Summer classes can help students make room in their schedule or get ahead to potentially graduate earlier. But, can students borrow student loans to pay for a summer class? The short answer is yes.
Both private and federal student loans can be used to pay for summer classes. The application process is typically the same one that students borrowing federal loans. The loans you would apply for are the same ones you’d apply for if you wanted to secure loans for the academic year.
Borrowing Student Loans for Summer Classes
Broadly, there are two major types of student loans, federal and private. As mentioned, both are available to students for their summer classes. It’s important to understand the difference between federal and private loans when considering your options.
The Differences Between Federal and Private Student Loans
Federal student loans are funded by the federal government and offer borrower protections like a six-month grace period after a student graduates or drops below part-time enrollment, and income-driven repayment plans.
Most federal loans do not require a credit check (aside from Direct PLUS Loans, which do). Interest rates on federal student loans are fixed for the life of the loan and are set annually by Congress. Some undergraduate students may qualify for a Subsidized Direct Loan, where they are not required to pay accrued interest while they are enrolled in school at least half-time, during the grace period, or during some periods of deferment.
Private loans are offered by private lenders, such as banks, credit unions, online lenders, and other financial institutions. Interest rates on private loans are determined by the individual lender based on criteria including the applicant’s financial history and credit score. Interest rates may be either fixed or variable.
Loan terms vary by lender, but borrowers may be required to make payments while they are enrolled in school and private lenders may or may not have a grace period. Private student loans also lack the borrower protections afforded to federal student loans, such as deferment, forbearance, and the option to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Because of this, private student loans are generally a last resort funding option for students.
Federal Student Loans
Federal lending limits apply to both loans borrowed for summer classes and the academic year. So, borrowers who have already taken out federal student loans to cover the cost of tuition during the year, may need to check to make sure they haven’t met the lending limit for student loans. The annual federal lending limit changes based on a student’s dependency status and their academic year.
A first-year undergrad for the 2021-2022 academic year, dependent students may qualify for up to $5,500 in student loans, with a limit of $3,500 on what can be subsidized.
Independent first-year undergraduate students may qualify for up to $9,500 in student loans, with a limit of $3,500 on what can be subsidized.
Federal lending limits typically increase incrementally the longer a student is in school—as long as they are enrolled at least half-time. Graduate or professional students could qualify for up to $20,500 of unsubsidized loans. If you haven’t reached the maximum amount for federal student loans, you could apply for one to cover your summer class.
To apply for any federal student loan, students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA®. Students must fill out the FAFSA annually.
Since summer classes are likely to occur during or after July, students may need to fill out the FAFSA for the following academic year. However, this isn’t always the case.
To be sure you’ve already filled out the FAFSA for the correct year, contact your school’s financial aid office. They might be able to tell you which year you need to fill out FAFSA for and when the priority filing deadline for the summer session is. The sooner you complete the FAFSA, the more likely you are to receive funding since many sources of aid are offered on a first-come, first served basis.
When speaking with the financial aid office, consider finding out if there are any additional requirements for receiving aid for summer classes. Some schools may require you to submit other applications or documentation in addition to the FAFSA.
Some schools require students take a minimum number of credits to qualify for federal aid during the summer session. Students who do not meet the set minimum may not qualify for federal student loans.
Private Student Loans
Students who have met the maximum borrowing limit for federal student loans may consider private student loans as an option to pay for summer classes. Generally, private lenders may allow you to borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance.
Students interested in borrowing a private student loan can apply directly with the lender. It’s a good idea to shop around, many lenders will offer quotes to potential borrowers that allow them to compare rates and terms. Be sure to look at a lender’s student loan repayment plans too.
Interest rates for private loans vary by lender and are based on the applicant’s financial qualifications. Lenders may offer fixed or variable interest rates on private student loans, which means they can fluctuate with the ups and downs of financial indices.
To secure a private student loan, applicants typically need to have a solid credit history, proof of income, be at least 18, and be a U.S. resident. Adding a cosigner to the loan may be an option that can help potential borrowers strengthen their application.
SoFi has private student loans for undergraduate, graduate students, and their parents. There are absolutely no fees and borrowers can choose one of four repayment plans, depending on which works best for their personal situations.
Paying for Summer Classes Without Taking Out Loans
To take a summer class and potentially avoid taking out additional loans, consider applying for a grant or scholarship—which typically won’t need to be repaid.
Pell Grants are awarded by the federal government and based on financial need. If they qualify, students can receive Pell Grants for 12 semesters. In certain circumstances, students may be eligible to receive up to an additional $1,000 for the summer semester.
Some schools offer grants or scholarships to students who are enrolling in summer classes at their university. To see if your school offers this option, contact your student aid office. Other schools have discounted rates during the summer session, which can make taking summer classes a more affordable option.
Consider Student Loan Refinancing After Graduation
After graduation, some may consider refinancing their student loans. Refinancing involves taking out a new loan, which has a new interest rate and terms. Depending on a borrower’s credit history and earning potential, among other factors, they could potentially qualify for a lower interest rate.
Know that if you refinance federal loans, you will lose access to federal borrower protections, such as income-driven repayment plans and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
When you refinance with SoFi, there are no prepayment penalties or origination fees. See how refinancing could impact your student loans by using SoFi’s student loan refinancing calculator.
Federal and private student loans can be used to pay for summer classes. Federal loans are an option for borrowers who have not met the annual borrowing limit set by the federal government. Some schools may also require students meet a minimum number of course hours during summer session in order to use federal student aid.
Students who are unable to use federal loans to pay for summer classes may consider applying for a private student loan. Keep in mind that private student loans do not have the same borrower protections as federal student loans.
Whether you need help paying for school or help paying off the loans you already have, SoFi offers competitive interest rates and great member benefits as well.
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SoFi Private Student Loans
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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
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