7 Smart Alternatives to Parent PLUS LoansJuly 30, 2021
As a parent, you naturally want to help your child as much as possible. That mindset often includes helping them pay for college. If you don’t have enough money tucked away in a 529 or your savings account, you may be considering Parent PLUS Loans.
They’re a popular choice, and more parents are turning to PLUS Loans than ever. In fact, Parent PLUS Loans account for 25% of all federal undergraduate loans.
However, Parent PLUS Loans have significant drawbacks and are an expensive form of debt. It’s a good idea to exhaust all available alternatives before taking out Parent PLUS Loans to minimize how much you need to borrow. Here are a few tips if you’re wondering how to avoid Parent PLUS Loans:
Reasons to avoid Parent PLUS Loans
As of 2021, approximately 3.6 million people have outstanding Parent PLUS Loans, with an average balance of $28,778. With such a large balance, many parent borrowers will struggle to repay their loans because of the following issues:
- They have high interest rates: While federal loans typically have low interest rates, Parent PLUS Loan rates are generally higher than other loan types. Loans issued between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022, have an interest rate of 6.28%.
- Parent PLUS Loans have disbursement fees: Along with interest, Parent PLUS Loans also charge disbursement fees. The fee is deducted from the loan amount before it’s issued to you, but you have to repay — with interest — the original balance. Loans disbursed on or after October 1, 2021, have a 4.228% disbursement fee.
- They aren’t eligible for income-driven repayment (IDR) plans: Federal loan borrowers can typically take advantage of IDR plans if they can’t afford their payments. However, Parent PLUS Loans aren’t eligible for IDR plans unless you consolidate your debt with a Direct Consolidation Loan. Then, the only IDR plan available is income-contingent repayment, the payment plan that uses a larger portion of your discretionary income to determine your payments.
- They can’t be transferred to the child: Parent PLUS Loans are in the parent’s name; the child is not legally obligated to repay the loan. The federal government doesn’t allow Parent PLUS Loans to be transferred to the student; the only way to do that is to refinance your parent loans with a private lender like ELFI.
With such significant drawbacks, it’s wise to consider other options besides Parent PLUS Loans to help your child with their college costs.
7 alternatives to Parent PLUS Loans
Parent PLUS Loans are an expensive form of debt. If you’re trying to learn how to avoid their high interest rates, look for college financing alternatives to Parent PLUS Loans like gift aid and work-study programs.
Here are seven other options besides Parent PLUS Loans that can help cover your child’s total cost of attendance:
Make sure your child fills out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s not just for student loans; it’s also what the federal government, state government, schools, and non-profit organizations use when determining eligibility for grants. Grants are typically based on financial need, and they don’t need to be repaid.
Scholarships are excellent alternatives to Parent PLUS Loans. Usually awarded based on merit or achievements, scholarships are a form of gift aid and don’t need to be repaid. They can be issued by colleges, companies, and non-profit organizations. Your child can search for available scholarships on FastWeb and Scholarships.com.
For more information on this topic, be sure to explore our blog on how to get scholarships for college.
3. School aid
If you can’t cover the cost of college with scholarships, grants, and savings, contact the college’s financial aid office. The school may have other financial aid programs that can help, such as institutional loans.
4. Work-study programs
If your child is willing to work while in college, a federal or state work-study program can be an excellent way to pay for some of their education costs while gaining valuable work experience. Your child will get a job related to their major, and they can use their wages to pay for school. If you and your child are interested in work-study jobs, contact the college’s financial aid office to see if they participate in the federal or state program.
5. Federal undergraduate loans
Other federal loans can be useful alternatives to Parent PLUS Loans. Depending on your child’s financial need and student status, they may qualify for Direct Subsidized or Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
Unlike Parent PLUS Loans, Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans are in the child’s name. As a parent, you have no obligation to repay the loan, and it won’t show up on your credit report. And Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans have lower interest rates and fees than Parent PLUS Loans.
If your child qualifies for Direct Subsidized Loans, the federal government will even cover the interest that accrues while your child is in college, for six months after they leave school or graduate, and during periods of deferment.
6. Private student loans
When considering other options besides Parent PLUS Loans, think about private student loans. You can use private parent loans or undergraduate loans to pay for college. While they don’t have the same benefits as federal student loans, there may be some advantages to using private loans.
Private parent loans may have lower interest rates and fees than Parent PLUS Loans, and you can choose a loan term that suits your budget.
With a private undergraduate loan, your child can apply for a loan on their own and choose between fixed and variable interest rates. However, you may have to co-sign their loan application if they don’t have a job or good credit.
If you decide that private student loans make sense for your situation, use ELFI’s Find My Rate tool to get a rate quote without affecting your credit score.*
7. Part-time jobs
If your child’s college doesn’t participate in a federal or state work-study program, your child can get a part-time job instead. By working a few hours a week, they can earn money and pay for a portion of their college expenses on their own.
Paying for college
Now that you know about their interest rates and repayment terms, you can plan how to avoid Parent PLUS Loan debt. You can still help your child pay for school utilizing other options besides Parent PLUS Loans. By showing them how to apply for grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and private loans, they can make informed decisions about what financial aid is best for them.