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Graduate School Loans: Advancing Toward Your Advanced Degree

Feb 1, 2008
While only thirty years ago a four year college degree was enough to get you into good job in your chosen profession, times have definitely changed. Now having a Bachelor's Degree may be good for an entry level job in a field you love, but if you want to break into the upper levels of your profession, and advanced degree is almost certainly required.

And certain careers, especially those in law and medicine, have always demanded several years of graduate study. Yet the grants, and scholarships readily available to college undergraduates seem to evaporate when one is looking for a way to fund graduate school. Graduate student loans, it seems, are the best way for the financially challenged to pay for their graduate degrees.

Stafford Loans

Fortunately, the Federal government does understand the need for graduate level study, and offers the Stafford Loans program to provide a variety of graduate student loans. All you need do is complete a free application for student aid, or FAFSA loan, and then decide which loan avenue to pursue.

You may find Stafford graduate student loans administered by the graduate schools to which you are applying, but they are granted by the government. One big advantage to accepting a Stafford graduate student loan is that you will be allowed a six month grace period following your graduation before you need to start your payments.

The Federal Stafford graduate student loan program is also administered privately by banks and other commercial lending institutions. If the government accepts your application for this Stafford loan, you will be given a list of their approved lenders. Only those students who have not defaulted on any other student loans are eligible for Stafford graduate student loans, so if you have an earlier loan hanging over you, you need to clear it up if you want to fund your graduate school career with a Stafford loan.

If your income is low enough, you may have the interest on your graduate student loans subsidized by the government. What this means is that as long as you are enrolled in graduate school, you will not be responsible for the interest on your loan.

If your income level is too high, however, the interest on your graduate student loans will accumulate and be included in the principal which you need to repay. This means that both the total of your loan, and your payments, will increase. You will be able to take out Stafford graduate student loans totaling $50,000, spread out over the time you remain in graduate school.

Private Loans

If you are ineligible for a Stafford loan, you can always look for a private one, but your success will depend on your previous credit history. So you should do as much as you can to clean up your credit and raise your credit score before applying for any graduate school loans.

Funding graduate school may be hard work, but don't let a shaky credit history stop you. If you can find a willing co-signer, your search for graduate school loans will be simplified greatly. When you see your grad school financial struggles in the light of the increased earning power an advanced degree will bring, they are greatly diminished.
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