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Financing Debt while in Graduate School/ FAFSA

  1. Jun 2, 2010 #1


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    Assume a student such as myself (3rd year PhD) has an RA stipend for graduate school (tuition is paid + some stipend). The stipend is rather small, but technically survivable. Unfortunately I have some debt acquired while an undergraduate, mainly credit card. I have no student loans and have never received financial aid through the government before, including undergrad.

    My question is, is it possible to get additional NON-scholarship/grant funding, such as a student loan/personal loan/or federal assistance to basically exchange the credit card debt I have with a lower interest student loan while in graduate school.

    I know general purpose loans are rather high in APR, probably as high or higher than my current credit card APR (which is why I haven't rushed to do this yet).

    But when filling out a FAFSA or some other federal aid are they just going to say "your tuition is already paid for, we're not giving you anything." Or will they send the school a check, and so my adviser will be happy he doesn't have to pay for tuition and I don't see anything.

    Anyone have any ideas? I'm surviving but its basically paycheck to paycheck as a student and I really just want to get a grip on my finances.

    Also if it helps I have really good credit.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 3, 2010 #2
    Just fill out the FAFSA and see what happens.
  4. Jun 3, 2010 #3
    I had classmates in graduate school (physics PhD program in the U.S.) who got student loans. Unfortunately I have no idea about the specifics, but it's definitely possible to take out student loans even while on a TA or RA and therefore not paying any tuition, and the money goes directly to you to spend how you want. I've never dealt with student loans myself, so I apologize that I can't provide any details.
  5. Jun 5, 2010 #4
    I would definately recommend, if you are going to take out a loan, as tenparsecs said, fill out the FAFSA and try to get STUDENT loans. They have decent terms, (10 ish years to pay back AFTER graduation of whatever) and one nice thing alot of times they may be "deferred" meaning you call them up or send in a thing and you can put the loan in suspended animation for around 6 months where you don't have to pay.

    For what its worth, I had about $12k in loans and had them all paid off within 5 years. I deferred 3 times, got a decent job and paid them off in two big chunks.
  6. Jun 5, 2010 #5
    my friend was a 6th year (funded) grad student he had ~ 100k in low interest federal loans.

    (i saw his bank statement)
  7. Jun 5, 2010 #6


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    My husband and I get a big chunk of our tuitions paid for with Pell Grants, and our student loans give us a nice rebate once tuition and books are paid for. If you ask for the max in federal student loans plus any grants you receive, it is possible to get a chunk of money back. It all depends on your school I think and how they assess your cost of living. If you are an independent student, your expenses are more, therefore your need is higher. Don't quote me on this, this is just my own personal experience.
  8. Jun 8, 2010 #7
    Federal Stafford Loans are available through Direct Loans once you fill out a FAFSA and complete a Master Promissory Note from the Direct Loans website. There is no credit check and it doesn't matter how much you make (or don't make). A graduate student can borrow up to the school's cost of attendance minus any aid you receive already (tuition voucher + stipend). So if your school's tuition, room + board, and misc. total to 20k a school year, your voucher and stipend 15k, then you can borrow 5k a school year as easy as you can complete online forms:

    First create a pin number (www.pin.ed.gov[/url]), then fill out your FAFSA ([url]www.fafsa.ed.gov[/URL]) and sign it with pin, then in 2-3 business days go to studentloans.gov and sign your master promissory note with your pin.

    You will need 2009 tax returns (if you filed) to complete the FAFSA. If you do these steps within the next week or two it should be plenty of time for you to receive a student loan disbursement from your financial aid office in the Fall semester. The only possible hold up is if your FAFSA gets flagged for verification (just means a mistake was made or you were selected randomly) the FA office at your school will need to review it manually and that can take a while.

    Let me know if you have any other questions about financial aid.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  9. Jun 8, 2010 #8
    Im in an odd situation...

    My student loan debt has a higher interest rate than my credit card. So Im in the process of transferring student loan debt to the credit card (by only paying credit card minimums and using the rest to pay off student loans)
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