As many have already found out the hard way, the cost of a college education is rising rapidly every single year. Today, the cost of attending a major university runs well into the thousands (at the least) per semester for tuition. When living expenses and miscellaneous items like computers, textbooks, and school supplies are thrown in, the cost of college becomes almost prohibitively high. Fortunately, there are a number of avenues a student can take to help pay for all these expenses in the short term. Those who've exhausted scholarship and grant opportunities often find that paying for their education with a student loan is the best choice.
The concept behind student loans is pretty self explanatory. Current and prospective college students turn to a number of institutions - from for-profit companies to the government - to help finance their education. These loans typically have relatively favorable interest rates and terms, and repayment can begin while still in school or after graduation.
For most students, the first place to look for a student loan is to the Federal Government. Their student loan program offers some distinct advantages that others do not. For instance, a so-called "subsidized" student loan does not accrue any interest for the length of time the student spends in college. To find out if you qualify to receive this financial aid, you'll need to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form. Based on this, eligibility will be determined by the government's lending agency. For many, a cap will be set on the amount that can be borrowed per year. If it's not enough, the student may then look to unsubsidized government loans. In either case, repayment can be deferred to up to six months after graduation.
When Federal student loans aren't enough to cover the cost of education, students have a third avenue: private financial institutions. Most branches of national banks offer loans specifically designed for education financing. Though interest rates tend to be higher and the terms are generally more strict, most allow students to borrow up to the total cost of their education. Consequently, any qualified borrower who values their education enough to accrue large amounts of debt can find a way to attend college, no matter what their immediate financial situation is.