While earning a degree in four years or less is typically the best way to get into the job market and start earning money, attending college part time is often the only realistic option, especially if you have kids at home or work a full-time job. Fortunately, part-time college students can utilize many of the same student loan options as full-time students, including federal student loans and private student loans.
Read on to learn who qualifies as a part-time student, which student loans are available to part-timers and how to find the best student loan for your needs.
Who qualifies as a part-time student?
The U.S. Department of Education defines half-time students as those “only enrolled in half of the expected full-time course load.” However, some private student loan lenders may define part-time status differently.
The specific number of credits required for full-time status per semester is determined by your school. It’s common for schools to require a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester for full-time students; taking anything less than this would make you a part-time student. Since most college courses are worth three to four credits, this generally means taking three courses or fewer per semester to be considered a part-time student.
Student loan options for part-time students
Student loans work the same for part-time students as for full-time students, and they can come with the same benefits as a result. Here are the main student loan options you can qualify for as a part-time college student.
Federal student loans
Federal student loans are available to students who attend college on a half-time basis or more. Federal loans also come with the benefit of low fixed interest rates and flexible repayment terms, including the option to pursue income-driven repayment plans.
To qualify for federal student loans and other federal aid, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your federal student loan options could include:
- Direct Subsidized Loans: These federal loans are offered to undergraduate students who can demonstrate financial need. A major benefit of Direct Subsidized Loans is the fact that the government covers interest charges that accrue while you’re in school.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These federal loans are available to undergraduate, graduate and professional students who are unable to demonstrate financial need. Unlike Direct Subsidized Loans, these loans accrue interest while you’re in school.
- Direct PLUS Loans: These loans are available to graduate or professional students, and they are not based on financial need. However, a credit check is required for borrowers. These loans also accrue interest while you’re in …….