Financial AidIf classes were free, I imagine far more people would be getting degrees. It's amazing how many free classes are already out there on the web! I list many of them in my Free Online Classes listing. But let's say you don't want to just take free online classes all day. You want to take some of the for-pay ones, and maybe you want to get a whole degree. You want help paying for these items.
Your first step is definitely to fill out a FASFA. You might hear that this is complicated, but really it is VERY easy. You just need last year's tax paperwork. Most of their questions are cut and paste from the tax report. In fact you can even log onto the IRS site from their form and have it auto fill in numbers for you. Yes, it might take a half hour to get through - but it is VERY worth your time. You can end up with thousands of dollars of free money for your college courses.
Always talk to a financial advisor about these issues. I am not an expert :) But here is what I found.
If you are needy, the government will GIVE YOU free money to take classes. Give you. You don't have to pay it back ever. This is great!! Free money to learn!! Definitely fill out your FASFA and see if you get any. The idea that you're getting free money to learn wonderful things is just amazing to me. Always take free money.
Subsidized Stafford Loan
The subsidized loan is great too. They are giving you a loan with PAID FOR INTEREST. That is, the government will pay your interest charges for you until six months after you graduate! So you owe nothing at all - and you're not even racking up any charges at all - until six months after you graduate. If you save up money in the meantime, you can then pay it off in full at that point and not owe any money at all! It's the ultimate type of loan. You really can't ask for anything better. I highly recommend, if you get a subsidized loan, to accept it. Put your own money into a savings account, earning interest. Then pay the Stafford loan off in full as soon as you can, AFTER it comes due. The government automatically tells you on the FASFA how much they will give you that year in subsidized loans.
Unsubsidized Stafford Loan
If you hit the point where you can't pay for classes, then the unsubsidized loan is a good option. The interest rates are very low. But they do rack up interest while you are in school. So if you have other options, don't go with this type of loan. It is better to spend money in the bank which is earning 2% interest than to rack up 8% interest in loan rates. But if you are simply out of money - and the college experience is worth it to you - this is a good loan option. Again you'll automatically be told by FASFA how much you qualify for once you apply.
There are tons of banks which offer loans to you. You need a good credit record, collateral, etc. So if you can get those loans - and what types of rates you can get them for - is up to your history. It is definitely worth it to work on and develop a strong credit history in life.
In addition to the various loan options, you should ALWAYS look into scholarships.
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