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主頁 > 理財文章 > 子女大學教育(包括申請大學和經濟援助) > The Best Ways To Get Loans For College Now  

The Best Ways To Get Loans For College Now

 

The Best Ways To Get
Loans For College Now

In Tough New Climate, It Pays
To Ask Your School for Help,
Find Yourself a Co-Signer
By ROBERT TOMSHO
Augus

Students struggling to finance their educations this fall may have one thing working in their favor: plenty of company.

As more would-be borrowers are denied private loans amid the credit crunch, colleges and universities are likely to become more lenient about payment deadlines and more eager to help students and their families find aid. "Schools will be accommodating," says Kevin Walker, chief executive of Simpletuition Inc., a company that operates a Web site that allows borrowers to compare loans.

Asking schools for help is just one of the strategies taking on new importance for students seeking loans in a tough climate. Government aid programs have failed to keep up with tuition increases, leaving more people reliant on private loans. During the 2006-2007 school year, borrowers took out $17.1 billion in such loans, up from $1.6 billion in 1996-1997, according to the College Board, the research and testing concern.

[chart]

At the same time, lenders are cutting back on loans and tightening credit standards. Tens of thousands of students and their families have credit scores that will make it difficult for them to qualify for private loans that they could have landed in years past. As many as 200,000 would-be borrowers could be turned down this year, according to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Finaid.org, a Web site that tracks financial-aid issues.

Here are some of the moves students and their parents can make to navigate the troubled loan landscape:

Speak Up

Families should let their school's financial-aid office know about loan problems as soon as possible so that administrators can weigh in and determine what help might be available. The financial-aid office will likely know which lenders are still granting loans to students with lower credit scores. A few schools have begun making loans on their own and, for a small fee, many now offer students the option of making monthly payments on their college bills instead of doing so in a lump sum.

Cathy Simoneaux, director of scholarships and financial aid at Loyola University in New Orleans, says that throughout the year, schools like hers sometimes receive donations that can be used to provide small scholarships when students have financial emergencies. Students "need to ask," she says.

Call on Uncle Sam

Student loans made or guaranteed by the federal government tend to have lower interest rates and better protections for the consumer. Even so, financial-aid administrators say, many students and families turn to higher-cost private loans before they have exhausted what they are eligible for on the federal side.

GETTING CREDIT
 
Some financing options for students:
 Seek advice and help from your school's financial-aid office.
 Exhaust all federal-aid possibilities.
 Shop around among private lenders.
 Get a parent to co-sign a loan.
 Try peer-to-peer loans.

Depending upon what year of school they are in, most undergraduates can borrow up to $7,500 under the government's Stafford loan program without undergoing a credit check or proving financial need. Students with proven need get better terms.

Under the federal Plus program, parents can borrow enough to pay for all of their child's college costs that aren't already covered. It requires a credit check, though it isn't as extensive as those typically conducted by private lenders. Students whose parents are turned down for a Plus loan can borrow more under the Stafford program.

The first step is to fill out a form called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which is available at financial-aid offices or online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Although the deadlines for using the FAFSA to apply for student aid from many states and schools have passed, families can use it to seek federal loans for the coming academic year until June 30, 2009. "There is still time; the money does not run out," says Robert Shireman, executive director of The Project on Student Debt, a consumer group based in Berkeley, Calif.

Make a Deal

Students increase their chances of being approved for a private loan and getting lower interest rates if they persuade a parent or another creditworthy adult to be a co-signer. If parents are unwilling to take out a federal Plus loan -- which they are legally responsible for paying back -- some observers suggest that students offer to split repayment costs and put the agreement in writing.

Shop Around

When it comes to private student loans, credit requirements, fees and interest rates vary from lender to lender, so that the same person who is denied a loan by one could be approved by another. But aid administrators warn that applying for more than four or so loans in a short time period can lead credit agencies to lower your credit score.

Web sites like www.elmselect.com and www.estudentloan.com allow students to compare loans from various lenders, although the interest rates and terms advertised are often only for borrowers with the best credit. Mr. Walker, of Simpletuition, suggests calling individual lenders and asking about the minimum credit score they will accept from a borrower. "I would recommend being relatively insistent," he says.

The Kindness of Others

While still a tiny part of the student lending landscape, so-called "peer-to-peer" Web sites like www.fynanz.com, www.GreenNote.com and www.virginmoney.com have sprung up in recent months. They offer student borrowers the chance to seek loans from friends, family and complete strangers.

At Fynanz, students post the amount they want, the interest rate they are willing to pay and a few details about themselves and their studies. In many cases, the "loan" involves money from multiple lenders, some offering as little as $50 each. Fynanz, which has made 20 loans averaging about $6,500 each since it began lending two months ago, collects a 1% fee for processing the loans.

Industry observers say such lending sites are an interesting option, but most haven't been around long enough to develop much of a track record on potential issues such as how they handle credit information or collect on loans in default. "I would be very cautious about them at this point," says Mr. Shireman.

Get a Job

To pay the college bills, students who show financial need can apply for a job via the federal work-study programs offered by most schools. Or they can simply look for work on their own. But for working students, a paycheck comes with some risk. Studies show that students working more than about 15 to 20 hours a week earn lower grades and are less likely to make it to graduation.

Change Targets

Students having trouble with college costs might consider a less expensive school. According to the College Board, for the 2007-2008 school year, annual tuition and fees for a private four-year school averaged $23,712, against $6,185 for in-state residents at public four-year schools and $2,361 for public two-year schools.