Is a Private Student Loan for You?

A private student loan is an option for students who prefer not to borrow money from the government or from Sallie Mae, or who have not been fortunate in obtaining grants and scholarships from both private and public foundations. The interest rates could be slightly higher than say a federal Stafford loan or a Perkins loan, but if the student, or his parents, has a good relationship with a private lender, the rates and terms could be negotiated…and often in a friendly manner.

A private student loan is sometimes called an alternative student loan and could be any type of loan, provided it was not obtained from a government source. Given this distinguishing characteristic therefore, a private student loan could be a private loan for a student with bad credit, a no credit check student loan (“that’s okay, we have your parents’ signature card on file”), or a graduate student loan – for students wanting to pursue a master’s degree.

Whatever form of private student loan you apply for, remember that a loan is a loan, no matter what it is called. This presupposes a commitment on the part of the lender to make available a definite amount of money to be placed at the lender’s disposal; and by the same token, it presupposes a commitment on the part of the borrower to pay the loan back. The payment terms and schedule are usually outlined in the loan agreement. These elements make a private student loan a legal obligation, a valid contract, if you will. Both borrower and lender therefore are bound by a legal document that cannot be breached, unless for a very justified reason.

If you compare the interest rate of your private student loan with that of the interest rate of your classmate’s federal government student loan, you may notice that his rate is lower. This should not come as a surprise. The US government has a student loan program that gives all US citizens a right to an education. And to make that right an affordable right and accessible to all, the rates on government student loans are usually much lower than a commercial loan – a Wells Fargo loan as an example.

Some private lenders advertise their private student loan programs in such a way that the student does not have to feel cornered about applying for a private student loan – lenders say there are no application fees, no application deadlines, the loan amount can be paid after graduation, and that the funds are sent directly to the student’s account and not to the school. The approval for a private student loan will be given in just a couple of hours or 24 hours, according to some lenders.

Before you sign on the dotted line for your private student loan, make sure you scrutinize the loan agreement.