Emergency Student Loans and How to Get ThemJanuary 17, 2023
As a college student, you are likely on a tight budget. A single emergency — your car breaks down, childcare falls through, or your hours are cut at work — can completely derail your plans and cause you to have to pause your education.
Emergency student loans are designed to help you pay for those unexpected expenses so you can stay in school and complete your degree. Here’s how they work and how to find them.
What Are Emergency Student Loans?
Your tuition bill is due, but your federal loans aren’t disbursed yet. The car you use to get to class breaks down. Your professor assigns pricey textbooks that cost more than you budgeted. Financial emergencies can come in many forms, and emergency student loans may help to keep you on track in spite of unexpected circumstances.
If you’re like many students, your finances are already stretched thin. A Trellis Company survey found that 25% of four-year college students ran out of money five or more times in the prior year.
If an unexpected expense pops up, emergency loans for students can help you cover the expenses and stay in school.
Emergency student loans are relatively small loans — usually $1,000 or less — with short repayment terms. While traditional student loans have repayment terms as long as 20 years, emergency loans typically have to be repaid within a few weeks or months.
Emergency student loans are usually no-cosigner loans, and they can have low-interest rates. However, some lenders charge no interest at all as long as the loan is repaid on time.
Where to Get Emergency Student Loans and Grants
If you need money quickly to pay for your school-required expenses, living costs, or other fees, you can find emergency aid through several sources:
1. Contact Your School’s Financial Aid Office
If your student loans are delayed, or a sudden expense comes up, contact your school’s financial aid office. The financial aid representative may have solutions, such as:
- Advancing you a portion of your loans
- Small grants for students with financial need
- School-issued emergency loans
If your personal financial status has changed, or if your family’s financial situation has changed, you may also be able to appeal your financial aid status if you were denied or were not offered very much money initially.
You can do this by asking your school for a professional judgment of your aid award. During this process, an administrator may be able to modify your FAFSA data based on your new circumstances. Or your school may determine that extenuating circumstances justify a change to your initial financial aid package.
Some colleges and universities also have their own funds set aside for emergency student loans. For example:
- Emory University: At Emory University, students in the Laney Graduate School can receive an emergency loan as large as $1,000. The loans must be repaid within 89 days, and they are interest-free as long as the loan is repaid during that term.
- University of Houston: The University of Houston has an emergency loan program students can use for expenses of $500 or less. The loans do not accrue interest, but the loans have to be repaid within 45 days if the loan is taken out during the spring and fall semesters. In the summer, the loans must be repaid within 30 days.
Emergency Direct Loan
If you opted out of taking the full amount of Direct Loans from the Department of Education that you were approved for, you may be able to obtain more of the money you were eligible for if you find yourself facing financial hardship later. You can request the distribution of both subsidized and unsubsidized student loans that you initially opted not to take out.
Emergency PLUS Loan
PLUS Loans are also available through the Department of Education, either to parents of undergrads or to graduate students. You can apply for one if you’ve maxed out your Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans but still find yourself in need of emergency cash to help cover your college expenses.
2. Apply for a Federal Emergency Grant
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government expanded relief measures for college students. Through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Act, the government provided funds to schools so they could issue students emergency financial aid grants to individuals affected by the pandemic.
The grants could be used to pay for expenses students incurred due to campus operations being interrupted. For example, students can use the funds for housing, food, course materials, and technology expenses.
The Federal Government is no longer distributing any new funds to schools under this Act. However, if your school has not exhausted all the funds the government provided initially, it may still be possible to request and receive a grant. Talk with your school’s financial aid office to see if this is an option.
3. Search for Help on the Federal Government’s Database
If you’re looking for federal and state assistance programs, you can use the government’s database at Benefits.gov to search by category or location. You can find resources that may help you with subsidized child care, housing, food, and emergency cash relief.
4. Call 2-1-1
The 2-1-1 helpline and website is run by United Way Worldwide. When you call, text, or email 2-1-1, a representative can connect you to local community resources and nonprofits that provide financial assistance to students in need.
For example, the 2-1-1 center in Florida may connect Seminole State College students to Destination Graduation. Run by the local United Way chapter, Destination Graduation is a program that gives students emergency financial assistance for unforeseen expenses that could hurt their chances of graduating on time.
Alternatives to Emergency Student Loans
If you’ve tried to get emergency loans for students from your college, area nonprofits, and government agencies but still need help, another option is to apply for federal or private student loans.
Federal loans don’t require credit checks for undergraduate borrowers, and you can use the money you receive for your tuition as well as living expenses. The standard repayment term on federal loans is ten years, but some borrowers can qualify for income-driven repayment plans that offer terms as long as 25 years. You will need to submit your FAFSA to be eligible, and it is a good idea to complete FAFSA early to maximize the benefits available to you when looking for emergency aid for college students.
Private Student Loans
Another option is to apply for private student loans. Unlike federal loans, which have borrower limits for undergraduate students, private lenders usually allow you to borrow up to the total cost of attendance. Depending on the lender, you may be able to take advantage of quick student loan disbursement and use the money to pay for your emergency expenses.
If you decide to apply with a private lender for emergency student loans, you can get a quote without affecting your credit score with ELFI’s Find My Rate tool.*
Look for Additional Grants and Scholarships
If you find yourself in need of emergency loans for college students, grants and scholarships could actually be a better solution to solve your cash flow issues since the money doesn’t have to be paid back. Since your credit and income don’t matter for scholarships, these are also a great option for anyone looking for emergency student loans with no cosigner required.
There may be a number of grants and scholarships available you can apply for throughout the year — although eligibility can vary based on many factors. These resources can help you to find free aid that you may want to apply for.
- Scholarships for Black and African American Students
- Scholarships for Latinx and Hispanic Students
- Scholarships for Women
- Scholarships for Grad Students
- Scholarships for Adopted and Foster Care Students
Find a Food Pantry
If you are struggling to afford food, many colleges have food pantries available to provide the necessities. Local churches and other charitable organizations may also offer food at no cost to those in need. Feeding America is a helpful resource to find food banks near you.
Tuition Payment Extension
If you are worried about not being able to make your tuition payment on time, your school may be willing to work with you to provide an extension or determine a payment plan that works. You should check with your school’s financial aid office to find out what options you have. It’s best to act early, so you have time to work something out before a tuition payment is missed.
Some schools also offer voucher programs to help with specific financial costs that can be a burden, such as housing or academic supplies. Again, your school’s financial aid office would be a great resource to find out about these types of programs.
Apply for a Private Student Loan with ELFI
Private student loans can also be a financial lifeline when federal aid does not go far enough. ELFI offers undergraduate loans and other types of student loans for those in need of more assistance covering school costs.
Check out the private student loan eligibility rules for borrowing through ELFI to see if submitting an application to borrow could open up the door to getting the funds you need when you’re searching for emergency loans for students.