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Who Is Considered a Full-Time College Student and Why Does it Matter?

October 2, 2019

Are you at that important time in your life when you are seriously considering going to college? If so, you probably have a shortlist of colleges that you would like to attend. However, just as important as where you will go to college is the consideration of how you will go to college. Will you be a full-time student or a part-time student? It seems pretty obvious that a full-time student will go to school more often during the academic year than a part-time student. However, what you probably don’t realize is that what distinguishes the two tends to vary by college or university. It’s essential that you know the enrollment requirements of any college that you are thinking of attending.

What Is the Definition of a Full-Time College Student?

 

The most obvious difference between a full and part-time student relates to how many credit hours are taken during a semester. To be regarded as a full-time student generally means working toward a minimum of twelve credits (approximately four classes). Part-time is usually considered to lie somewhere in the area of two to eleven credits (one to three classes).

 

However, what counts as full time at a school that uses a semester system will likely vary from what counts as full-time at a school that uses a quarter system. To make things easier to understand, students are usually classified as full-time as long as they take more than half of a traditional course load.

 

To learn if you will be considered a full-time student, check with the college of your choice. The registrar’s office will most likely have the college’s definition posted online. If not, a quick phone call or email is the best way to go.

Note: if you are a student with some learning differences, then a full-time course load for you might vary from that of other students. Be sure to check with your college on your particular situation.

Does my Enrollment Status Impact my Tax Deductions?

 

Whether or not you are classified as a full-time student can affect different aspects of your education – including any impact it might have on your taxes. For example, you may qualify for certain tax credits and deductions as a full-time student that you would not be eligible for as a part-time student. As we saw above, sometimes this status question is school specific. Luckily, the IRS simplifies things by stating that it will regard you as a full-time student if: you are ‘attending an education program for at least five months per calendar year’. Keep in mind, the five months do not need to be consecutive or full. If you are counting on certain deductions, then you should check with your tax advisor before taking any action (such as dropping a class) that might affect your enrollment status.

 

These tax implications also apply if your parents or guardians claim you as a dependent. To do so, you (the student) must be under the age of 24 and be a full-time student.

 

Will My College Enrollment Status Affect My Student Loans?

 

Most importantly, financial aid packages and student loans are influenced by whether your status is a full-time or part-time student. Often times, academic scholarships require a certain grade point average and the maintenance of a certain enrollment status – think full-time vs part-time enrollment. Check with your financial aid office when considering the shift from full-time to part-time to better understand the cost impact to not only your college provided aid but federal aid as well.

 

If you are a full-time student with private student loans and have selected deferment payment plan while in school, you do not have to begin paying back many student loans until you drop below full-time status (and often times 6 months after that due to a grace period). This is designed to allow students to make it through their college career and find employment prior to paying off their student debt. If you change your status you may trigger the commencement of your student loan payments sooner. Don’t let yourself be blindsided by reducing your course load only to discover that you have to start making student loan payments you had previously thought were delayed until after graduation. If in doubt call your lender to get clarifications on your individual scenario.

 

Does course load impact student athletes?


If you’re a student-athlete, you are already balancing your class load and practice and travel schedules. That could be a strain and it might have you thinking about scaling back your class load. Keep in mind, you may not be eligible to compete if you fall below specified enrollment requirements. This full-time status is very similar to grade requirements, codes of conduct and other requirements set forth by your college and the conference it belongs to. Be sure to speak with your coach prior to making changes to your schedule or class load if this is of a concern.

 

What Are the Benefits of Being a Full-Time Student?

 

One obvious benefit of going to college full-time is that you’ll get through college faster than a part-time student. As mentioned earlier, there are also many scholarships with the eligibility requirement that you must be a full-time student. Don’t underestimate the positive impact these scholarships and grants can have on your total cost of attending college. And, if you want to live on campus, some schools require you to be a full-time student.

 

Can I Be Both a Full-Time and Part-Time Student?

 

It’s completely acceptable to mix the two types of statuses varying between semesters. If the stress of full-time school gets to be too much, you might benefit from taking a part-time semester or even a part-time year. Situations change, and the important thing to remember is that you can adjust your schedule to whatever fits your needs. Just remember to talk to your financial aid office at your college so that you understand how your decision affects your status at the college and your college finances.

 

After you have that well-earned degree in your hand, it will be time to begin tackling your student loan debt. If you are burdened by high monthly payments from your existing student loans, there is a way out – it’s called student loan refinancing. Talk to ELFI to find out how we may be able help you lower your monthly student loan payments or help you pay down your balance faster*.

 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites

Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

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college student refinancing student loans
2020-05-26
Can You Refinance Student Loans While in School?

If you have student loans you probably have wondered what’s the best way to handle them. Should you wait to pay them after graduation or start paying them while in school? Or maybe you have heard about student loan refinancing and are wondering if it is right for you. Read on to find out one way you can manage your student loans that will benefit you right now.  

What is Student Loan Refinancing?

When you refinance student loans you take out a new loan to pay off one or multiple federal or private student loans. You will have a new loan term and presumably a lower interest rate. You can refinance to a new loan with the same amount of years left as your old loan or stretch out the term to allow a longer time for repayment. If you increase the amount of time to repay this will lower your monthly payment but likely will cause you to pay more interest over the loan term.   

Can You Refinance Student Loans While in School?  

The short answer is yes, but it may be difficult to find a lender that you can refinance with if you are still in college. Many lenders require a Bachelor’s degree as an eligibility requirement for refinancing. The other
requirements to refinance* with ELFI include: 
  • You must have a credit score of at least 680 and a minimum yearly income of $35,000. 
  • Must have a minimum credit history of 36 months.
  • Must be a U.S. citizen, the age of majority. 
  If you cannot currently meet these requirements, you can have a cosigner that fits these requirements.     If you have federal student loans some may argue you should wait to refinance them until you graduate because they offer more flexibility with deferment and forbearance. However, some private lenders also offer deferment and forbearance options. Some other things to consider are:
  • If you think you will get a job in the public sector that would qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you may not want to refinance because you would lose the benefit of having your federal student loans forgiven under the program. 
  • If you think you will want to take advantage of an income-driven repayment plan when you graduate, you may not want to refinance because this is only offered for federal student loans. Tip: Be aware that when you take advantage of income-driven repayment plans, your monthly payment is lower, but you will end up paying more for the loan in interest costs.   
  There are many benefits to refinancing while in school to put you on a better financial path when you graduate. The average college graduate has $31,172 in student loans. However, you can work to reduce that amount by refinancing. Student loan refinancing can be beneficial for many reasons: 
  • Consolidate - Refinancing allows you to consolidate multiple federal and private student loans into one new loan. You can refinance some or all of your loans. Consolidation makes it easier to manage one loan as opposed to multiple loans. With only one loan you will be less likely to miss a due date, and avoid any associated late fees. 
  • Lowers Interest Rate - When you refinance you can potentially qualify for a lower interest rate. A lower interest rate saves you in interest costs over the life of the loan. 
    • If you have unsubsidized federal student loans (the ones where interest accrues while you are in school) your loans could be growing by an average of 4.53%. But if you refinance you may qualify for a lower rate, as low as 3.86%, and less interest would be accruing. 
  • Lower Monthly Payment - If you score a lower interest rate when you refinance you will be paying a lower monthly payment. To find out how much you could potentially save, use our Student Loan Refinance Calculator.*  
  • New Lender - Do you always have trouble with customer service when you want to ask a question about your loan? When you refinance, you can get a new lender if you choose. It’s great to find a lender with high customer reviews. At ELFI we pride ourselves on providing award-winning customer service. 
  • Fixed Interest Rate - if you have a loan with a variable interest rate it may be more advantageous to refinance and lock in a fixed interest rate. With a variable interest rate your payment can increase when interest rates increase, which could put a financial strain on your budget. 
  Important tip: if you refinance while in school and after graduation your credit score and income increase, you can always try refinancing your loan again to possibly get an even lower rate.*   

Conclusion

Researching how to handle your student loans while still in school is a great initiative to set yourself up for a strong financial future after graduation. Student loans may seem like a heavy burden, but utilizing resources available to you will make the monthly payments easier on your budget.  
  *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.   Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
Former UT athletes obtain graduate degrees through the SouthEast Bank RAC Program.
2020-05-08
ELFI Parent Company Helps Former Student-Athletes Obtain Degrees

Empowering others to reach their full academic potential is an integral part of Education Loan Finance's mission, and this extends to its parent company, SouthEast Bank.   This was shown in a recent UTSports.com article highlighting how several former standout University of Tennessee athletes are set to complete their undergraduate degrees after putting their education on hold to pursue professional sports careers – these athletes, including former NFL wide receiver Peerless Price, were able to obtain their degrees with the help of the SouthEast Bank Renewing Academic Commitment (RAC) program, which helps former University of Tennessee student-athletes return to the university to complete their undergraduate studies.    As a company, we are proud to empower these individuals in achieving their academic goals and we congratulate them for their achievements both on the playing field and in the classroom.   Read the SouthEast Bank blog for more details on how this program has helped former University of Tennessee student-athletes achieve their academic goals.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
photo representing financial aid options for middle income families
2020-02-10
Financial Aid Options for Middle-Income Families

It’s no secret that college comes with a hefty price tag. Every year, students and their families have to figure out how they’re going to pay thousands of dollars in school bills. While high-income families may have the resources to pay tuition, footing the entire bill just isn’t realistic for some families, especially if they have more than one child attending college. This is why many students rely on financial aid to fund their education.

 

It’s generally known that students from lower-income families can qualify for special scholarships and grants that help fill the gap to fund their education, but for families around the middle-income tier, financial aid options may be harder to come by and make them feel that their options are limited. Rest assured that there are options for middle-class families to receive the financial assistance they need – it just may take a bit more effort.

 

FAFSA

When it comes to looking for financial aid for college, the FAFSA is a great place to start. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid has no income cutoff for eligibility, so your child could still receive some need-based aid from the FAFSA, especially if he or she plans on enrolling at a higher-cost school. The FAFSA opens October 1 every year, and you can apply as early as the year prior to your child’s first day of college. The earlier you apply, the more likely your child is to receive financial aid. 

 

Scholarships

Researching and applying for scholarships has continually proven itself worthy of the effort. Many scholarships are merit-based instead of need-based, so your child may be eligible for many different scholarships depending on the qualifications. Start by looking for local scholarships – many locally-owned businesses and organizations offer scholarships for graduating high school students. If your child visits the school guidance office, they may have some applications on file. You or your spouse could also ask your employer if they offer any type of scholarships or financial aid for employees’ children. After exhausting local options, your child may want to research national opportunities. A quick web search could reveal countless free scholarships – Niche, Fastweb, and eCampusTours are a good place to start. Finally, many colleges offer merit-based scholarships and endowment scholarships. Make sure your child looks for institutional scholarships at the school he or she plans to attend. You may discover that if your child joins a club or raises a standardized test score by a couple of points, he or she could receive thousands more dollars of financial aid.

 

Tuition Discounts

If a family member, such as a parent or grandparent attended the same college or university you're enrolled in, you may receive a tuition discount. There may be additional requirements to qualifying for this discount, such as, your family member being active in the school's alumni association or maintaining a certain GPA.

 

Tax Rewards

Middle-income families are perfectly positioned to receive tax credits for college expenditures. For example, the Lifetime Learning credit has income requirements that exclude those who earn over and under certain amounts. Programs like this, as well as tuition savings plans, offer a few different ways for middle-income families to receive tax benefits.

 

Federal Loans

If you’ve taken advantage of all your financial aid options and find you still have more to pay, it may be time to consider loans. Non-need based federal loans such as the Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan for students and the Federal PLUS Loan for parents can bridge whatever gap you find in your aid and your expenses. Federal education loans generally have low interest rates or may be tax-deductible, so they’re a smart alternative to using a credit card, for example.

 

Private Loans

You may find that you still need financial assistance after exhausting all the options above. If that’s the case, private student loans may be for you. We always recommend you take advantage of grants, scholarships, and federal aid before taking out a private student loan. To learn more about ELFI’s private student loan options,* click here.

 

The cost of college can present a challenge for families at all income levels, but middle-income families often struggle the most to find good financial aid options because their finances fall between affording college and needing assistance. If your family is in this situation, don’t let it get you down. The options in this article are a good place to start searching for financial assistance. Don’t lose sight of the end goal – getting the degree you want and establishing a successful career. If you’re already looking for financial aid options, you’re well on your way.

 
  *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.  

Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.