For many families, borrowing is one of the key components of financing a college education. To that end, a family may utilize one of the many education loan options that are available, such as private education loan programs available from lenders. When a family borrows an education loan, they essentially rely on future income sources to pay college costs, as they will be repaying the education loan back in the future. Since loans need to be paid back, the loan repayment will be an added responsibility in the future and one that needs to be taken very seriously. Loans are not free and actually can be very expensive. It is imperative that if you do borrow a private education loan that you be a smart borrower, as decisions that you make now will impact your life style and options in the future. Students should first maximize loan borrowing through the Federal Direct Stafford Loan Programs, if eligible, which have favorable terms, various repayment options, and typically are the lowest cost loans.
Private education loan, also referred to as alternative loans, are credit based loans offered by lenders, including banks, credit unions, state agencies, and private companies. It is important to understand the role of credit in the private loan process, as private loans are not automatic financing options. Private loan programs use a borrower’s and co-borrower’s (if applicable) credit worthiness as a determinant when considering applicants for private loan eligibility. A borrower’s credit worthiness not only determines if they are approved for the loan, but has a bearing on the interest rate assigned to the loan. Ultimately, when talking about private loans, your credit rating is a very important contributing factor in the private loan review process.
Although specific lender underwriting guidelines are proprietary information and unpublished to the consumer, it is known that the strength of the applicant’s credit is a large factor. With that said, it is a worthwhile exercise to review your personal credit standing regardless, as establishing and maintaining good credit is vital for many reasons. In general, credit is the basis of most consumer borrowing, thus being proactive with credit is a positive practice.
Before borrowing a private education loan, you should carefully compare the terms, repayment details, and total cost of the loan, including interest rate and fees. Loan terms and repayment details vary greatly among lenders and between loan programs, so do be sure to compare loan details carefully and ask the lender many questions when reviewing loan programs. Important information to inquire about includes whether the rate is fixed or variable, if the loan incurs any fees, if there is a prepayment penalty, what the length of the repayment term is, and if there are any deferment or forbearance provisions available. Loan applicants will be provided with a disclosure notice with the financing details of the loan which provides a good opportunity for the borrower to review the minute details of the loan prior to committing. Just be sure to ask many questions and compare several loan programs before committing to a specific.
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