Flight School Loans: How to Finance Pilot Training
Flight school financing is possible, although there aren’t as many options as with a four-year degree from a college or university. Through a combination of federal and private flight school loans and personal loans, you can fund it.
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Many students have to borrow money to fund their education, but is that a possibility when your dream career is being a pilot? How do you pay for flight school?
While not all lenders offer flight school loans, you have some options for reaching your goal of flying the skies. This guide will explain how to pay for public or private pilot training and go over some of your top options.
In this guide:
How to pay for flight school
For flight training financing, you’ll take the same steps as other students would when figuring out how to pay for school—your funding and loan options are just more limited. Here is what you’ll do.
Step 1: Ask your school whether it qualifies for federal aid
Most students would first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a form that college students use to apply for financing through the U.S. Department of Education. Federal aid, however, is only available to students attending accredited colleges and universities.
Not many flight training programs qualify for federal aid, because many programs are run through unaccredited trade schools.
Ask your intended school’s financial aid office whether they qualify for federal aid. Someone there will be able to tell you whether they are accredited so you can determine whether it’s worth it to fill out the FAFSA.
Federal financial aid you could qualify for
If the school you are interested in qualifies, fill out the FAFSA to find out the federal aid you could qualify for. Here are some possibilities:
A flight training grant, if available, will be need-based, not earned through grades. Grants are the best type of money to receive, because, unlike loans, you don’t have to repay them.
You may not get a Pell Grant for flight school, but it’s worth applying to see whether you can score some free money.
If you qualify, you may be given a work-study job at your school. The income is used to help pay off your school tuition. These are need-based opportunities that provide financial aid for those who are able to put in the work.
Step 2: Look for private flight school loans
What should you do if you don’t receive any federal aid or too little to foot the bill for pilot training? Many students need to consider private student loans.
Seeking private loans for flight school might be your best bet if you don’t receive enough from federal loans to cover your costs to attend school.
Private loans typically have higher rates and fewer protections than federal loans. If your credit is good, however, you can still get competitive rates, particularly if you have a creditworthy cosigner.
If you want to pursue private loans for flight training, you have three options:
- Directly from a private lender
- Going through your flight school’s financial aid office
- Going through an airline training program
Your options may be limited, but some lenders offer dedicated pilot loan programs or loans for trade schools you can pursue.
In the next section, we’ll review a few options for you to consider when comparing private student loans for your pilot training.
Your school’s financial aid office
Because there are limited other options for student loans for flight school, some schools offer financing programs for potential students. Funding could come directly through the school or through a partnership the school has with a private lender.
Start by asking your school whether it has any financing programs. If it does, don’t get too excited until you compare what it offers with what you could qualify for directly from a private lender. A school’s funding program isn’t always your best deal.
Airline training program
Airlines sometimes offer tuition reimbursement programs or their own training programs.
If you’re lucky and hard-working, you might be able to arrange a financing deal with an airline. If you can, you’ll have a job lined up for after graduation, which will be a huge relief to you while you’re earning your license.
Step 3: Don’t forget about aviation scholarships
Remember when we told you to line up grants for flight school if you could, because that’s free money? That same advice applies to scholarships.
There are many scholarships out there—some aimed specifically toward people seeking their pilot’s license and some general scholarships that could be applied to a number of programs.
Check out our guide to aviation scholarships to see some specific options.
4 lenders offering flight school loans
If you want to pursue a flight school loan, here are some places to look:
1. College Ave
College Ave, our top-rated private student loan lender, doesn’t have a specific loan for flight schools, but it does lend to students who enroll in pilot training programs at eligible schools.
The school and program level would dictate which loan product applies, but it would usually be either the undergraduate, graduate, or career loan.
If your school is eligible for College Ave loans, the lender is a great choice with low rates, flexible repayment, and a fast application process.
Career Loan details:
- Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of cost of attendance
- Loan terms: 5, 8, 10 or 15 years
- APRs: 1.49% to 12.99%
2. Sallie Mae
Sallie Mae’s Career Training Smart Option student loan is specifically for trade certificate courses and professional training at schools that don’t grant traditional degrees.
- Loan amount: $1,000 up to 100% of school-certified expenses
- Loan terms: Not disclosed
- APRs: 4.50% to 13.83%
3. Wells Fargo
The Wells Fargo Student Loan for Career and Community Colleges is aimed at borrowers who are going to a two-year school, non-traditional school, or career-training program.
- Loan amounts: up to $20,000
- Loan terms: Not disclosed
- APRs: 5.00% to 12.45%
4. AOPA Finance
AOPA isn’t a large bank or online lender, but it deals specifically with flight school loans. You’ll need a minimum credit score of 660 to qualify for the AOPA Aviation Finance loan.
- Loan amounts: up to $30,000
- Loan terms: Not disclosed
- APRs: 9.99% to 11.99%
Other loans for flight school
If you don’t qualify for official student loans or flight school financing, you can always turn to a personal loan. Because personal loans can be issued for many reasons, you should be able to find one that works for financing your flight training.
With a good credit score, you should be able to land a competitive interest rate.
Compare our top-rated personal loan lenders to find the best loan for you.
Author: Shannon Serpette