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Financing higher education

WFI is not responsible for and does not guarantee, nor endorse, the content, products, or services provided on this page, nor on sites hyperlinked from this page. WFI does not provide financial advice, and none of the information provided here is intended to substitute for professional financial advice.

A college education is a big investment and one that can be paid for in many different ways. The resources below will show you the possibilities for financing a college education, whether it's your child's or your own.

Tips on Student Loans

Borrowing money to pay for college can be a rather stressful and confusing endeavor if you don't have sufficient information and knowledge on the subject. Although WFI does not give direct advice pertaining to finances we want to give students who are in any part of the loan process a few tips on ways they can more easily manage their loans.

  1. Know what you are getting into, and whom you're getting into it with. Many private banks and lenders, as well as the federal government, are in the student loan business, and while they offer the same general loans and services, their terms may differ. Use the resources below as well as the financial aid services at your college or university to understand fully the terms and conditions under which loans can be taken out as well as your chosen lender's specific conditions. Do not hesitate to contact your office of financial aid with any questions or concerns you have.
  2. Try not to take out a larger loan than is necessary to fund your college experience. Many times you can use work-study positions or apply for grants and scholarships as part of your financial aid package instead of relying solely on loans to pay for the part that you or your parents cannot directly pay for.
  3. Keep track of what kinds of loan you have, who the lenders are, and the amounts you've borrowed. Be sure to keep all of the agreements you sign. Different loans have different minimum monthly payments, interest rates and repayment plans. Don't just sign the promissory note and forget about it!
  4. Comparison shop. Loans come in several varieties: subsidized, unsubsidized, some have much lower interest rates, some can be put off repaying until you are several years out of college, while others cannot. Make sure you look at all of your loan options and choose one that is most appropriate for your financial needs.
  5. A loan is NOT free money—whether your loan is unsubsidized or subsidized, you will owe interest on the amount you borrow. If for some reason your loan is too large for the amount needed to pay your tuition, you may receive a check for the overflow amount. If you decide to spend this check, don't forget that it must be paid back with interest.
  6. Student loans must be repaid even if you do not finish school. When it comes time to repay your loans, you can set up a repayment plan that makes sense for you. Using financial calculators on the websites above may be helpful for determining which plan to choose.
  7. You must start repaying your student loan six months (the "grace period") after your official graduation date. If for some reason you have problems paying back your student loans, you can seek a hardship deferment of the loan until you're able to pay back the money you owe. Your lender will have more information on specific procedures.
  8. Make sure you understand what loan consolidation is, including the pros and cons, in order to determine whether it makes sense for you.

On-Campus Resources

Smith College Financial Aid Office: Guide to fees and payments including basic information on parent loans. Also offers information on the financial aid application process for prospective students, student employment at Smith, and alternative financing options.

Smith Funding Resources: Sponsored by the Center for Work & Life, this website provides current Smith students with information about various on-campus funding opportunities.

General Resources

College Board: Pay for College: Includes information about college costs and financing, an advanced scholarship search engine and much more.

FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) On The Web: All students applying for financial aid must fill out a FAFSA. This site tells you what information you need to have to complete the form and allows you to do it online.

FastWEB (Financial Aid Search Through the WEB): This is the largest and most complete scholarship search on the Internet. It provides access to a searchable database of more than 400,000 private sector scholarships, fellowships, grants, and student loans available to students.

Federal Trade Commission Scholar Scam: If you think you have been the victim of a scholarship scam or financial aid fraud, this site may help. The site includes a list of known scams as well as the Federal Trade Commission.

FinAid! The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid: A free public service website that provides comprehensive source of student financial aid information, advice and toolsâ€"on or off the web.

FSA Ombudsman Home Page: Provides advice on how to resolve disputes and solve other problems with federal student loans.

Sallie Mae: A publicly traded company that is the largest provider of educational loans in the U.S. Along with providing student loans, Sallie Mae purchases student loans from the original lenders and provides financing to state student-loan agencies.

Paying for College: This website provides tips, tools and articles for financing college education.

State Resources: State by State Directory of Higher Education Offices.

Student Loans: Avoid Deceptive Offers: The Federal Trade Commission's fact sheet on ways to recognize and avoid deceptive student loan marketing.

Student Loan Borrower Assistance: A resource for borrowers, their families, and advocates representing student loan borrowers. This site is for people who already have student loans and want to know more about their options and rights.

Student Loan Defaults: Tips for students who may be in financial distress because of their loans.

The Project on Student Debt: Offers publications dealing with student debt and many resources including sections on: recent data and research; advice to borrowers; a glossary of terms related to student debt and links to other sites. Information is also available in Spanish.

US Department of Education: Loan Consolidation: Helps all borrowers (not just students) figure out if it's a good time to consolidate. Assists analyze your interest rates, your monthly payments, comparing the current situation with consolidation possibilities. Describes the benefits of loan consolidation. The site also has a calculator that can estimate your consolidated loan payments if you type in your current loans and their interest rates.

Undergraduate Scholarships Research: Philanthropic organizations, large corporations, understanding individuals and the government all work together to provide students with the support they need to attend college.

Student Loans: Links to articles about student loans.