Student Loans: What You Need to Know

As you explore your options for paying for higher education, ask yourself a couple of key questions.

From scholarships and grants to federal and private student loans, there are multiple options when it comes to paying for college costs. If you opt to use student loans to finance your college education, it’s important to borrow carefully. As you explore whether student loans are an appropriate source of financing for you, ask yourself these questions.

How Much Will I Need to Borrow?

Before pursuing private student loans, your first step should be to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA gathers information about you and your family’s income and assets in order to calculate your eligibility for federal student aid.

To determine how much you might need in student loans, use this simple formula:

Step 1: Estimate the amount you’ll pay to attend one year of college. Include tuition, housing, food, books, school supplies, bills, furnishings for your dorm room, transportation, equipment like a computer, and any other expenses.

Step 2: Subtract any scholarships, grant money, or federal student aid you’ve received.

Step 3: Subtract any money you plan to put toward your education from a summer job or personal savings. If your family plans to contribute funds, factor that in as well.

If your uncovered costs are high, a student loan could help fill the gap. Just remember to borrow wisely. Having a rough estimate of how much you may need can help you when you are looking at financing options.

What Can My Student Loans Cover?

Typically, student loans can help pay for tuition and other eligible school expenses, though you should look into other items that your loans might cover. It’s important to understand your expected costs for college and only borrow what you need to fund your education — not a lifestyle.

Carefully review your financial aid award letter. In some cases, the federal student loan amount offered through your college’s financial aid office will exceed the amount of money you need to cover your expenses. Remember: Just because you can receive excess loan money doesn’t mean you should. You’re not obligated to take the entire amount offered and can request a lower amount.

What Can I Do to Reduce my Loan Balance?

If possible, explore other options such as work-study programs to reduce the amount you have to borrow. If you're planning on using student loans to fund day-to-day living expenses, look for ways to save money while in college. Likewise, keep in mind that making payments while in school can save you money over the life of the loan.

Before applying for a private student loan, it’s important to evaluate all anticipated monthly loan payments and set realistic expectations for how much you can expect to earn in the future.

Paying for college is just like any other significant investment. If you plan ahead, make informed decisions, and manage your finances carefully, you can make a successful investment in your future.

Learn more about how to manage student loan debt after college.


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This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.

Regions Bank has selected Sallie Mae as our education loan provider and is compensated for the referral of education loan customers to Sallie Mae. We encourage students and families to supplement their savings by exploring grants, scholarships, federal and state student loans, and to consider the anticipated monthly payments on their total student loan debt and their expected future earnings before considering a private education loan.

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