Student Loans for Summer ClassesApril 23, 2021
While many college students are gearing up for a summer full of road trips and pool parties, others are stuck preparing for another semester on campus.
Whether you’re trying to graduate early or just earning some extra credits to catch up, there’s a good chance you’ll have to take at least one summer class at some point while earning your college degree. Here are some things to consider when it comes to paying for summer classes, along with some tips to drive down the cost.
Use Federal Student Loans
You can pay for summer classes with federal student loans if you haven’t already used the maximum annual amount to pay for the previous fall and spring semesters. As of 2021, the annual maximum for undergraduates is between $5,500 and $7,500, depending on your year in school. The annual limit for graduate students is $20,500.
Contact your school’s financial aid office to ask if you have money left over. If so, you may be able to use the remaining funds to cover summer classes. However, you can only use federal student loans if you’ll have at least half-time status, which usually equals three to six credit hours. If you’re taking less than that, you won’t be able to use federal student loans.
Many colleges split the summer semester into two separate sessions. You aren’t required to have part-time status for each session to qualify, but you need to meet part-time hours during the whole summer semester.
If you’ve maxed out your student loans, your parents can take out Parent PLUS loans to pay for summer classes. This is your only other federal loan option. Parents can borrow up to the cost of attendance, minus additional aid like scholarships, grants and other loans. As of 2021, the interest rate on Parent PLUS loans is 5.30%.
Before approving an application, the federal government will conduct a credit check on the applicant’s parents. To qualify, they must not have a bankruptcy, default, tax lien, wage garnishment, foreclosure or repossession within the past five years. Otherwise, there is no minimum credit score or income requirement for these loans. Parents who do have an adverse credit history may be able to use a cosigner.
Like other federal student loans, Parent PLUS loans qualify for income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness options.
Unlike other federal student loans, Parent PLUS loans are solely in the parent’s name. They’ll stay on your parent’s credit report until the loan is paid off. Parents who are trying to refinance a house or pay for another child’s college education may be hesitant to take out a Parent PLUS loan for this reason.
Students who qualify for a Pell Grant can receive up to an extra $1,000 to put toward the cost of summer tuition. You must already be eligible for the Pell Grant and be enrolled part-time during the summer semester.
Apply for Scholarships
If you know you’ll need money for summer classes, consider applying for scholarships to cover the costs. Start by applying with your university and ask your advisor if there are any special grants or awards available to cover summer classes.
Once you’ve reviewed all the university-based funding options, apply for third-party scholarships through sites like FastWeb, Unigo and Scholly. Sort by application deadline to find the awards that are right for you.
Save Money and Take Classes Elsewhere
Before figuring out how to pay for summer classes, find out if you can lower the cost. Remember, you’re not limited to taking courses at your current university. If you’re enrolled at a private college or out-of-state public university, you could save money by taking classes at an in-state institution.
The average cost of a credit hour at an in-state college is $396, compared to $1,101 for an out-of-state public school and $1,353 for a private university. If you’re taking two three-credit classes, that’s a difference of between $4,230 and $5,742.
Before signing up, ask your departmental advisor if those credits will transfer over and count toward your degree requirements. If not, then you may have to repeat those credits. If possible, have your advisor send you a letter verifying that your transfer classes will be eligible.
Borrow Private Student Loans
If your parents are unwilling to apply for a Parent PLUS loan and you’ve failed to secure enough scholarship funding, the next best step is to take out a private student loan for college. You’ll likely need a parent to cosign on the loan, but you will remain the original borrower. After graduating, you can ask the lender to remove the parent as a cosigner or apply to refinance the Parent PLUS Loan into your name.
The minimum amount for a private student loan is usually $1,000, and terms range between five and 20 years, depending on the provider. Like federal student loans, most private lenders let you defer payments while you’re in school and for six months after graduation. Interest rates on private loans are often higher than on federal loans, but you can always apply to refinance your student loans to a lower rate after graduating.
Private loans are usually faster to obtain than federal loans, and you may be able to receive funding just a few days after being approved. You can also use private loans to cover living expenses, like paying for an apartment, groceries and transportation while you’re taking summer classes.
To apply for a private student loan, contact ELFI and speak with a personal loan advisor who will guide you through the application process.*
Find a Summer Job
Paying for all or some of summer tuition by yourself will save you from taking out as many loans. If you work 20 hours a week at $10 an hour, you could potentially pay for one regular class out of pocket.
Before choosing this route, contact the financial aid office, so you understand when payment for summer classes is due. You may have to pay for classes before starting your summer job, but most schools can create a payment plan, so you don’t owe the whole amount upfront.