What Are Personal Loans Used For?

What Are Personal Loans Used For?

Personal loans are borrowed lump sums that you pay back, with interest, to the lender. Though the money can be used for almost anything, some common uses for personal loans include covering medical bills, paying for home repairs, and consolidating debt.

When you don’t have the savings to cover an important purchase or bill, a personal loan is usually a better alternative to credit cards. We’ll take a closer look at what personal loans can be used for, their drawbacks and benefits, and alternative ways to pay for unexpected expenses.

What Can I Use a Personal Loan For?

Personal loans may be used for just about anything “personal,” meaning it’s not a business-related expense. Here are some of the most popular reasons people take out different types of personal loans.

Reasons To Take Out Personal Loans

Debt Management and Consolidation

Refinancing or high-interest debt consolidation into better loan terms is one of the most common uses for a personal loan — and one of the most financially savvy. Credit card debt carries some of the highest interest rates out there. Credit cards also typically have variable rates, making it challenging to create a predictable budget to pay down outstanding debt.

Rates for personal loans, on the other hand, tend to be lower than credit card APRs. This can save borrowers a lot of money in interest over the long term. And the fixed payback schedule of a personal installment loan may help borrowers avoid falling into a vicious cycle of revolving debt that can continue indefinitely.

You don’t have to be drowning in credit card debt to benefit from consolidation. For borrowers with multiple loans, consolidating debt with one personal loan can be a useful financial tactic — if the borrower qualifies for good loan terms.

Bottom line: Personal loans can help streamline multiple high-interest debt payments into one payment. Plus, loans tend to have lower rates than credit cards. This could help borrowers save money in interest over time.

Recommended: Where to Get a Personal Loan

Wedding Expenses

According to Zola, an online wedding planning site, the average cost of a wedding in 2023 is around $29,000. Unfortunately, many young couples have not saved up enough to pay for their entire wedding themselves. (In many cases, the days when a bride’s parents footed the entire wedding bill are over.)

A personal loan, sometimes referred to as a wedding loan when used for this purpose, can cover some or all of a well-budgeted wedding. Personal loans tend to offer much lower interest rates than credit cards, which some newlyweds may use to fund their big day.

However, before you go this route, think long and hard about whether you really want to start out your married life in debt. Consider if you can actually afford to pay off the loan in a timely manner. If not, it might be better to cut back on your wedding budget, or take more time to save up for the big day.

Bottom line: A wedding loan can help pay for some or all of the wedding costs, which could help you avoid having to use a credit card or tap into your savings.

Unexpected Medical Expenses

When a medical emergency occurs, it’s important for your main focus to be on a healthy outcome. But the financial burden can’t be ignored. Being able to pay for out-of-pocket expenses with a low-rate personal loan may relieve some stress and give you time to heal.

It’s no secret that the cost of medical care in America can be sky-high, especially for the large portion of Americans who have high-deductible health plans. The situation is even more challenging for those who don’t have health insurance coverage at all. When paying out of pocket, even a seemingly simple procedure, like casting a broken leg, can cost a shocking $7,500, according to Healthcare.gov.

Bottom line: Medical emergencies happen. Using a personal loan to help pay for bills and expenses could provide peace of mind.

Recommended: How to Pay for Medical Bills You Can’t Afford

Moving Expenses

A low-interest personal loan (also known as a relocation loan) may help defray some out-of-pocket costs associated with moving. According to the American Moving & Storage Association, a local move can set you back $1,250 on average. Moving 1,000 miles or more typically costs $4,890.

And these figures only account for the move itself. As anyone who has relocated knows, hidden costs can and do often pop up, from boxes and storage space to cleaning fees and lost security deposits.

There are also expenses that come with a new home. Most new rentals require upfront cash for a deposit, sometimes totaling three times the monthly rent (first, last, and security). Opening new utility accounts may also require a deposit.

And don’t forget about replacing household items left behind. Even basics like soap, light bulbs, shower curtains, and ketchup can easily total a few hundred dollars.

Lastly, miscellaneous costs can arise during the move itself, such as replacing broken items. Even with insurance, there’s usually a deductible to pay.

Bottom line: Whether you’re relocating across town or across the country, expenses can pile up quickly. A relocation loan can help you pay to move and set up your new home.


💡 Quick Tip: SoFi lets you apply for a personal loan online in 60 seconds, without affecting your credit score.

Funeral Expenses

Many people have life insurance to cover their own funeral. But what if Mom, Dad, or Grandpa didn’t plan ahead? If the deceased did not plan appropriately to finance their death, and life insurance doesn’t cover the bill, a personal loan can be a quick, easy solution for the family.

Basic costs for a funeral include the service, burial or cremation, and a memorial gathering of friends and family. The median cost of a funeral service with a viewing and burial is $7,848, while the cost of a funeral with cremation is $6,971.

Bottom line: When a loved one passes away, paying for the funeral may be the last thing on your mind. If you need help financing the arrangements, a personal loan could provide a fast and simple solution.

Home Improvement Expenses

Many renters and homeowners feel that annual or biannual itch to spruce up their living space. That might mean a fresh coat of paint, upgraded appliances, or a kitchen remodel. Depending on the level of your project, the cost of home remodel can come in anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.

If you’re making upgrades that will improve a home’s value, the cost may be made up when selling the house later. Using a personal home improvement loan can help you focus on the renovation instead of fretting about costs. Plus, if you get an unsecured loan, you won’t have to worry about putting your home equity on the line as collateral.

Bottom line: Taking out a home improvement loan is one way to help fund a home improvement project.

Family Planning

Whether your plans involve pregnancy, adoption, in vitro fertilization (IVF), or surrogacy, growing a family can be expensive.

The average cost of a complete IVF cycle, for example, starts around $15,000 and can go up from there, depending on the center and your medication needs. Meanwhile, giving birth costs an average of $18,865, and insured women typically pay $2,854 of that amount.

Once your baby arrives, you’ll need money to pay for diapers, clothing, formula, and other supplies. A personal loan can help you cover the expenses without having to dip into your savings or emergency fund.

Bottom line: When you’re looking to add a new member to the family, a personal loan can provide peace-of-mind financing.

Car Repairs

You get a flat tire. The transmission fails. The brakes go out. When your car breaks, chances are you can’t afford to wait to have it fixed while you pull together the necessary funds. A personal loan can help you cover the cost of the repair, which can be significant.

On average, consumers spend around $548 per year fixing their cars, according to Cox Automotive, which owns Kelley Blue Book. Of course, you could spend much more, depending on the work being done. If you’re replacing a failed transmission, for instance, you can expect to pay between $2,900 and $7,100 for a new one.

Bottom line: Car repairs are rarely planned. If you need money quickly to fix your car, you may want to consider a personal loan. Depending on the lender, you may be able to get same-day funding, but it could also take up to one week to get the money.

Vacation

Ready to take the plunge and book that bucket list trip? A personal loan is one way to help finance a dream vacation, and the interest rate could be lower than a credit card’s.

Bottom line: If you’re planning an expensive getaway and don’t have the cash you need at the ready, a personal loan can help you pay for the trip. Note that you may be paying off the loan long after the trip.

What Personal Loans Can’t Be Used For

While personal loans can be used for almost anything, there are some restrictions. In general, here are things you should not use a personal loan for:

•   A down payment on a home. Buying a home? In general, you’re not allowed to use personal loans for down payments on conventional home loans and FHA loans.

•   College tuition. Most lenders won’t allow you to use personal loans to pay college tuition and fees, and many prohibit you from using the money to pay down student loans.

•   Business expenses. Typically, you are not allowed to use personal loan funds to cover business expenses.

•   Investing. Some lenders prohibit using a personal loan to invest. But even if your lender allows it, there may be risks involved that you’ll want to be aware of.

Recommended: Personal Loan Glossary

What not to use personal loans for

Pros and Cons of Taking Out a Personal Loan

As you’re weighing your decision, it may help to take a look at the overall pros and cons of personal loans:

Pros

Cons

Fast access to cash Increases debt
Can be used a variety of purposes Potential fees and penalties
Lower interest rates compared to credit cards Credit and income requirements to qualify
No collateral required for unsecured personal loans Applying might ding your credit score

Deciding Whether to Take Out a Personal Loan

Wondering whether a personal loan makes sense for your situation? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you make your decision.

•   Figure out how much you’ll need to borrow. Remember, you’ll be on the hook for repaying a significant amount of money including interest. There might be hidden fees, too.

•   Make a repayment plan. Going into debt should never be taken lightly, so it’s important to set a realistic strategy to repay the debt.

•   Check your credit score. Your credit history and score will have a significant impact on the loan terms, and interest rates and qualifying criteria will vary from lender to lender.

•   Explore your options. Before applying with a lender, shop around for the interest rate and terms that best fit your needs.

Keep in mind that there may be situations when taking out a personal loan might not make sense. Here are a few instances:

•   You can’t afford your current monthly payments. If making the monthly payments on your existing debt is a challenge, you may want to reconsider whether it’s a good idea to take on any more debt right now.

•   You have a high amount of debt. Shouldering a high amount of debt? Taking out a personal loan could put a strain on your finances and make it more difficult for you to make ends meet or put money away for savings. Plus, carrying a lot of debt could increase your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), which lenders look at in addition to your credit score and credit report when reviewing your loan application.

•   You have a “bad” credit score. A less-than-stellar credit score could reduce your chance of getting approved for a personal loan. If your credit score is considered “bad,” which FICO defines as 579 or below, then you may want to hold off on taking out a personal loan and instead work on your credit. You can help raise your score by paying your bills on time, paying attention to revolving debt, checking credit reports and scores and addressing any errors, and being mindful about opening and closing credit cards.

Recommended: Can a Personal Loans Hurt Your Credit?

Alternatives to Personal Loans

Considering alternative ways to pay for expenses or big-ticket items that don’t involve personal loans? Here are three to keep in mind:

Credit cards

Credit cards offer a line of credit that you can use for a variety of purposes. This includes making purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances. You can borrow up to your credit limit, and you’ll owe at least the minimum payment each month.

A credit card may make sense for smaller expenses that you can pay off fairly quickly, ideally in full each month.


💡 Quick Tip: If you’ve got high-interest credit card debt, a personal loan is one way to get control of it. But you’ll want to make sure the loan’s interest rate is much lower than the credit cards’ rates — and that you can make the monthly payments.

Home equity line of credit

If you have at least 20% equity — the home’s market value minus what is owed — you may be able to secure a home equity line of credit (HELOC). HELOCs commonly come with a 10-year draw period, generally offer lower interest rates than those offered by a personal loan, and you can borrow as much as you need, up to an approved credit limit. However, you may be required to use your home as collateral, and there’s a chance your rate might rise.

HELOCs might be an option to consider if you plan on borrowing a significant amount of money or if you expect to have ongoing expenses, like with a remodeling project.

401(k) loan

If you need money — and no other form of borrowing is available — then you may want to consider withdrawing funds from your retirement plan. A 401(k) loan doesn’t come with lender requirements and doesn’t require a credit check. However, you may face taxes and penalties for taking out the money. Each employer’s plan has different rules around withdrawals and loans, so make sure you understand what your plan allows.

Borrowing from your 401(k) could be a smart idea in certain situations, like if you need a substantial amount of cash in the short term or are using the money to pay off a high-interest debt.

The Takeaway

When it comes to weddings, funerals, cross-country moves, and other big-ticket items, a personal loan is typically a better alternative to high-interest credit cards. Other common uses for personal loans include debt consolidation, medical bills, home improvement, family planning, and vacation.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

FAQ

What is interest?

Interest is the money you’re charged when you take out a loan from a bank or earn for leaving your money in a bank to grow. It’s expressed as a percentage of the total amount of the loan or account balance, usually as APR (Annual Percentage Rate) or APY (Annual Percentage Yield). These figures estimate how much of the loan or account balance you could expect to pay or receive over the course of one year.

How important is credit score in a loan application?

Credit score is one of the key metrics lenders look at when considering a loan applicant. Generally, the higher the credit score, the more likely lenders are to approve a loan and give the borrower a more favorable interest rate. Many lenders consider a score of 670 or above to indicate solid creditworthiness.

Can I pay off a personal loan early?

Most lenders would likely welcome an early loan payoff, so chances are you can pay off a personal loan early. However, if an early payoff results in a prepayment penalty, it may not make financial sense to pay off the loan ahead of schedule.


Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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All You Need to Know About Subsidized Loans for Graduate School

All You Need to Know About Subsidized Loans for Graduate School

Subsidized loans, a type of loan offered by the federal government, used to be available to graduate students. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. The program that allowed graduate students to receive subsidized loans was ended in 2011 by the Budget Control Act. For now, these loans are only available for undergraduate students. However, there are other loans available to help pay for grad school. Continue reading for more information on subsidized loans and the other options available to graduate students.

What Are Subsidized Loans?

Federal student loans are offered through the U.S. Department of Education to help students cover the cost of higher education. The government helps students pay for degrees or certificates from colleges and universities, community colleges, and trade, career, or technical schools.

Direct Subsidized Loans are available to undergraduate students able to demonstrate financial need. The amount of the loan is determined by the school you are applying to.

The Department of Education pays all interest on the loans while you are in school at least half-time, during the six-month grace period after you leave school, and during periods of deferment. Outside of these periods, the borrower is responsible for making all principal and interest payments.

Subsidized vs Unsubsidized Loans

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans, on the other hand, are one of the student loans available to undergrads and graduate students. Students do not have to demonstrate financial need to qualify for these loans.

The loan amount is still determined by your school, and you are entirely responsible for making interest payments during all periods.

When considering subsidized vs. unsubsidized loans, it’s important to understand both are subject to loan limits. In aggregate, dependent students, except those whose parents are unable to take out PLUS loans, may borrow no more than $31,000, at a given time, of which only $23,000 may be in subsidized loans.

For undergraduates whose parents are unable to access PLUS loans, the loans limit is $57,500, with no more than $23,000 in subsidized loans.

And for graduate students, the loan limit is $138,500, of which no more than $65,500 may be in subsidized loans. What’s more, the aggregate limit also includes whatever student loans you may have from your time as an undergraduate.

When you reach the aggregate loan limit, you will not be allowed to borrow any more money in federal student loans. However, if you are able to pay off some of your loans you may be able to borrow again up to the aggregate loan limit.

Interest rates for both types of loans are set by the federal government each year. For the 2023-2024 academic year, the interest rate for undergraduate borrowers is 5.50% for Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans. The interest rate for graduate borrowers for Direct Unsubsidized loans is 7.05%. The interest rate is fixed over the life of the loan.

Alternatives to Subsidized Loans

In addition to unsubsidized loans, there are other loans available from the government and private sources that can help you pay for grad school.

Grad PLUS Student Loans

Grad PLUS Student loans are another federal loan available through the Department of Education. They are also known as Direct PLUS loans. Grad PLUS Loan requirements include that you must be a graduate student enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school. Your program must lead to a graduate degree, a professional degree, or a certificate. You meet the basic eligibility requirements for federal student aid and must not have an adverse credit history.

Under the Grad PLUS program you are allowed to borrow the cost of attendance less any other financial aid. And you don’t have to repay the loan until six months after you leave school or drop below half-time enrollment.

Interest rates on the loan are fixed. Any loans disbursed after July 1, 2023, carry an interest rate of 8.05%.

To apply for federal student loans, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student
Aid (FAFSA®)
. Your school will use the information on this form to determine how much aid you are eligible to receive and present it to you in an offer letter. The offer letter will also give you information about grants and work-study programs you may be eligible for.

Recommended: Grad PLUS Loans, Explained

Private Loans

Private student loans are available through banks and credit unions and other private institutions. The individual lender will determine the amount you can borrow, terms of the loan, and interest rate based in large part on financial factors such as your income and your credit score. Many undergraduates will need a cosigner to qualify for a private student loan. Cosigners are responsible for making loan payments if you fail to do so.

Private loans may allow you to borrow beyond the federal limits imposed on federal loans, or help you pick up the slack if you didn’t qualify for enough federal funding. Though they may lack protections afforded to federal student loans, and as a result, are generally thought of as a last-resort option when paying for grad school.

Personal Loans

Personal loans are also available through private lenders. Borrowed funds can be used for practically any purpose, which means they could potentially be used to cover expenses beyond tuition, fees, room and board, such as transportation. As with private loans, the amount you can borrow will depend on your financial history or that of a cosigner.

How Much Can You Borrow for Graduate School?

The amount you can borrow for graduate school will depend on the types of loans that you use.

Grad PLUS student loans potentially allow you to borrow up to the full cost of attending your program less any other financial aid.

However, unsubsidized loans limit your aggregate borrowing to $138,500, and that’s including any federal loans that you took out as an undergraduate.

Borrowers who are enrolled in certain health profession programs may be subject to a higher aggregate limit for Direct Subsidized Loans, and should talk to their school’s financial aid office.

Private student loans may limit borrowers to the cost of attendance. Policies will likely vary by lender.

Personal loans may allow you to borrow as much as $100,000 with no limitations on how the money must be spent. Again, specific policies may vary by lender.

Recommended: What is the Maximum Amount of Student Loans for Graduate School?

The Takeaway

Federal subsidized loans are no longer available to graduate students. Though organizations like the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators are pushing for legislation that would reintroduce the loans. In the meantime, graduate students have other options, and may rely on federal unsubsidized loans, Grad PLUS Loans, loans from private lenders, or a combination of the above to help pay for school.

Visit SoFi, to learn more about options for private student loans.

FAQ

Does the US Department of Education offer subsidized loans for graduate students as part of financial aid packages?

Federal Direct Subsidized Loans are no longer available to graduate students.

Are Grad PLUS Loans subsidized loans?

Grad PLUS Loans are not subsidized, which means that interest accrues while the student is in school.

Can you pay off subsidized loans before graduating?

You can pay off federal subsidized loans before you graduate without paying any penalty. Note that federal subsidized loans do not accrue interest while you are in school.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Photo credit: iStock/Kseniia Ivanova
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What Is a Direct PLUS Loan?

A Direct PLUS Loan is a type of unsubsidized federal student loan that can be made to graduate students or parents of a dependent undergraduate student.

Direct PLUS Loans can help pay for education costs that aren’t covered by other types of financial aid. As they have higher interest rates than other types of federal loans, it’s generally recommended that a student exhaust all of their Direct Loan options before considering a Direct PLUS Loan.

As you plan how to pay for your education, here’s what to know about Direct PLUS Loans to decide if this option is right for you.

What Is a Federal Direct PLUS Loan?

After pursuing financial aid options that don’t need to be paid back (such as grants, scholarships, or work-study programs), many students take out federal student loans to help pay for the cost of school.

There are several types of federal student loans from the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. Direct Loans (also known as Stafford Loans) can be subsidized for undergraduate students with financial need — meaning that the federal government will pay the loan interest while a student is in school at least half-time and during a grace period after graduating or during a period of deferment.

Direct Loans can also be unsubsidized for both undergraduate or graduate students. With a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, the borrower is responsible for all of the interest that accumulates on the loan. These loans are not dependent on financial need, but there is a cap on the amount a student can borrow.

So what is a Direct PLUS Loan? Direct PLUS Loans can be made to graduate students or parents of dependent undergraduate students to help meet the remaining costs of school.

Types of Federal PLUS Loans

As mentioned, Direct PLUS Loans are unsubsidized federal student loans that two groups of people can apply for to help pay for higher education that isn’t covered by other types of financial aid: graduate and professional students or parents of a dependent undergraduate student.

When a Direct PLUS Loan is made to parents of an undergraduate student, it’s often referred to as a parent PLUS loan. When made to a graduate or professional student, it’s called a grad PLUS loan.

Keep in mind that PLUS loans are some of the highest interest loans offered by the government — significantly higher than federal loans offered directly to undergrads — so it’s worth it to pursue other federal options first.

Eligibility for Federal Parent PLUS Loans

Parents can qualify for a parent PLUS loan as the biological, adoptive, and in some cases, stepparent of a qualifying undergraduate student enrolled at least half-time. It’s important to note that a federal Direct PLUS Loan made to a parent borrower cannot be transferred to the child.

Both parent and child must be U.S. citizens or eligible noncitizens and meet the eligibility requirements for federal student aid.

Unlike other types of federal loans, Direct PLUS Loans consider your credit history, and the requirements state that the borrower must “not have an adverse credit history.”

Some borrowers with credit issues may still be able to qualify if they meet certain additional eligibility requirements, such as having an endorser on the loan. Another option is to document if there are extenuating circumstances related to the adverse credit history.

Eligibility for Federal Grad PLUS Loans

When a Direct PLUS Loan is made to a graduate or professional student, it’s commonly called a grad PLUS loan. To qualify as an individual student borrower, you must be enrolled at least half-time in an eligible program leading to a graduate or professional degree.

As with parent PLUS loans, the borrower must meet the eligibility requirements for federal financial aid and can’t have an adverse credit history.

Interest Rates on Federal PLUS Loans

Direct PLUS Loans have some of the highest interest rates of all federal student loans. Interest rates on federal student loans are fixed for the life of the loan and the rate is set by Congress each year.

For the 2023-2024 school year, the interest rate on Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized loans for undergraduates is 5.50%, the rate on Direct Unsubsidized loans for graduate and professional students is 7.05%, and the rate on Direct PLUS loans for graduate students, professional students, and parents is 8.05%. The interest rates on federal student loans are fixed and are set annually by Congress.

Is the Federal Direct PLUS Loan Subsidized or Unsubsidized?

Direct PLUS Loans are unsubsidized federal loans, meaning that the interest accumulates on the loan at all times.

If you are a graduate or professional student, you do not have to make any grad PLUS loan payments if you are enrolled at least half-time in school, and there is also a six-month grace period after you graduate or leave.

If you don’t pay the interest on a federal unsubsidized loan during these periods, the interest on the loan is capitalized and added to the total principal amount of the loan. This amount will also accrue interest and increase the overall amount you owe.

Parent borrowers are expected to start making payments on a Direct PLUS Loan once it’s been fully paid out. But in certain circumstances parents may request a deferment while their child is enrolled in school or six months after.

Loan Fees on Federal PLUS Loans

There is a loan fee for Direct PLUS Loans. A percentage of the loan amount (currently 4.228%) is deducted from each loan disbursement. This percentage is higher than that for Direct Loans (currently 1.057%). Loan fees vary by the date they are disbursed.

Loan Limits on Federal PLUS Loans

Direct PLUS loans allow graduate students or parents to borrow enough money to fund the costs of school that aren’t covered by other aid.

Unlike other federal loans, you can borrow up to the total cost of attendance with a Direct PLUS Loan, minus financial aid already received. The student’s school sets the amount that a graduate student or parent can borrow through a Direct PLUS Loan.

How to Apply for Federal PLUS Loans

Before applying for a Direct PLUS loan, a student must fill out the FAFSA® — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The borrower will undergo a credit check and may need to participate in credit counseling if this is the first PLUS loan.

Once completed, schools at which students applied and were accepted will send award letters to students that include financial aid options for the upcoming school year, including Direct PLUS loans if the student and/or parent qualifies.

If a school doesn’t accept applications for Direct PLUS Loans via the federal Student Aid website , contact the school’s financial aid office to find out how to apply.

Thinking about refinancing your Direct PLUS Loans?
Get started with SoFi student loan refinancing.


Recommended: FAFSA Guide

What to Do When Federal PLUS Loans Aren’t Enough

The amount that can be borrowed through Direct PLUS Loans is set by the student’s school and can’t exceed the total cost of attendance minus financial aid received. If you still need additional funds to cover other education-related costs, you may want to explore private loans.

Private loans can bridge the gap between what a student is able to borrow in federal loans and their remaining needs after accounting for aid such as scholarships or grants.

Your eligibility and the interest rate that you can get through a private loan will depend on factors like your credit score and income. Having a cosigner on your loan may help you secure more favorable terms.

Parents with strong credit and income may find lower interest rates on no-fee private parent student loans than on federal parent PLUS loans which, as a reminder, also come with an origination fee.

Recommended: The Differences Between Grants, Scholarships, and Loans

What to Do About Undergraduate School Loans

Direct PLUS loans are not eligible for most income-driven repayment plans. However, if you consolidate your PLUS loan (or loans) into a federal Direct Consolidation Loan, that new loan can be eligible for an income-contingent plan.

If you’re a graduate student and you have a high-interest rate on existing undergraduate loans or need to lower your monthly payment before grad school, it could be worth considering student loan refinancing. Refinancing student loans through a private lender offers the opportunity to consolidate multiple student loans, federal and/or private, into a single loan with a single payment and (ideally) a lower interest rate. Note: You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.

Refinancing may be a better long-term solution for some PLUS loan borrowers, especially if they do not qualify for income-driven repayment and are not planning to use other federal benefits. Keep in mind if you refinance federal loans, you lose access to federal benefits and protections, such as forgiveness, income-driven repayment plans, and forbearance.

The Takeaway

Direct PLUS Loans are unsubsidized federal loans that can be made to graduate students or parents of a dependent undergraduate student. Known as grad PLUS loans or parent PLUS loans, these federal loans take your credit history into account. If you have an adverse credit history, there are certain eligibility requirements you’ll need to meet to qualify.

Direct PLUS Loans allow you to borrow up to the full cost of attendance for graduate school minus the amount of financial aid you receive from other sources. Since they have higher interest rates and a higher origination fee than other types of federal loans, you’ll likely want to pursue a federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan first.

Private student loans can bridge the gap between what a student is able to borrow in federal loans and their remaining needs after aid such as scholarships or grants is considered.

Parents or graduate students with strong credit and income may find lower interest rates on no-fee private student loans than on federal Direct PLUS Loans.

SoFi private student loans offer competitive interest rates for qualifying borrowers, flexible repayment plans, and no fees.

Make a plan for repayment and consider refinancing your student loans.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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mother and daughter

Guide to Parent Student Loans

Weighing your child’s college education against keeping your own debt manageable is a tough balancing act. Parent student loans could help you fill gaps when other student aid falls short.

There are a variety of student loans available to parents who are interested in helping their child pay for college. Parents can consider either federal or private student loans. Parent PLUS Loans are federal student loans available to parents. Private lenders will likely have their own loans and terms available for parent borrowers.

It’s important to note here that figuring out how to fund your child or children’s education is a personal and individualized decision. Continue reading for an overview of the different loan types available to parents and some important considerations to make before borrowing money to pay for your child’s education.

Types of Parent Student Loans

Parent borrowers can consider borrowing a federal student loan or private student loan. Here are a few of the different types of loans to consider.

Parent PLUS Loans

Parent PLUS Loans are federal student loans that are available to parents of dependent undergraduate students through the Department of Education. They offer fixed interest rates — 8.05% for the 2023-2024 academic year. On the plus side, eligible parents can borrow up to the attendance costs of their child’s school of choice, less other financial aid.

The amount eligible parents can borrow is not limited otherwise, so this can be a useful loan to fill in whatever tuition gaps aren’t covered by other sources of funding. These loans also provide flexible repayment options, such as graduated and extended repayment plans, as well as deferment and forbearance options.

As far as federal loans go, interest rates on Parent PLUS Loans are relatively high. So, it may be worth considering having your child take out other federal loans that carry lower interest rates. Parent PLUS Loans may also come with a relatively high origination fee of 4.228% for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Applying for Parent PLUS Loans

To apply for a Parent PLUS Loan, parents will have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA®. In addition to the FAFSA, there is a separate application form for Parent PLUS Loans . Most schools accept an online application. For any questions, contact the school’s financial aid office.

Unlike other federal student loans, there is a credit check during the application process for Parent PLUS loans. One of the eligibility requirements is that borrowers not have an adverse credit history. Though, parents who do not qualify for a Parent PLUS Loan due to their credit history, may be able to add an endorser in order to qualify. An endorser is someone who signs onto the loan with the borrower and agrees to make payments on the loan if the borrower is unable to do so.

Repaying a Parent PLUS Loan

​​PLUS Loan terms are limited to 10 to 25 years, depending on the chosen repayment plan , and do not offer income-driven repayment plans like other federal loans do (although they may be eligible for the Income-Contingent Repayment Plan if they are consolidated through a Direct Consolidation Loan).

Parents have the option of requesting a deferment if they do not want to make payments on their PLUS loan while their child is actively enrolled in school. If a parent does not request deferment, payments will begin as soon as the loan is disbursed.

Keep in mind that interest will continue to accrue during periods of deferment, so deferring payments while your child is in school may increase the overall cost of borrowing the loan.

Private Parent Student Loans

In some cases, it might make sense to turn to private lenders for student loans. If you have a solid credit history (among other factors), you may be able to secure a reasonable interest rate.

Recommended: Private vs. Federal Student Loans

Before taking on a private student loan, here are some things to be aware of:

•   Always read the fine print.

•   Origination fees will vary from lender to lender.

•   There may not be flexible repayment options, and private loans typically don’t offer deferment or forbearance options the way federal loans do.

•   Also, the amount you may qualify to borrow will likely vary.

The application process for private parent student loans will likely vary based on the individual lenders. Repayment terms and options will also generally vary by lender.

Keep in mind that private student loans don’t offer the same borrower protections, like deferment options, as federal student loans. For this reason, they are typically borrowed after other options, like using savings, federal student loans, and scholarships, have been exhausted.

Named a Best Private Student Loans
Company by U.S. News & World Report.


Cosigning Private Student Loan for Your Child

Cosigning a private student loan with your child means that you both have skin in the game. Cosigning a loan typically means each party is equally responsible for the debt. So if your child stops paying, you’re still on the hook for all of the debt.

Most college-age students have had little chance to build their own credit, so having parents — with better, or at least longer, financial histories — as cosigners might mean a better rate than if they applied on their own.
Parents can work out a plan in which both parents and children make payments, or it may even make sense to have a cosigned loan on which only the child makes payments.

Considerations Before Borrowing a Parent Student Loan

As a parent, of course you want the best for your child and to help them in any way you can. Whether or not you decide to take out a student loan to put your child through school is a decision to weigh carefully.

Your choice will likely have a lot to do with your own financial situation. Consider how taking out student loans may affect your own financial goals, especially retirement.

Staying on track for retirement requires a concerted effort during your earning years. That is in part because it can be more difficult to borrow money to cover your retirement expenses when you’re retired, because you will no longer be earning an income to help you pay back borrowed money.

So, before taking on student debt for your children, you’ll probably want to make sure you’re saving enough for your own future. After all, your children likely have decades of potential earnings after they graduate, during which time they can work to pay off their student loans. You, on the other hand, may not have as much time to pay off new debts and save for other goals.

It may also be worth considering how taking on new debt could affect things like your credit score and your debt-to-income ratio. Lenders consider these factors, among others, when deciding whether to loan you money.

That said, if you feel you are financially strong enough to take on student loans for your child, there are a number of loan options available to you.

The Takeaway

Parent student loans can be borrowed by a student’s parents and used to help pay for educational expenses like tuition. Before borrowing a parent student loan, parents should evaluate their own financial situation and goals, such as retirement savings.

Parents interested in borrowing to help support their children’s education can choose between federal and private parent loans, or may consider cosigning a loan for their child. If you’re considering borrowing a private parent student loan, consider SoFi. The application process is entirely online and borrowers have the option of making interest-only payments while their child is enrolled in school or starting the repayment process up front.

SoFi is a leader in the student loan space — offering private student loans to help pay for school. See your interest rate in just minutes, no strings attached.
 


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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4 Student Loan Repayment Options—and How to Choose the Right One for You

4 Student Loan Repayment Options — and How to Choose the Right One for You

Editor's Note: For the latest developments regarding federal student loan debt repayment, check out our student debt guide.

Choosing a Student Loan Repayment Option

It’s never too early to think about student loan repayment. Whether you’re still in college, or you recently graduated and are in the ‘grace period’ before repayment begins, strategizing now can help you weigh the options.

If you’ve graduated and are already working and making payments, it can be a good idea to re-evaluate your repayment plan over time. As your financial circumstances change, the way you’d like to manage your student loans may also shift.

Before considering your options, take inventory of all your student loans. Be sure to list the principal, the interest rate, the repayment period, and the servicer for each loan.

All federal student loans issued in recent years have fixed interest rates, but private student loans or older federal student loans may have variable rates. If the rate is variable, be sure to note that as well.

Different Student Loan Repayment Options

Once you understand the details of your student loans, it’s time to think about your repayment options. The simple choice if you have federal student loans is the Standard Repayment Plan. It’s the “default” repayment plan, so unless you sign up for another option, this is the plan you’ll have. Under the Standard plan, you typically pay a fixed amount every month for up to 10 years.

There is no “standard repayment plan” for private student loans; the interest rate may vary based on market factors, and your repayment term might be shorter or longer.

The federal government also offers graduated and extended repayment plans for borrowers. With the Graduated Repayment Plan, payments start smaller and grow over time, while the Extended Repayment Plan stretches repayment over a period of up to 25 years and payments may be either fixed or graduated.

Opting for the Standard Repayment Plan may work for you, but for some borrowers, it’s not the most cost-effective choice. These borrowers may be eligible for special federal programs that can reduce the amount they owe monthly based on financial circumstances, and in some cases, forgive balances if they meet certain requirements.

Or some borrowers might be able to find a more competitive interest rate by refinancing their loans through private lenders.

💡 Quick Tip: Often, the main goal of refinancing is to lower the interest rate on your student loans — federal and/or private — by taking out one loan with a new rate to replace your existing loans. Refinancing makes sense if you qualify for a lower rate and you don’t plan to use federal repayment programs or protections.

Here’s an overview of some student loan repayment options that may help if you are choosing a repayment plan:

1. Student Loan Consolidation

Federal student loan consolidation allows you to combine multiple federal student loans into a single new loan. You can’t consolidate private student loans using this federal program.

When you consolidate your federal student loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan, your new loan’s interest rate will be the weighted average of all your old student loans’ interest rates, rounded up to the nearest eighth of a percent. This means your interest rate won’t necessarily be lower than the rate you were paying before consolidation on some of your student loans.

When you consolidate, you’ll also have the option to select a new repayment plan. The standard plan would still be available, but consolidation can also be a first step toward other plans of action, like student loan forgiveness or income-driven repayment.

2. Student Loan Forgiveness

While President Biden’s federal student loan forgiveness program — which would have canceled up to $20,000 in student loan debt for eligible borrowers — was blocked by the Supreme Court in late June 2023, there are other available forgiveness plans that certain borrowers may be able to take advantage of. For instance, some federal student loans and Direct Consolidation Loans are eligible for modified payment plans that forgive outstanding student loan balances.

Health care professionals, teachers, military service members, and those employed full-time by qualifying nonprofit or public service organizations may be eligible for certain federal student loan forgiveness programs.

For instance, under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, those who have worked for qualified employers, such as the government or some nonprofit agencies and have made 10 years of payments on a qualified income-driven repayment plan, can apply for forgiveness of all of their remaining federal student loan balances. That forgiveness is not considered taxable income.

The Federal Student Aid website has additional information on which federal student loans qualify for which types of forgiveness, cancellation, and/or discharge.

3. Income-Based Repayment

If the payments under the Standard Repayment Plan seem too high, federal student loans offer a variety of income-based repayment plans, which tie the amount you pay to your discretionary income.

These income-driven repayment plans, which come in a variety of configurations, may help lower your monthly payments. In some cases, however, you might end up paying more over the life of the loan than you would have on the Standard Repayment Plan. That’s because with low monthly payments that stretch out over more years, you could be paying more in interest over time.

However, under the new Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) income-driven repayment plan introduced by the Biden Administration at the end of June 2023, any unpaid interest would be covered by the government (meaning the interest would not accrue) as long as you make your monthly payments. This plan also aims to reduce a borrower’s monthly payments by half.

Additionally, with income-driven repayment plans, you may be eligible for some student loan forgiveness programs if the remainder of your student loans aren’t paid off after 20 to 25 years (and in some cases under the new SAVE plan, after 10 years) of consistent, on-time payments.

4. Student Loan Refinancing

Refinancing student loans through a private lender offers the opportunity to consolidate multiple student loans into a single payment and potentially decrease your interest rate or lower your monthly payment.

Loan repayment terms vary based on the lender, and borrowers with better credit and earning potential (among other financial factors that vary by lender) may qualify for better terms and interest rates.

One important thing to know about refinancing, however, is that once you refinance a federal student loan into a private loan, you can’t undo that transaction and later consolidate back into a federal Direct Consolidation Loan.

This can be relevant for professionals in health care or education where federal student loan forgiveness plans are offered, or for those considering long-term employment in the public sector.

In addition, refinancing federal student loans with a private lender renders them ineligible for important borrower benefits and protections, like income-driven repayment and deferment.

💡 Quick Tip: When refinancing a student loan, you may shorten or extend the loan term. Shortening your loan term may result in higher monthly payments but significantly less total interest paid. A longer loan term typically results in lower monthly payments but more total interest paid.

Can You Change Your Student Loan Repayment Plan?

If you have federal student loans, it is possible to change your repayment plan at any time, without any fees. You’ll have the option to choose from any of the federal repayment plan options, including income-driven repayment plans.

There is less flexibility to change the terms of a private student loan. Some private lenders may offer alternative payment plans for borrowers. Check with your lender directly to see what options may be available to you.

SoFi Student Loan Refinancing

Refinancing is another avenue that can result in a new repayment plan. An important consideration, however, is that refinancing federal student loans will remove them from any federal programs or protections, so this won’t be the right choice for everyone.

The Takeaway

Federal student loan borrowers have the ability to change their repayment plan at any time, without being charged any fees. There are different plans to choose from and you can look for one that suits your situation and needs.

Changing your repayment plan is a bit more challenging for private student loans, though some private lenders may offer alternative options for borrowers. Refinancing is another option that could allow some borrowers to adjust their repayment terms.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

FAQ

What student loan repayment options are available to me?

Borrowers with federal student loans can choose from any of the federal repayment plans, including the standard 10-year repayment plan, or income-driven repayment options, including the new SAVE plan introduced by the Biden Administration at the end of June 2023, which is designed to make student loan debt more manageable.

For private student loans, repayment options will be determined by the lender.

What is a standard repayment plan for student loans?

The Standard Repayment Plan for federal student loans is fixed monthly payments over a period of 10 years. For consolidation loans, repayment may extend up to 30 years.

How long is a typical student loan repayment?

The typical student loan repayment period may vary from individual to individual. The Standard Repayment Plan for federal loans is 10 years, but income-driven repayment plans or Direct Consolidation loans may have a term of up to 25 to 30 years.

The repayment terms for private student loans vary by lender.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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