Paying for college can seem intimidating, but after calculating your net price, you’ll get a better sense of your education’s affordability. Though you may receive grants, scholarships, and other money you do not have to pay back, you may have to take out loans to pay for school.

What exactly is a loan?

Simply put, a loan is money that is borrowed. Unlike your grants and other aid, you will eventually have to repay your loan. That said, there are varying types of loans that have different terms and conditions. This article will cover the most common types of college loans. 

Federal subsidized loan

After reviewing your FAFSA application, your school may offer you a subsidized loan if they deem you high-need. The amount they offer you will depend on the rest of your financial aid package. They will never offer you a subsidized loan that exceeds the cost of your school’s attendance.

With a subsidized loan, you are not required to pay interest while you are a student (half time or more). After you graduate, you have six months until you are required to begin paying. This loan is offered by the federal government. 

Federal Unsubsidized loan

Regardless of your financial need, your school will offer you an unsubsidized loan. The amount they will offer you will depend on the rest of your financial aid package. 

With an unsubsidized loan, you are required to begin paying interest as soon as you take out the loan. If you do not want to pay the interest immediately, you may defer your payments (postpone them). Deferring your payments, however, will add the interest due to your capital (the original amount of money you borrowed). Read more on interest and capital below.

Federal vs Private loans

Despite the complexity of federal loans, they are both better options than a private loan from a bank or other financial institution. Federal loans have lower interest rates than banks, meaning that in the long run, you will pay less back. Some of the federal loans perks include:

  • Terms and conditions set by law. Conversely, private lenders can change their terms and conditions whenever they want.
  • Fixed interest rates. This means you won’t be subjected to a higher interest rate because of the market or your credit score. Private lenders can change their interest rates as they see fit. With lower interest rates, you pay less in the long run!
  • Loan forgiveness programs. Your federal debt may be forgiven if you work in certain public service sectors. 

CA Dream Loan Program
If you are an undocumented student in California, you are not eligible for federal student loans. However, California has the CA Dream Loan Program available to undergraduate and graduate students attending the CSU and UC. 

Your school’s financial aid office will offer you the loan based on your Dream Act application. The maximum loan is $4,000 a year. You are not required to pay interest while you are in school and have six months to start paying your loan off. The terms and agreements are almost identical to the federal subsidized loan. 

Read more about the difference between government (state and federal)  and private loans here. We at Let’s Go to College CA, highly encourage you to use government loans over private loans; we believe the terms and conditions are better than private loans. 

Principal and Interest Rate

What is a principal?

In finance, the principal is the amount of money that you owe. If you take out a $1,000 loan, your principal is simply $1,000.

What is interest?

Interest is the cost of borrowing money. A financial institution will charge you a percentage of the capital, that you have to pay back on their terms. You can pay the interest monthly, yearly, or however often required. 

People often think that when you pay interest, you are paying off your loan. This is incorrect. You are simply paying the financial institution for the privilege of having the capital.

Let’s say you take out a $1,000 loan. The interest rate (the percentage of the capital) is 10%. This means that monthly, you are paying the financial institution $100. Even though you are paying $100 every month, your capital, the $1000 you originally borrowed, is still $1000. Again, this is because you have only been paying interest.

The only way to decrease the capital is to pay extra money in addition to the interest. If your capital is $1000 and your interest rate is 10%, then you may want to pay $150. That way, $100 goes towards interest and $50 towards your capital. Then, your capital is $950. This means that your interest payment is now $95. Remember, interest is simply a percentage of the capital you owe. 

Please note that with unsubsidized loans, your deferred interest becomes part of your capital. Let’s say you took out a $1000 loan. You differ your 10% interest rates for a whole year (12 months), meaning you did not pay $1200 worth of interest. This amount gets added to your capital, so instead of owing $1000, you now owe $2200. This is how student debt accumulates significantly!

Check out these Youtube videos for more explanation on capital and interest rates. 

Check out this US News Report article on college financial literacy. It includes links and brief explanations on budgeting, living on your own, filing taxes, and more. 

Vocabulary Summary

Here is a quick rundown of the terms mentioned above!

Federal Subsidized – a loan that does not charge interest until six months after you have graduate college given by the federal government.

Federal Unsubsidized – a loan that charges interest as soon as you take the loan out given by the federal government.

Private loan – a loan that charges interest as soon as you take it out, given by a private lender like a bank, credit union, or other financial institution.

Capital – the amount of money that you owe.

Interest – a percentage of the capital that you are charged for the privilege of the loan

Please know that Let’s Go to College CA is student-led and student-centered. We understand the burden of student debt and will constantly advocate for better affordability. Please check back soon for more information on paying back loans, loan forgiveness, and more.