Can I use student loans for certificate programs? – Forbes Advisor


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Certification in a specific skill or subject can help you advance in your job, bolster your resume, or pivot your career. Either way, certificate programs can give your professional life and earning potential a boost. However, they can be expensive.

Fortunately, you don’t have to cover the upfront costs. If you need a student loan for a certificate program, you may qualify for federal or private student loans.

Types of student loans for certificate programs

A common misconception is that student loans can only be used if you are preparing for a degree. However, this is not exact – you can also use student loans to cover the cost of certificate programs. There are several types of loans for certificate programs, including federal and private options.

Federal student loans

For most students, federal student loans are the best place to start if you need to borrow money for your certificate program, as they generally have lower interest rates and more repayment options. flexible than private loans. There are several types of federal loans that might be suitable:

  • Subsidized: Federal subsidized loans are for students with significant financial need. With this option, the government pays interest accrued on your loan while you are in school, during your grace period, and whenever your payments are deferred. In addition to four-year schools, subsidized loans can be used to pay for certificate programs at community colleges and trade, career, or technical schools.
  • Not subsidized: Like Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans can be used for certificate programs at eligible schools. However, there is no income requirement to qualify for these loans and most students qualify. You are responsible for paying all interest charges during the term of the loan.
  • MORE ready: If you already have a degree and are going back to school to earn a certificate, you have the option of using Federal PLUS Loans to pay for your program. Unlike subsidized and unsubsidized loans, PLUS loans are not restricted by annual or aggregate limits, so they may be a good choice if you have reached the borrower’s maximum for other federal loans. However, these loans have higher interest rates and fees than your other options.

Private student loans

With private student loans, it can be harder to qualify when you’re in a certificate program. Some lenders require borrowers to work towards an undergraduate or graduate degree; certificate programs do not meet their criteria.

However, there are lenders that give out student loans for certificate programs. For instance:

  • Funding for the ascent has a career loan that can be used for qualifying vocational training and certification programs at select schools.
  • EDvestInU Loans can be used for undergraduate and graduate studies as well as certificate programs.
  • Sallie Mae’s Smart Option Loan for vocational training allows you to borrow up to the total cost of participation.

Loans for certificate programs may have different repayment options than loans for degree programs, so be sure to review your loan disclosure agreement and double-check the payment schedule.

Private student loans generally require good to excellent credit and a stable source of income; if you do not meet these criteria, you may be eligible for a loan if you add a co-signer to your application.

Is your certificate program eligible for student loans?

Although it is possible to obtain a student loan for certificate programs, not all programs are eligible. Federal student loans are only available to borrowers who attend Title IV schools. To find out if your school is eligible, you can search the list of federal school codes for participating schools. Private student loans can generally also be used at Title IV schools, although some lenders may maintain their own list of eligible institutions.

In general, certificate programs must come from degree-granting schools; coding bootcamps and online certificate programs are generally not eligible for student loans.

How to Get a Student Loan for a Certificate Program

To get a student loan for a certificate program, follow these steps:

  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): The FAFSA is an essential first step to qualifying for financial aid, even if you are pursuing a certificate rather than a degree. You must complete the FAFSA to borrow federal student loans. Although it is not mandatory for private student loans, it is always advisable to submit the FAFSA as this form can also help you qualify for government or school aid.
  • Contact the school’s financial aid office: Contact your school’s financial aid department to learn about your aid options, including student loans, and special application procedures for certificate programs.
  • Check your credit report: Private student lenders will check your credit when reviewing your application, so it’s a good idea to review it yourself and correct any inaccuracies or issues that appear. You can view your credit reports for free at
  • Collect information: To apply for a private student loan, you will likely need to submit proof of income, a copy of your driver’s license or other government-issued ID, and details about the program you are attending.
  • Compare the prices: There are many private student loans available, and rates and terms vary from lender to lender. It’s a good idea to get quotes from several lenders to find the best rates.

5 Alternatives to Student Loans for Certificate Programs

Before turning to federal or private student loans to pay for your certification, explore the following financing options to reduce the amount of debt you need to borrow:

  • Subsidies : As a student in a certificate program, you may be eligible for grants from the federal government, your state, or third-party organizations. Since grants are generally awarded based on financial need, you must complete the FAFSA to be eligible for most awards.
  • Scholarships: Scholarships are available for students pursuing certificate programs. Your school may be able to tell you about some opportunities, but you can also search for scholarships on CareerOneStop.
  • Employer contributions : Some employers will cover all or part of the cost of your certificate program if it benefits the company. Talk to your manager and the Human Resources department about tuition reimbursement programs.
  • Alternative loans: If your program is not eligible for traditional financial aid, you may be eligible for other forms of funding, such as personal loans.

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