07.23.10 | Can You Defer Graduate Loans?

Posted in Graduate Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

If you recently earned a graduate degree and are having difficulty either finding a job, or making ends meet with an existing job, you may have the option to defer, or temporarily suspend, your graduate school loans. It is important to remember that deferment of your federal graduate loans is not a way to avoid paying the loans back altogether, but rather a way to avoid falling deeper into a financial abyss.

There are two most common types of deferment:

The first is Economic Hardship Deferment. You may qualify for this brand of deferment provided that:

  • You are receiving payment under a federal or state public assistance program, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Food Stamps.
  • You are serving as a Peace Corps volunteer.
  • You are working full-time and your total monthly gross income from employment is less than the monthly minimum wage or 150% of your state’s poverty guideline.

The second type of deferment is loan forbearance. The primary difference between the two is that while in forbearance, interest will continue to accrue on the principal of your loan. That means your debt will continually increase while in deferment.

You are allotted 36 months of federal loan deferment entitlement regardless of which deferment you take advantage of and must reapply every 12 months.

05.14.10 | Extra Money For Grad School?

Posted in Graduate Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

We spend a lot of time in this space talking about bridging the gap, and finding ways to cover the often extensive cost of going to graduate school. But on some occasions, you can luck out and actually have a surplus of money available in student loans to cover tuition and other fees. (more…)

05.07.10 | Life After Undergrad: Nursing School Edition

Posted in Graduate Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

They may not get the white coat or the prestige of being called “Doctor”, but nurses are as invaluable to the health community as anyone. Often times, nurses do as much, if not more, for patients than doctors (at least that’s what my nurse friends tell me).

Anyone who chooses nursing as a career path realizes that becoming a nurse is a great opportunity to help patients and potentially save lives. If you are interested in a career in medicine and have top-notch bedside manner, paying for nursing school might seem tricky, but there are a number of fine student loan options:

Federal loans. Many of the same federal loan options available to you as an undergraduate are still an option for attending nursing school. Just fill out a new FAFSA application to determine your financial aid need.  You can borrow up to $20,500 ($8,500 of which can be subsidized) and the loan carries a 6.8 percent interest rate. You can also file for a Grad PLUS loan, which allows you to borrow up to the cost of education minus any other financial aid. The Grad PLUS loan carries an 8.5% interest rate.

Private Loans. If federal loans combined with any grants/scholarships -visit Student Scholarship Search for the Internet’s largest source of nurse-specific scholarships -  for which you may be eligible are not enough, you may consider private loans to cover some of the cost of a nursing school education. Private loans let you borrow right up to the full cost of attendance.

Repayment options: One of the perks of becoming a nurse is the added eligibility of a loan forgiveness program. As the demand for nurses grows,  the federal and state governments are offering to help pay back some of your student loan debt. Typically, the amount the government pays is dependent on the need of the area and the number of years you are willing to work there. Contact the Health Resources and Services Administration at 1-800-221-9393 for more details.

ScholarshipPoints code: NURSE

Image credit: jenny morros on Flickr

05.04.10 | Student Loan Options for the Part-Time Grad Student

Posted in Graduate Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

If you already have a full-time job or are raising a family, going back to college isn’t easy. You might need to limit your coursework and only take one class per semester. Unfortunately, that also means you are likely ineligible for federal student aid.

If you are not in school at least half-time, you can’t receive federal loans. Many graduate schools consider either 12 or 9 credits to be full-time, so if you are only taking 5 credits in a 12-credit full-time program, you can’t get a Stafford loan. So now what?

As an undergrad would, you should start by looking for scholarships. Scholarships are the best way to pay for school because they are essentially free money. Visit Student Scholarship Search or Scholarship Points to get started. Use the code: PTGRAD.

You might also need to cover some of the costs of grad school with a private student loan. There are a number of private loans tailored to grad students. To see if you qualify, visit our private loan comparison tool.

Chances are if you are only able to go to school part-time, it’s because you already have a full-time job. What you may not know is many companies offer some form of tuition reimbursement to employees looking to advance their degree. Check with your human resources department for more information. Your employer may cover some, if not all of the costs of attending graduate school if you take classes relevant to your current field.

Finally, look into pursuing an online degree. Online degrees are typically much more flexible and budget-friendly than a traditional graduate school. For more information, visit Edvisors.com.

04.27.10 | Can I Get into Grad School with a Low GPA?

Posted in Graduate Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

So you would like to go to graduate school? You are thinking, “An MBA would look really nice on my resume.” And it would. But there is a problem. Your grade point average from undergrad is not exactly sterling. What now?

If you are still an undergraduate, you should obviously work try as hard as you can to improve your grade point average until the time you graduate. Many advanced degree programs require at least a 3.0, and some doctorates will require a 3.3. While it is true that a few programs let you go as low as a 2.7 GPA, those are rare. Most likely, you will need at least a 3.0 to get your foot in the door.

If you have already graduated and your GPA is slightly below the 3.0, you do still have options.

First, pad your resume. Your undergraduate transcripts are not the be-all, end-all of the admissions process. You will also be required to submit at least one admissions essay, provide academic references and take at least one standardized test, such as a GRE or GMAT. If your GPA is less-than-stellar, make sure to do as well as you can in these areas. Take a test preparatory course and run your essay past a professor.

Next, consider taking some advanced summer courses or non-degree courses. These can be highlighted on your resume, showing you are capable of doing the work and thriving.

Be sure to check with the admissions office of the school in which you are interested for a better rundown of the kind of candidates they select and how you can be more attractive to them.

If you have already been accepted to grad school and are now looking to pay, you can apply for a Graduate Stafford loan to pay for tuition and supplies and take advantage of a low fixed interest rate of 6.8%. You might also consider applying for a Graduate PLUS loan, which allows you to borrow up to the cost of attendance for a low fixed interest rate, with no payments while you are in school.

Image credit: hmm360 on Morguefile

04.26.10 | From Our Forums: Graduate Financial Aid Limits?

Posted in Financial Aid, Graduate Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

Earlier this month, one of our financial aid forum users posted a great question that applies to both first time graduate students and returning academics: (more…)

04.22.10 | How important is your college major?

Posted in Graduate Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

If you are new to college life, you might view selecting a major like deciding what to order at a restaurant, like your entire night out hinges on what you get to eat. In some ways, yes, a major is perhaps your most important decision to make once you’re accepted to a school. On the other hand, it does not mean you go hungry if the meal is bad.

There are two items at play when you first decide on a major, (1) what you are interested in and (2) what can help you later on down the road. Hopefully, the two are at least similar. If you have a passion for the law or medicine, you’re in luck, as those are both booming job markets. If you are enamored with Chinese philosophy or art history, well, that could be an issue. Now that doesn’t mean you should immediately throw your interests out the window.

Remember, college is not a trade school; it’s an opportunity to become a well-rounded member of society. I had some friends graduate with degrees in philosophy and they are perfectly happy living on the street. (Just kidding! Jokes!) The point is, don’t bother with a major that is just going to make you miserable.

If you have gone with a major that will not likely lead to a strong career path, you should definitely consider selecting a minor. Ideally, you could minor in something that casts a wide enough net, for example, business or English. A communications minor could also open a number of doors. The beautiful thing about a minor is, it allows you to pursue your passion, but gives you a more well-rounded degree. Prospective employers will see that you have at least some knowledge of the field, and that can be big.

If you have already graduated, well, here is where it can get complicated. Let me just say from experience that many of my fellow graduates have gone down career paths that were either only slightly related, or completely unrelated to their major. This is not something undergrads like to hear. “I’m a political science major,” they shout from the rooftops. “I will be the President! Nothing can stop me!”

But the possibility of making a career change soon after you graduate is something you should take into consideration. First, if you are looking to make an early career change, you could take an entry-level position in your next field. For example, if you want to get into advertising, but majored in history, find an internship or get an administrative job at an advertising firm. No, you won’t be rolling in the dough, but prospective employers will be looking for real-world experience, and if you can pad your resume with that, your major becomes almost an afterthought.

Another option is advancing your education. You can do this one of two ways. First, you could pursue a graduate degree in the field for which you’re looking.The great thing about pursuing a graduate degree is that you are privy to many of the same financial aid options as you were when you were entering undergrad.

You could also consider taking online classes, which are a less expensive and more convenient method of earning a new degree. For more information on this option, visit www.Edvisors.com.

ScholarshipPoints code: MAJOR1

Image credit: obenson on Flickr

04.09.10 | Life After Undergrad: MBA Edition

Posted in Graduate Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

These days, it seems like everyone is getting an MBA. What was once just a ticket to a higher salary is now becoming almost a prerequisite for a job in the marketing or accounting fields. If you’re goal is to hit Wall Street or you just want to run your own business, a Masters in Business Administration might be the way to get there.

Before you decide on an MBA, you have to determine how much it could actually help you.  First, if you currently have a job, ask around to find out what kind of salary bumps or promotions are available to MBA recipients. Many companies may even offer tuition reimbursement to an employee willing to advance his or her degree.

The school and degree you decide on will also determine the value of your MBA. An MBA from a more prestigious program will likely earn you more, as will completion of a specialized program such as investment banking.

One great option if there are not enough hours in the day is an online MBA. If your job already runs you 40-50 hours a week and/or you have a family to take care of, an online degree is flexible enough to help you get your degree. For more information, visit Edvisors.com.

How much will it cost? The average cost of an MBA is about $40,000 per year. So a standard two-year program will cost you upwards of $80,000 and that’s before other expenses. This figure can vary greatly. More generic MBA degrees at smaller schools will be slightly less, while the programs at bigger schools are much more costly. (Read on for a look at the top MBA programs and how to afford them).

So how do you go about paying for it? Here’s how:

Scholarships. Your first stop in any financial aid search, scholarships are great because they are essentially free money to pay for school, and there are fortunately a good number of MBA-specific scholarship options out there. For more information, visit www.StudentScholarshipSearch.com and use the search term “MBA.”

Federal loans. You will be happy to learn that many of the same federal loan options that you used as an undergraduate are still available for an MBA.  Just fill out a new FAFSA application as an independent student to determine your financial aid need.  You can borrow up to $20,500 ($8,500 of which can be subsidized) and the loan carries a 6.8 percent interest rate. You can also file for a Grad PLUS loan, which allows you to borrow up to the cost of education minus any other financial aid. The Grad PLUS loan carries an 8.5% interest rate.

Private Loans

If you are pursuing an MBA, you might have obtained enough credit to get a decent interest rate on a private student loan. These types of loans allow you to borrow the lesser of  $70,000 or cost of attendance minus other aid.

Of course, like with your undergraduate loans, you want to consolidate once you graduate. For a complete breakdown of your MBA loan options, visit www.MBALoans.com.

ScholarshipPoints code: MBA0410

04.07.10 | Your Step-by-Step Guide to Paying for Grad School, Part Three

Posted in Graduate Loans, Private Student Loans by Student Loan Network Staff

This is the second installment in a three-part blog series on paying for grad school. In case you missed it, here are parts one, and two.

Exploring your private student loan options. The last step in this three-part series is devoted to figuring out how to bridge the gap between federal aid and scholarships and the overall cost of attendance.

This is a sticky situation that many students find themselves in. Fortunately, there are a number of private student loan options available to you. One of the primary differences between prospective undergraduate students and prospective graduate students is that the latter can typically apply for private loans without a cosigner.

If you have a specific graduate program in mind, say medicine or the law, there are specialized loans specifically to cover those costs. For example, if you are interested in law school, you can get a private student loan specifically tailored toward paying tuition. You may also be eligible for one-time loans for Bar exam preparation and law internships. These loans are one-time only and can be borrowed up to $15,000. Similar loans are available for business and medical schools. In medical school, you may borrow similar loans to prepare for your boards.

03.29.10 | Your Step-by-Step Guide to Paying for Grad School, Part Two

Posted in Graduate Loans, Scholarships, Stafford Loan by Student Loan Network Staff

This is the second installment in a three-part blog series on paying for grad school. In case you missed it, here is part one.

Scholarships. These are the best option to paying for school (because they needn’t be paid back), and there are thousands of awards available from coast to coast for prospective graduate students. To start looking, visit http://www.studentscholarshipsearch.com/ and use the search term “graduate”.

Federal loans. You might be surprised to learn that graduate students have many of the same options to borrow money from the federal government as undergraduate students. In some cases, they can be even better. Like before, you must fill out your FAFSA form to determine how much you may receive in subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans. One major difference between undergraduate and graduate federal loans is that the annual loan limits are much higher for graduate. The lifetime aggregate Stafford loan limit is $138,500 for graduate students. As long as you are enrolled at least half the time, you are eligible.

Graduate students also have access to federal Graduate PLUS loans. These federal loans have a low, fixed interest rate and are based on your credit rating. The yearly limit on a Grad PLUS Loan is equal to your cost of attendance minus any other financial aid you receive. So if your cost of attendance is $75,000 and you receive $45,000 in financial aid, you may not borrow more than $30,000.

One of the perks of being a grad student is that you have a number of options for repaying your federal loans. Typically, you have ten years to pay off a graduate Stafford loan. You also may opt for a graduated repayment option, which sets your payments low at the start and then gradually increases them as your income increases. The income-sensitive repayment can option can also be useful if your job security is in question, as loan payments in that instance change as your income raises or drops.

Next week: Your private student loan options.