Student Loans - FinAid Consolidation Loans

An education loan is a form of financial aid that must be repaid, with interest. (Scholarships, on the other hand, do not have to be repaid.)

Education loans come in three major categories: student loans (e.g., Stafford and Perkins loans), parent loans (e.g., PLUS loans) and private student loans (also called alternative student loans). A fourth type of education loan, the consolidation loan, allows the borrower to lump all of their loans into one loan for simplified payment.

Federal law sets the maximum interest rates and fees that lenders may charge for federally-guaranteed loans. Nothing prevents a lender from charging lower fees. Many lenders offer a variety of student loan discounts to attract borrowers.

Few students can afford to pay for college without some form of education financing. Two-thirds (65.6%) of undergraduate students graduate with some debt, and the average federal student loan debt among graduating seniors is $19,202 (Stafford and Perkins Loans), according to the 2003-2004 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS). (The median is $17,120. One quarter of undergraduate students borrow $24,936 or more, and one tenth borrow $35,193 or more.) These figures increase by about 3% or approximately $550 a year. When one includes PLUS loans in the total, the average cumulative debt incurred is $21,814. (Approximately one in ten (10.7%) parents borrow PLUS loans for their children's college education, with a cumulative PLUS loan debt of $16,218.)

Graduate and professional students borrow even more, with the additional debt for a graduate degree ranging from $27,000 to $114,000. The following table shows the percentage borrowing and average amount of cumulative debt among graduating students according to degree program. It provides the amounts borrowed for just the graduate education and also the combined totals for undergraduate and graduate education.

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