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If you’re like many students, a four-year degree may not fit with your professional and educational goals. Community college gives you a chance to receive the training you need and often comes with less student debt.
For other students, community college offers an affordable step between high school and college. It allows you to complete your preliminary studies before you transfer to a four-year college, which can be expensive.
If scholarships and grants don’t cover your expenses, you can use community college student loans to cover the rest.
On this page:
- Federal Student Loans for Community College
- Private Student Loans for Community College
- Other Options to Pay for Community College
Federal Student Loans for Community College
Even if you are attending a community college instead of a four-year college, you can still get financial help beyond scholarships and grants from the federal government. Fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) paperwork and send it in.
Colleges use FAFSA in order to determine what level of financial aid you may receive. Once you submit your FAFSA, a Student Aid Report will be issued, and you can start applying for financial aid, and this includes loans.
Federal student loans are the easiest student loans to obtain and are typically the best option for students. The Direct Loan program gives loans with low interest rates to students at any stage of college. These loans have low fixed interest rates, a variety of repayment plans, and other benefits like student loan forgiveness.
Here is a brief overview of the federal loans you can use for community college:
- Direct Unsubsidized Loan. This loan is granted to undergraduate and graduate students and isn’t dependent on financial need. You can borrow up to the federal limits at a fixed rate of 4.53%. You are responsible for paying the interest during periods of deferment.
- Direct Subsidized Loan. This loan is exactly like the unsubsidized loan but the government pays the interest during periods of deferment. You must demonstrate financial need to be eligible and attend school half-time or more at an accredited community college.
- Direct Parent PLUS Loan. This is a parent loan designed for parents of students. Parent PLUS Loans allow your parent to borrow in his or her own name to help pay for your education.
Private Student Loans for Community College
If you are not eligible for federal student loans or hit the max loan limits, you can still use private student loans to pay for community college.
Most private lenders focus on students who attend four-year schools, but more are starting to offer student loans for those who attend community colleges, as well.
Private student loan eligibility is typically based mostly on your credit score, so you may need a cosigner to help you qualify if you haven’t built up a good credit history. There are, however, student loans available without a cosigner, you just may have to pay higher rates.
>> Read more: What Is a Private Student Loan?
Private loans typically have higher interest rates and less favorable repayment plans than federal student loans, though many lenders have started to offer more flexible repayment options and better benefits. In addition, most private loans don’t have origination fees like federal loans do.
Here are some private student loan options to pay for community college.
1.49% – 12.99%
$1,000 – 100% of school-certified cost of attendance
5, 8, 10, or 15 years
College Ave, our top-rated private student loan partner, offers private student loans for eligible community colleges.
You can borrow up to the total cost of attendance and choose from a variety of repayment terms to make your monthly payment fit your budget.
- Variables rates: 1.49% – 11.98%
- Fixed rates: 4.39% – 12.99%
- Rate reduction: 0.25% automatic payment discount
- Fees: Late payment fee of 5% of the unpaid amount or $25, whichever is less
- Cosigner release: After 24 on-time payments
- In-school repayment: Full principal & interest, interest-only, flat $25, or deferred payment
- Grace period: 6 months, but can apply for up to 6 more months
1.54% – 12.04%
$1,000 – $150,000
5, 10, or 15 years
Citizens Bank is another good private student loan option for community college with low interest rates and many discounts available. You can get up to a 0.50% total rate reduction for setting up automatic payments and having a bank account with Citizens.
- Variables rates: 1.54% – 9.65%
- Fixed rates: 4.72% – 12.04%
- Rate reduction: 0.25% automatic payment discount and 0.25% loyalty discount
- Fees: Late payment fee of 5% of the unpaid amount
- Cosigner release: After 36 on-time payments
- In-school repayment: Principal & interest, interest-only, or deferred payment
- Grace period: 6 months
Why Seek Student Loans for Community College?
You can save money when you choose to attend community college instead of or before a conventional four-year college. The average tuition costs at community colleges are much lower than at universities with four-year programs. This is another reason why many young students are choosing community colleges. You can save a staggering amount of money.
Even with the savings you attain when you attend a community college, you may still need some type of financial aid to assist in helping you pay for your tuition.
Scholarships and grants will provide assistance for your schooling, but they may not cover all of your community college costs. Educational debt for community college offer you a way to fill in the gaps in your college funding.
Although you may have thought that loans were only available for four-year university students, you can actually get loans for a community college education, too.
Other Options to Pay for Community College
When you are considering taking out a student loan for school, don’t overlook options at the state level. Only a few state governments actually fund their own loan programs, but many work with outside private lenders, in order to provide loan programs for students who are residents.
These lenders are state approved or state certified providers of student loans. Check with the Department of Higher Education in your state to get more information about private lenders they endorse.
Some colleges offer loans to students of specific culture or ethnicity. Credit unions may offer student loans at a discount, and including fewer fees than most other lenders.
If you are unemployed, you may also qualify for federal educational programs. Community college financial aid offices and state unemployment offices generally have additional information on these programs.
Author: Jeff Gitlen