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Student loans are loans offered to students to assist in payment of the costs of professional education. These loans usually carry a lower interest rate than other loans and are usually issued by the government. Often they are supplemented by student grants which do not have to be repaid.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (known as the FAFSA), is a form that can be filled out annually by current and anticipating university students (both undergraduate and graduate) and sometimes their parents in the United States to determine their eligibility for federal student financial aid (including Pell grants, Stafford loans, PLUS loans, and work-study programs). In addition, most states and schools use information from the FAFSA to award non-federal aid.
The FAFSA consists of numerous questions regarding the student's finances, as well as those of his or her family; these are entered into a formula that determines the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). A number of factors are used in determining the EFC including the family size, income, number in college, and assets (not including retirement and 401K). This information is required because of the expectation that parents will contribute to their child's education, whether that is true or not. Most students in the United States attending college are above the age of eighteen, which relieves their parents of any financial responsibility for them whatsoever, according to US law. This brings the question of why parents' assets are a factor at all, because of the fact that they are no more legally related to the student than is a complete stranger. Students who will not be receiving parental aid for college expenses may be able to appeal directly to their school of choice for a reevaluation of aid awards based on their personal circumstances.
The FAFSA does not have questions related to student or family race, ethnicity or religion.
A Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a summary of the FAFSA responses, is forwarded to the student. The student should review the SAR carefully for necessary corrections. An electronic version of the SAR (called an ISIR) is sent to colleges/universities the student selected on the FAFSA. The ISIR is also sent to state agencies that award state need-based aid. Schools may award aid on a first-come, first-served basis, and students are advised to fill out the FAFSA as early as possible for consideration for maximum financial assistance.

Federal Perkins Loan

A Federal Perkins Loan, or Perkins Loan, is a need-based student loan offered by the U.S. Department of Education to assist American college students in funding their post-secondary education. The program is named after Carl D. Perkins, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Kentucky.
Perkins Loans carry a fixed interest rate of 5% for the duration of the ten-year repayment period. The Perkins Loan Program has a nine-month grace period, so that borrowers begin repayment in the tenth month upon graduating, falling below half-time status, or withdrawing from their college or university. Because the Perkins Loan is subsidized by the government, interest does not begin to accrue until the borrower begins to repay the loan. The loan limits for undergraduates are $4,000 per year with a lifetime maximum loan of $20,000. For graduate students, the limit is $6,000 per year with a lifetime limit of $40,000 (including undergraduate loans).
Perkins Loans are eligible for Federal Loan Cancellation for teachers in designated low-income schools, as well as for teachers in designated teacher shortage areas such as math, science, and bilingual education. A percentage of the loan is cancelled for each year spent teaching full-time.

Stafford Loan

Stafford Loan is a student loan offered to eligible students enrolled in accredited American institutions of higher education to help finance their education. The terms of the loans are described in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (with subsequent amendments), which guarantees repayment to the lender if a student defaults.
In 1988, Congress renamed the Federal Guaranteed Student Loan program the Robert T. Stafford Student Loan program, in honor of U.S. Senator Robert Stafford, a Republican from Vermont, for his work on higher education.
Because the loans are guaranteed by the full faith of the US Government, they are offered at a lower interest rate than the borrower would otherwise be able to get for a private loan. On the other hand, there are strict eligibility requirements and borrowing limits on Stafford loans.
Students applying for a Stafford loan or other federal financial aid must first complete a FAFSA. Stafford loans are available to students either directly from the United States Department of Education through the Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDSLP, also known as Direct) or from a financial intermediary (such as Chase, Sallie Mae or Student Loan Corp.) through the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).
No payments are expected on the loan while the student is enrolled as a full or half time student. This is referred to as in-school deferment. Deferment of repayment continues for six months after the student leaves school either by graduating, dropping below half-time enrollment, or withdrawing. This is referred to as the Grace Period.
Stafford loans are available both as subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Subsidized loans are offered to students based on demonstrated financial need. The interest on Subsidized loans is paid by the federal government while the student is in school, during the grace period, and during authorized deferment. For unsubsidized Stafford loans, students are responsible for all of the interest that accrues while the student is enrolled in school. The interest may be deferred throughout enrollment. Unpaid interest that is deferred until after graduation is capitalized (added to the loan principal).
Interest on Stafford loans may vary and are determined based upon the date the loan was disbursed.
Calculations to determine undergraduate Stafford loan rates

Stafford Loan Disbursement Date

Rate Type

Subsidized Interest Rate

Unsubsidized Interest Rate

Current Rate (2007-2008)

Future Rate (2008-2009)

Prior to July 1, 1998


91-Day T-Bill + 3.1%

91-Day T-Bill + 3.1%



July 1, 1998 to June 30, 2006


91-Day T-Bill + 2.3%

91-Day T-Bill + 2.3%



July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2008






July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009






July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010






July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011






July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012






July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013






SOURCE: Stafford Loan Interest Rates
SOURCE: The Relationship between Treasury Bills and Education Loans

For variable rate loans, the rates are set annually using the price of the 91-day Treasury bill on the last Monday of May, and become effective for the following year on July 1. For fiscal year 2007-2008 the 91-day Treasury bill auctioned on May 29, 2007 at 4.919% (rounded to 4.92%) are used for the calculation. On May 27th, 2008 the 91-day Treasury bill was auctioned at an investment rate of 1.905% . On July 1, 2008, the base rate for variable rate Stafford loans will be adjusted to 1.91%. Loans issued prior to July 1, 1998 will be adjusted to a rate of 5.01%. Loans issued July 1, 1998 thru June 30th, 2006 will be adjusted to a rate of 4.21%.

As of July 1, 2006 all Stafford loans are issued with a fixed interest rate. For Direct loans and most loan providers, the rate is currently set at 6.80%.
As the new rate goes into effect, some loan providers are foregoing portions of the margin they are entitled to under the Federal program, offering interest rates lower than the standard rate. Many are also offering price incentives related to payment history, direct debit, etc. Collectively, interest rate reductions, principal reductions, and origination fee discounts are known as Borrower Benefits.
In addition, in repealing the Single Holder Rule, Congress also allows loan providers to compete for college consolidation loans that are available to students and former students with multiple loans. Specialized consolidation lenders and student loan providers compete on various incentives to attract customers.

Stafford loan lenders

Top Stafford lenders ranked by total FY 2006 loan originations

Lender name

# of loans

Amt of loans ($)

Federal Direct Student Loan Program



Sallie Mae



JP Morgan Chase






Bank of America



Wells Fargo EFS



Wachovia Education



College Loan Corporation



U.S. Bank



Access Group






SOURCE: Stafford (FFEL & Direct) and PLUS (FFEL & Direct) Loans, from the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), US Department of Education, Fiscal Year 2006 Federal student loan consolidation Federal

Student Loan Consolidation

In the United States both the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) and the Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDLP) include consolidation loans that allow students to consolidate Stafford Loans, PLUS Loans, and Federal Perkins Loans into one single debt. This results in reduced monthly repayments and a longer term for the loan. Unlike the other loans, consolidation loans have a fixed interest rate for the life of the loan.

Interest rates and payments

Consolidation loans have longer terms than other loans. Debtors can choose terms of 10–30 years. Although the monthly repayments are lower, the total amount paid over the term of the loan is higher than would be paid with other loans. The fixed interest rate is calculated as the weighted average of the interest rates of the loans being consolidated, assigning relative weights according to the amounts borrowed, rounded up to the nearest 0.125%, and capped at 8.25%. Some features of the original consolidated loans, such as postgraduation grace periods and special forgiveness circumstances, are not carried over into the consolidation loan, and consolidation loans are not universally suitable for all debtors.


The Federal Loan Consolidation Program was created in 1986. In 1998, the United States Congress changed the interest rate to the aforementioned fixed rate weighted mean, effective February 1, 1999. Consolidation loans taken out before that date had a variable interest rate, determined by the individual FDLP loan origination center (e.g., in the case of a university, that university) or FFELP lender (e.g., a third party bank).
In 2005, the Government Accountability Office considered consolidating consolidation loans so that they were exclusively managed through the FDLP. Based on several assumptions about future variations in interest rates, the loan volume, the percentage of defaulters, cost estimates from the United States Department of Education, it concluded that while doing so would incur an additional cost of $46 million, caused by the higher administrative costs of the FDLP compared to the FFELP, this would be offset by a $3,100 million saving comprised in part of avoiding $2,500 million in subsidy costs. In 2008, turmoil in the financial and credit markets has led to the suspension of many loan consolidation programs, including Sallie Mae, Nelnet and Next Student.

Consolidation loan lenders

Top consolidation lenders ranked by total FY 2006 consolidation loan originations

Lender name

# of loans

Amt of loans ($)

Federal Direct Student Loan Program



Sallie Mae












JP Morgan Chase



Goal Financial, LLC



College Loan Corporation






Student Loan Xpress



Wachovia Education Finance



SOURCE: Stafford (FFEL & Direct) and PLUS (FFEL & Direct) Loans, from the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), US Department of Education, Fiscal Year 2006.


Source: Wikipedia

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