Student Loans

Savanna Pardekooper

Getting a student loan can be intimidating.

Many students find themselves with questions, such as: What is the difference between federal and private loans? How does one create a budget for loans? Do I have to accept all the loans that I’m offered?

Iowa State has resources to help you answer these and other questions about loans and guide you through the process of getting one.

The first step is to find out your family’s Expected Family Contribution, which is calculated when you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The FAFSA is your ticket to federal financial aid, which can help cover some or all of the costs of college minus your family’s contribution. The earlier you apply, the sooner you’ll know the amount you’ll need for college.

“The main thing that I try to inform my students about, when they receive their award letter after submitting their FAFSA application, is the difference between federal and private loans,” said Roberta Johnson, director of Student Financial Aid. “Federal loans are backed by the federal government. I suggest, if they have the option, to always choose federal loans over private because federal loans have a lot more benefits.

“For instance, if you became disabled or died, your federal loans would be completely forgiven,” she said. “Federal loans also have a lot of repayment options for students. So if a student was unemployed or got laid off, they could defer their loans (not have to make monthly payments) until they were employed again.

“Benefits like this don’t exist in the private sector,” Johnson said.

Some of the FAFSA loans that are available include:

– Direct Subsidized Loans will show up in your FAFSA award letter and are based on financial need.

– Direct Unsubsidized Loans also are available, but they aren’t based on need.

– Parent PLUS Loans are available for parents to take out on their child’s behalf.

Iowa State also offers resources and guidance for students about their loans. Student Financial Aid offers the Student Loan Education Office, located at 680 Beardshear Hall. Iowa State offers trained financial counselors to help students better understand their financial obligations and options. Resources and education are provided to help students learn about student loan borrowing, budgeting, credit and money management.

“The one thing that I always advise students on is to only take what you need,” Johnson said. “Students oftentimes will receive their award letter and accept every loan that they are offered.”

Johnson suggests that students sit down and plan out their monthly budget and to keep in mind that the money being borrowed for loans should be treated as an investment.

“The money should be spent on things such as rent, utilities, books and food,” Johnson said. “Students always have the option of going back and accepting more of their award letter if they find themselves running out of money. But always only take what you actually need.”