Going to college part-time could give you the opportunity to work, care for your kids, or save on tuition.

Being part-time, however, limits your access to private student loans.

Here’s an overview of how your enrollment status affects your help, and where to find private loans when you need them.

How your enrollment status affects your financial aid

If you are attending school at least part-time, it is generally recommended that you rely on federal student loans first. They don’t need strong credit or a co-signer, and they come with exclusive protections like income-tested repayment and the possibility of a student loan forgiveness.

But your options are more limited if you only take classes here and there.

To borrow subsidized and unsubsidized direct loans from the federal government, for example, you must attend school at least part-time. This is based on your course load, with your school probably setting a certain number of credit hours per week to be considered “full-time” status.

The same goes for Parent PLUS loans if your mom or dad plans to borrow on your behalf – you will still need to attend school part time or longer.

A private loan could help you fund your tuition, but not all banks, credit unions, or online lenders work with part-time students. Those who do will usually examine your credit score, credit history, and debt-to-income ratio – or that of your co-signer – before offering their seal of approval.

Some lenders offering private loans to part-time students

Many private lenders, such as Ascent and Citizens Bank, follow in the footsteps of the federal government and require you to be enrolled at least part-time.

The following three lenders, however, allow you to drop below half-time while still being eligible for the loan.

1. Student Loans College Ave

  • Fixed and variable interest rates
  • Borrow as little as $ 1,000
  • Four repayment options at school, including deferral
  • Repayment term options include 5, 8, 10, and 15 years
  • Receive a 0.25% rate deduction to sign up for automatic payment
  • No administration fees
  • Prequalify in three minutes
  • Release your co-signer after making half of your refund

Eligibility in fine print: You must research a degree from an eligible school. If you don’t see your school listed when applying for a loan, it is likely ineligible. Confirm by contacting your school or emailing the lender at [email protected]

2. Sallie mae

  • Fixed and variable interest rates
  • Borrow as little as $ 1,000
  • Three repayment options at school, including deferral
  • Repayment term options range from 5 to 15 years
  • Receive a 0.25% rate deduction to sign up for automatic payment
  • No origination or prepayment fees
  • Apply in 15 minutes
  • Receive free credit score tracking and university study support
  • Request 12 months of interest payments only after graduation
  • Free your co-signer after 12 months of fast payments, the best in the industry

Eligibility in fine print: You should look for a bachelor’s or associate’s degree or certificate from a participating school.

3. Rhode Island Student Loan Authority

  • Fixed and variable interest rates
  • Borrow as little as $ 1,500 per year
  • Defer payments for up to six months after leaving school
  • Repayment term options include 5, 10 and 15 years
  • Receive a 0.25% rate deduction to sign up for automatic payment
  • No administration or origination fees
  • Prequalify in 10 minutes or less
  • Possible access to features similar to a federal loan, forgiveness and income-based repayment
  • Receive multi-year approval with one app
  • Release your co-signer after 24 consecutive months of prompt payments

Eligibility in fine print: Only residents or students of Rhode Island can borrow fixed rate loans, although any student nationwide – of any type of enrollment – is eligible to borrow a variable rate loan.

3 captures of part-time students borrowing for college

When considering borrowing a private student loan for your part-time enrollment, keep these questions in mind:

1. School certificate

Your school must certify your enrollment status with a lender before you can receive a loan. If the school didn’t allow part-time students – or private loans for part-time students – you would have wasted your time asking for help in the first place.

To avoid headaches, check with your campus financial aid office for registration requirements before borrowing. You may be asked to complete a self-certification form, confirming the amount you are eligible to borrow.

2. Minimum loan amount

As a less than half-time student, you probably don’t need to borrow as much money for school as your full-time peers. In many schools, the fewer credits you enroll, the lower your tuition fees.

To be eligible for a private loan, however, you must borrow a minimum amount. College Ave and Sallie Mae, for example, all set a threshold of $ 1,000. If you need to borrow less than that, you may be able to avoid borrowing by taking a part-time job.

3. Triggering of reimbursement

If you fall below half time after borrowing private student loans, you may need to start repaying those loans immediately. Contact your lender (preferably before changing your enrollment status) to learn more about the consequences.

Likewise, if you remove credits from your course load and fall below half-time, you will need to repay your federal loans.

Consider all of your financial aid options

Only a handful of reputable lenders allow part-time students to borrow for college. With fewer options than your full-time and part-time peers, make sure the loan is best for you before signing on the dotted line.

Explore all of your financial aid options for part-time workers. And, if you haven’t already, ask for a gift aid that doesn’t need to be repaid, including grants and scholarships.

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