When a student decides that they will need to look for student loans, they should look at federal student loans first. These loans often offer the best rates and payback options. In addition to these federal loans, or perhaps, instead of these federal loans, a student may decide to look into private student loans. The financial aid office of the student’s college or university will have information available to the student about private loans.

Private student loans are on the rise. It is estimated that by 2025 that private education loans will surpass federal student loans in volume of money loaned. The rate of lending of private student loans is growing at a rate of 25% a year and the rate of federal loan lending is growing at 8% per year.

In general, students should borrow first from a Federal Stafford Loan and then look into private lenders. They should also file a FAFSA (which stands for Application for Federal Student Aid) to see if they qualify for any grants or work-study or any other type of financial aid.

Once a student has ascertained that they’ve borrowed all that they can from a Federal Stafford Loan and that they have gotten the most out of aid that might have become available to them after taking the FAFSA, private lending is the next stop.

What should students look for in a private loan? First they should look at the fee charged by the lending institution. A low interest rate can look very attractive but if it’s paired with high fees that same loan may suddenly become much more expensive than the loan that has a higher interest rate but low or no fees.

Institutions that don’t charge fees sometimes roll the fees into the interest rates. Keep in mind that 3% to 4% in fees is equal to about a 1% higher interest rate.

When comparing repayment plans, be careful. A longer term loan will reduce the APR, even thought the total amount of interest paid will be more.

The very best loans from private institutions offer interests rates of the prime rate minus 0.50%, or LIBOR plus 2%, and will have no fees. LIBOR is the interest rate that banks charge each other for various types of loans. It stands for “London InterBank Offered Rate.” It’s the rate used by banks in London that’s then used by banks all over the world. The prime rate is the interest rate that banks charge dependent upon market forces that affect the banks cost of funds. These types of loans are usually only available to borrowers who have the best credit and also have a cosigner with great credit. In general, private student loans that depend on the LIBOR rate are better deals than those that depend upon the Prime Lending Rate.

When looking for private student loans, the student will want to spend some time looking for the best interest rates, fees and loan terms. The first stop should be the student’s financial aid office.

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