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Student Loans

Flight School Loans

When you’re interested in attending flight school, one of the first concerns that may come to mind is how you’ll pay for it. Below, we’ll explore the ways you can fund your education, including federal student loans, private student loans, and alternative financing options. 

Does the FAFSA cover flight school? 

Yes, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) covers flight school if the institution is accredited. Maximizing your federal loan options before you turn to private loans is in your best interest because federal loans offer benefits, including more income-driven repayment plans, longer deferment periods, and lower interest rates.

To qualify for federal student loans, you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA. As long as you pick an accredited flight school, the FAFSA may open the doors for various types of federal aid, including student loans, work-study programs, and grants. 

Depending on your situation, you may need to include financial details about your parents or guardians, such as their current account balances, tax details, and net worth. Because federal aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, you should begin the FAFSA process right after you decide you want to pilot an aircraft for a living. If you delay the FAFSA, you may miss out on money for flight school.

Federal student loans for flight school

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.

Type of federal loanWho is it for?Annual limits
Direct Subsidized LoanFlight school students with financial need$3,500 – $5,500, depending on year in school
Direct Unsubsidized LoanFlight school students, regardless of financial need$5,500 – $12,500, depending on year in school and dependency status 
Parent PLUS LoanParents who wish to pay for their child’s flight schoolCost of attendance minus other financial aid

Direct Subsidized Loan

The annual limit for a Direct Subsidized Loan is between $3,500 and $5,500, depending on your year in flight school. The total limit is $23,000. The interest rate for new loans is 5.50%.

With Direct Subsidized Loans, interest will not accrue while you are in flight school at least half-time and during any deferment periods. If you max out your Direct Subsidized Loans and you still need money for your flight education, 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 flight school 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 5.50%, and it’s 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. Flight school 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 8.05%.

2 best loans for flight school from private lenders

Students who have maxed out their federal loans can take out private student loans to pay for flight school. 

Your flight school may have arrangements with specific private lenders, including banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Read below to learn about two of your options.

Private lenderInterest rates (APR)Loan amounts
College Ave4.07%16.69%$1,000 – 100% of certified flight school costs
Sallie Mae4.50%16.78%
$1,000 – 100% of the certified flight school costs

College Ave: Best overall

LendEDU rating: 5.0 out of 5

  • $150 cash back when you complete your degree
  • Get up to 100% of flight school costs covered
  • 4 in-school repayment options

College Ave offers a Career Loan to 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.

You can choose from a fixed or variable interest rate. Repayment term options are five, eight, 10, or 15 years. You may be able to borrow up to 100% of your certified flight school expenses with College Ave. 

Sallie Mae: Best for cosigners

LendEDU rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • Quick 10-minute application process
  • Release a cosigner after 12 consecutive, on-time payments 
  • Cover up to 100% of your flight school costs

You can use the Sallie Mae Career Training Smart Option Student Loan to cover flight school and other certificates or professional training programs. 

Choose a fixed or variable rate, and pay no origination fees or prepayment penalties. You can also select a repayment term of five to 15 years and one of several in-school repayment options.

How to repay loans for flight training

Before you sign up for a loan, do the math to ensure you’ll be able to afford the monthly payments when you finish flight school.

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.

Let’s say you take out a $35,000 private student loan to pay for flight school. It has a fixed 6.8% interest rate and a 10-year repayment term. In this scenario, you’ll pay $403 per month and $13,334 in interest charges for a total cost of borrowing of $48,334.

Make sure you’re 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.

Our expert’s advice

Crystal Rau


Flight school can become rather expensive and exceed the federal borrowing limits, which means considering private funding. Even with an airline-sponsored program, many aspiring pilots still take out over $100,000 in student loans. Before taking out a loan, consider your average salary when you finish flight school. If you expect to make $120,000 out the gate, you don’t want to take on more than $120,000 in student loans. During flight school, finding ways to lower your living expenses is the name of the game. Find roommates, cook at home, and live as close as you can to school. And once you secure your first full-time job, continue living frugally to ensure you can tackle your student loans.

Alternative financing options

Flight school students may have fewer options than traditional students, but several options exist—and some don’t require repayment. It’s wise to start with those you won’t need to repay.

OptionMust be repaid?
Airline training programs☑️
Pell Grants
School-sponsored payment plans☑️
Personal loans☑️

Airline training programs

Some airline training programs, such as Airline Transport Pilot (ATP), have partnered with lenders to offer their own loans. You are not required to use one of its affiliated lenders, so even if you’re considering one, make sure to compare it to other lenders to ensure you get the best rate.


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

Pell Grants

Pell Grants are a form of need-based aid you don’t need to repay. Only students attending flight schools that accept the FAFSA can qualify for a Pell Grant, which ranges from $650 to $7,395 annually. 

School-sponsored payment plans

Flight schools, including Hillsboro Aero Academy and AeroGuard, may let students sign up for a payment plan, which will break up the cost of flight school into several payments. A small signup fee might apply, but it’s often much less than the interest you’d pay on a student loan. 

Personal loans

A personal loan is an unsecured loan you can use to pay for various expenses. Interest rates for personal loans 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 need to repay the money when you graduate. Many kinds of aviation-focused scholarships are available, and some airlines even offer their own awards.

Here’s a list of organizations that offer scholarships:

Recap: Best private loans for flight school

Private lenderInterest rates (APR)
College Ave4.07%16.69%
Sallie Mae4.50%16.78%