Many students and parents choose to borrow money for college. Taking out loans can help you to work less and graduate sooner, but it's important to do your research on the types of loans that are right for you. Education loans are available to families at all income levels.

Student loans

Unlike grants and scholarships, a loan is a type of financial aid that must be re-paid, usually with interest.

Federal student loans 

Federal student loans are available to most students who are U.S. citizens, permanent residents and eligible non-citizens regardless of income. Federal student loans, unlike private loans, are required by law to provide a range of flexible repayment options and loan forgiveness benefits which private lenders are not required to provide.

For most students and families who decide to borrow, federal student loans are the best option.

Repayment on federal student loans doesn't start until after you leave school, and with fixed interest rates and payment plans, monthly payments can be manageable. 

Learn more about federal student loans »

Private student loans

Unlike federal loans, private loans are administered by private lenders — either banks or private institutional lenders — who set the terms for the loans. This can mean they have different criteria for both loan eligibility and loan rates (they can have a range of interest rates and fees). Before you decide to apply for a private student loan, we encourage you to do your research and contact UC campus financial aid officers who can guide you through your options.

You can also get a better sense of how to manage your loans after graduation by using a student loan calculator. It determines how you can repay your loans based on the expected income associated with your intended major.

See the Brookings Institution's student loan calculator or the Department of Education's calculator »

Parent loans: PLUS loans

Federal PLUS loans are available to most families who do not have an adverse credit history, but you need to file a FAFSA to obtain one, even if you don't expect to receive "need-based" financial aid. The maximum that a family can borrow is the total cost of attendance minus all other financial aid. Family repayment can be reduced or deferred until a student and any siblings leave college.