Paying for higher education can be a daunting thought. With the cost of higher education continuing to rise, and when scholarships and savings won't cover tuition, fees and living expenses, parents and students often turn to loans to help cover the costs. Federal student loans are generally obtained through a school's financial aid plan. If a federal loan does not cover expenses students and parents can apply for a private college loan.

In July 2008, Governor Patrick launched a Web page to provide answers and assistance relative to student loans for Massachusetts students and their families: www.mass.gov/studentloans.

Government versus Private Loans

Stafford Loans are federal student loans made available to college and university students to supplement personal and family resources, scholarships, grants, and work-study. Nearly all students are eligible to receive Stafford loans regardless of credit. Stafford loans may be subsidized by the U.S. Government or unsubsidized depending on the student's financial need.

For more information, contact your school financial aid office or visit the U.S. Department of Education's "Student Aid on the Web" website.

When Federal loans do not cover all expenses for higher education, students can apply for a private student loan. Private loans are generally credit-based loans and can be obtained through most banks and lending agencies. Be sure to carefully read and understand any contract you sign. Be aware of interest rates and repayment plans before signing any contract. For more information, contact your school financial aid office.

Repayment and Loan Forgiveness

Educational loan repayment generally begins within 6 months of ending your education. For information on consolidation or payment plans, contact your loan provider. Under specific circumstances you could have your Federal student loans forgiven, meaning you no longer have to pay them back. For more information, visit the FinAid.org online guide, The Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid.