Student Loans, Financial Aid Both Rise in 2009–10

The College Board,Guest Posting in its annual “Trends in Student Aid” report, estimates that a total of $154.5 billion in student financial aid was distributed in 2009–10. Grants now comprise about 50 percent of student financial aid from all sources, both federal and private sector.

In 2009–10, the average undergraduate student financial aid package was worth nearly $11,500. This figure includes more than $6,000 in grants and more than $4,800 in government-backed federal student loans. Graduate students received slightly more financial assistance, on average, in the form of grants — nearly $6,400 — but also borrowed more heavily. The average graduate student took out more than $15,700 in graduate student loans.

Compared to student financial aid figures for 2008–09, grant aid to undergraduate students increased by 22 percent, while federal student loans increased by 9 percent. The 2009–10 academic year also saw a 16-percent increase in the average federal Pell Grant award to $3,656, the largest one-year rise in the program’s history. Only about one-fourth of all Pell Grant recipients, however, qualified for the maximum grant amount of $5,350.

Student Loans
Private student loans — college loans issued by private lenders rather than by the federal government — represented about 8 percent of all student loans in 2009–10, a decrease from 25 percent in 2006–07.

Federal subsidized Stafford student loans made up about 35 percent of all student loans in 2009–10, an increase from 31 percent in 2006–07. Unsubsidized federal Stafford student loans accounted for 42 percent of the combined federal and private student loans taken out in 2009–10, an increase of about 12 percent from 2006–07.

Subsidized Stafford loans, which are available only to students who demonstrate financial need, are government-backed college loans on which the government will pay the interest while the student is in school or in a period of approved deferred payments. Unsubsidized Stafford loans are available to students regardless of financial need. Although students, as on a subsidized loan, may defer payments on a federal unsubsidized college loan while they’re in school or in certain other authorized circumstances, the student, not the government, will be responsible for paying all the interest that accrues on an unsubsidized loan during those periods of deferment.

According to the College Board, about 65 percent of all undergraduate students in 2009–10 did not accept Stafford loans of any type. The majority of students who did accept Stafford college loans ended up taking out both subsidized and unsubsidized student loans. The average Stafford student loan debt load in 2009–10 was $6,550.

In 2008, Congress authorized increases in the maximum annual and lifetime federal lending limits for Stafford student loans. The expanded loan amounts were approved in part to discourage students from taking on the burden of private student loans, which tend to carry higher interest rates and fewer borrower protections than federal student loans.

Currently, dependent undergraduate students can borrow up to a maximum of $31,000 in Stafford college loans throughout their undergraduate college career. Independent undergraduates, as well as dependent undergraduates whose parents do not qualify for a federal parent loan, can borrow up to a maximum of $57,500 in Stafford college loans.

Graduate students may also be awarded both subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford student loans, up to $20,500 a year and up to a total lifetime maximum of $138,500, including both their undergraduate and graduate Stafford loans.

Graduate students may obtain additional student loan funds through the federal Grad PLUS graduate student loan program. However, whereas Stafford student loans don’t require either a credit check or a co-signer, Grad PLUS loans have modest credit requirements. Even so, the number of graduate loans issued through the Grad PLUS program has steadily increased since Congress introduced the program in 2006–07. About 5 percent of all student loans issued in 2009–10 were Grad PLUS graduate student loans.

Parent Loans
In contrast to federal student loans, federal parent loans, known as PLUS loans, are being used less frequently, with 20 percent fewer parent loans issued through the PLUS program in both 2008–09 and 2009–10 than in previous years. The volume of federal parent loans peaked at 11 percent in 2004–05 and 2005–06.

Since PLUS loans, unlike Stafford loans, are credit-based loans, one reason for the decline in PLUS loan volume may be that the number of parents who qualify for a PLUS loan has dropped due to the recession. Under current PLUS loan guidelines, parents who are more than 90 days past due on at least one bill or who have declared personal bankruptcy or been subject to a foreclosure proceeding within the last five years do not qualify for parent loans through the PLUS program.

Read the full report from the College Board: “Trends in Student Financial Aid 2010”

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Student Loan Consolidation – How does it Work?

Student Loan … – How does it … loans are a great source of … aid for students who need help paying for their … … students often leave college with

Student Loan Consolidation – How does it Work?
Student loans are a great source of financial aid for students who need help paying for their education. Unfortunately,Guest Posting students often leave college with burdensome debt. In addition, they often have multiple loans from different lenders, meaning they are writing more than one loan repayment check each month. The solution to this problem is loan consolidation.

What is loan consolidation?
Loan consolidation means bundling all your student loans into a single loan with one lender and one repayment plan. You can think of loan consolidation as akin to refinancing a home mortgage. When you consolidate your student loans, the balances of your existing student loans are paid off, with the total balance rolling over into one consolidated loan. The end result is that you have only one student loan to pay on.

Both students and their parents can consolidate loans.

Should I consolidate my loans?
Loan consolidation offers many benefits:

-Locks in a fixed, usually lower, interest rate for the term of your loan, potentially saving you thousands of dollars (depending on the interest rates of your original loans)
-Lowers your monthly payment
-Combines your student loan payments into one monthly bill

In addition, consolidated loans have flexible repayment options and no fees, charges, or prepayment penalties. There are also no credit checks or co-signers required.

You should consider consolidating your loans if the consolidation loan would have a lower interest rate than your current loans, particularly if you are having trouble making you monthly payments. However, if you are close to paying off your existing loans, consolidation may not be worth it.

How will the interest rate for the consolidated loan be?
The interest rate for your consolidated loan is calculated by averaging the interest rate of all the loans being consolidated and then rounding up to the next one-eighth of one percent. The maximum interest rate is 8.25 percent.

To figure your interest rate, visit for an online calculator that will do the math for you.

How much can I save?
How much you save by consolidating loans depends on what interest rate you get and whether you choose to extend your repayment plan. According to Sallie Mae, the leading provider of student loans in the United States, consolidating student loans can reduce monthly payments by up to 54 percent. However, the only way to reduce your payment this much is to extend your repayment plan. You typically have 10 years to repay student loans, but, depending on the amount you’re consolidating, you can extend your repayment plan all the way up to 30 years. Remember that if you choose to extend your repayment term, it will take longer to pay off your overall debt and you’ll pay more in interest. There are no preypayment penalties, so you can always choose to pay off the loan early.

Am I eligible to consolidate my loans?
In order to consolidate your loans, you must meet the following criteria:

- You are in your six-month grace period following graduation or you have started repaying your loans
-You have eligible loans totaling over $7,500
-You have more than one lender
-You have not already consolidated your student loans, or since consolidation you have gone back to school and acquired new student loans

The following types of loans can be consolidated:

-Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans
-Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
-Direct PLUS Loans and Federal PLUS Loans
-Direct Consolidation Loans and Federal Consolidation Loans
-Guaranteed Student Loans
-Federal Insured Student Loans
-Federal Supplemental Loans for Students
-Auxiliary Loans to Assist Students
-Federal Perkins Loans
-National Direct Student Loans
-National Defense Student Loans
-Health Education Assistance Loans
-Health Professions Student Loans
-Loans for Disadvantaged Students
-Nursing Student Loans

Where can I get a consolidation loan?
You can consolidate your loans through any bank or credit union that participates in the Federal Family Education Loan Program, or directly from the U.S. Department of Education. The loan terms and conditions are generally the same, regardless of where you consolidate. You may want to check first with the lenders that hold your current loans.

If all your loans are with one lender, you must consolidate with that lender.

If you decide to consolidate your student loans, remember that you can only do so once unless you go back to school and take out more loans. Therefore, you will want to make sure you get the best deal the first time. The interest rate will be the same from all lenders, but some lenders may offer future rate discounts for prompt payment and a discount for having monthly payments directly debited from your account.

Can my spouse and I consolidate our loans together?
You can consolidate your loans together, but it is not a good idea for a couple reasons:

-Both of you will always be responsible to repay the loan, even if you later separate or divorce
-If you need to defer payment on the loan, both of you will have to meet the deferment criteria

When should I consolidate my loans?
You can consolidate your loans any time during your six-month grace period or after you have started repaying your loans. If you consolidate during your grace period, you may be able to get a lower interest rate. However, since you will lose the rest of the grace period, it is a good idea to wait until the fifth month of the grace period before consolidating. The consolidation process usually takes 30-45 days.

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