Student Loans by Degree Type

Financial Needs Differ From Undergrad to Grad

The economic disparities between undergraduate and graduate students are quite marked. Both student populations have diverse financial, academic, and professional needs. Yet one common factor remains: All students should have access to affordable and practical student loans from a variety of legitimate sources.

FAFSA: The Common Thread

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial element of every conversation on student loans. The FAFSA form is the application that gains you access to the U.S. Department of Education’s federal loan program. Truth is the FAFSA is also the clincher for a host of other types of student loans, including state loans, aid from colleges and universities, and many types of scholarships and grants.

More than 21 million applications are filed each year. However, millions of students fail to file a FAFSA each year; this includes all types of students, regardless of income. Many of those same students would absolutely qualify for some type of federal aid; nearly two million are estimated to be low-income, and half would likely qualify for Pell Grants. Graduate or undergraduate — don’t be one of these numbers.

Loans by degree


The FAFSA is not fun to fill out: It’s a clumsy, six-page, tax-like document. There are no short forms or quick ways to get around it, so just fill it out and file it on time.  You can file between January and June.  FAFSA deadlines vary: there are federal deadlines and state deadlines, as well as deadlines from colleges and universities. Scholarships that list the FAFSA as a requirement may have their own specific deadlines. The earlier you fill it out, the better. There are a few first-come, first-served federal aid programs, and colleges and universities typically require the form early in the year — in February or March. So go ahead and make it a priority.

Most Popular Student Loan is a Best Bet for Both Undergrads and Grads

The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program is the largest federal loan program. This loan program offers four programs that embrace undergrads, grads and professional students in subsidized and unsubsidized versions.

Undergraduate Student Loans

Undergraduate student loans comprise a collective bunker of financial aid products from federal, state, and private lenders.

Federal Undergraduate Loans

Undergrads, no matter what, you must go for the federal loans first — the Direct Loan Program, including the Direct PLUS Loan for Parents and for Graduate or Professional Students.

We’ve mentioned the popularity and degree flexibility of the Direct Loan Program; you may qualify for subsidized funds if your family income is low enough. The good news is that everyone qualifies for Direct Unsubsidized Loan; income does not matter. Students that carry a combination of subsidized and unsubsidized are not uncommon.

If your financial need is significant enough, you may qualify for extra federal funds with a campus-based Federal Perkins Loan.

Since many parents are willing to bear a good chunk of the financial burden for their undergraduate, college-bound children the federal government designed the Direct PLUS Loan for Parents. Parents may borrow up to the cost of their child’s education, minus other financial student aid that is being received, but they must have worthy credit.

State-Based Undergraduate Loans

Did you know that many states offer their own types of student loans? In some cases, a state government partners with the federal government, or with a leading loan guaranty agency or lender to help residents find the most affordable student loan solutions. Don’t overlook state-specific financial aid options as a companion to your federal loans.

This is an easy step: We have already assembled a big list of state loan programs, listed A-Z by state. Check with your home state and the state in which you’ll be going to school for programs that are right for you. Couldn’t be simpler.

Private Undergraduate Student Loans

When you consider private undergraduate student loans, you are talking about high interest, credit-based loans also known as alternative loans.

Here’s the deal…Private loans are a last resort. Don’t be scared off by them; they can serve a very good purpose. However, you need to approach them with respect. Squeeze all of the financial aid you can out of government resources, scholarships, grants and your own savings before you seek any private or alternative funds.

Graduate Student Loans

Graduate students are typically considered independent students, with or without financial need. The increase in graduates with burdensome amounts of debt has raised the concern of federal lawmakers who have sought to make federal graduate student loans with limits and interest rates that are more appealing and affordable.

Federal Loans for Grad Students

The Direct Unsubsidized Loan is a hands-down, first step for graduate students. It comes sensibly packaged with a higher loan limit than for undergrads. If you are in dire financial straits, your campus may even approve you for a Federal Perkins Loan.

The PLUS Loan for Graduate and Professional Students is specifically designed to give graduate students more financial muscle. This program doest not offer the same low interest rates as the Direct Unsubsidized Loan and does require the borrower to have a good credit history, but it fills in gaps where many students may have considered resorting to private loans.

State-Based Graduate Student Loans

States offer a wide range of financial aid options, and some even manage even better deals. Check out the A-Z list of state student loans we’ve pulled together. Choose your home state along with the state in which you’ll be attending college.

Private Graduate Student Loans

Before you go to private loans, we urge you to squeeze every federal dollar you can from your government graduate student loans. When you’ve borrowed your maximum limits, then it may be time to explore your options for private or alternative loans.

High Need Loans for Graduate Students

Why is it that fields like nursing, medicine, law, and teaching often fall short of professionals? Medicine and law require students with a high degree of motivation and discipline. Grads carry many thousands of dollars in debt, but their jobs also pay quite well once they are out of residencies and pass their required exams. Nursing and teaching require patience and a “calling.”

High need or critical need loan programs for med students, nursing and student teachers, and law students provide a partial solution, providing financial assistance that is especially focused on graduate students.