: 5 – 15 years

Make sure to think about repayment

Whether you have federal or private student loans, you’ll have to repay them at some point after you graduate. So, before you sign up for a loan, do the math to ensure that you can afford the monthly payments.

If you have federal student loans, you can use the official loan simulator to see how payments will vary depending on your repayment plan. If you have private student loans, you can use the LendEDU calculator to determine your payments.

You should also be aware of when repayment begins. Federal student loans and most private loans have a six-month grace period, during which time payments are not due.

After you graduate, you may be able to refinance your student loans into a lower interest rate, longer term, or both. This could help to lower your payments. If you refinance multiple loans into one, you can simplify repayment as well.

Alternative financing options

There are other ways to pay for flight school beyond taking out student loans. Flight school students may have fewer options than traditional students, but there are still options. Keep reading to learn more about those.

Airline training programs

Some airline training programs have partnered with lenders to offer their own loans. This will depend on the specific flight school you work with. You are not required to use one of their affiliated lenders, so even if you’re considering one, make sure to compare it to other lenders to ensure you get the best rate.


Work-study is a type of need-based aid where students receive a regular paycheck in exchange for working somewhere on-campus or with a school-affiliated organization. To be eligible for work-study, you must complete the FAFSA.

Only students with demonstrated financial need will qualify. Work-study spots are limited, so students should try to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible.

Pell grants

Pell grants are a form of need-based aid. Only students attending flight schools that accept the FAFSA can qualify for a Pell grant. The annual Pell grant amount ranges from $650 to $6,895. Like scholarships, Pell grants do not need to be repaid. You can receive a Pell grant for a maximum of six semesters.

School-sponsored payment plans

Flight schools may let students sign up for a payment plan, which will break up the cost of flight school into several different payments.

There may be a small sign-up fee, but this will usually be much less than the interest you’d pay on a student loan. Contact the financial aid office and ask how to sign up for a payment plan.

Personal loans

A personal loan is an unsecured loan that can be used to pay for various expenses.

Interest rates for personal loans will vary depending on your credit score, income, repayment term, and loan amount. Make sure to shop around for the best rate and terms and verify that you can use the funds for flight school.


Scholarships are one of the best ways to fund your flight school education because you don’t have to repay the money when you graduate. There are many kinds of aviation-focused scholarships that students can apply for, and some airlines even offer their own awards.

Here is a list of some organizations that offer scholarships:

  • AAERO Scholarship
  • AeroClub of New England’s Scholarship Program
  • Airline Dispatchers Federation Scholarships (ADF)
  • Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) Scholarship Program
  • Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA)
  • Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA)
  • Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarships & Awards
  • Astronaut Scholarship Foundation
  • Boeing Scholarships
  • Epic Flight Academy Aviation Scholarship
  • Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Scholarships
  • Federal Aviation Association (FAA)
  • LeRoy W. Homer Jr. Scholarship
  • Michigan Takes Flight Training Scholarship Program
  • National Coalition for Aviation and Space Education (NCASE)
  • University Aviation Association (UAA)
  • Women in Aviation International (WAI)