A student loan is money you borrow which must be paid back, with interest.
There are a variety of student loans available, from both government and private sources. Watch this video for an overview.
As a general rule of thumb, federal student loans cost less than private student loans. Make sure you fully understand your responsibilities whenever borrowing money.
Federal Student Loans:
The Direct Loan Program (Stafford loans) is the largest federal student loan program. It includes direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Subsidized student loans are based on financial need, whereas unsubsidized loans are not. The Direct Loan Program also includes PLUS loans, which are loans made to graduate students or to the parents of undergraduate students.
The Perkins loan is a school-based federal student loan program for students with exceptional financial need. The school is the lender (you should confirm your school participates in this program).
Learn more at the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid website.
Private Student Loans:
Private student loans are often made by financial institutions such as banks and credit unions, and are typically used to fill the gaps between remaining tuition costs and all other financial aid. Private loans should be considered after exhausting all other student aid resources, including scholarships, grants, work-study, etc.
The use of private loans has increased in recent years due to federal loan funding limits.
The Maryland Student Loan Marketplace is a network of private lenders. The website allows users to compare private student loans from several lenders.
SECU offers the Sallie Mae Smart Option Student Loan.
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