Flight school can be costly, especially if your program doesn’t qualify for federal aid. But don’t let the sticker price deter you. If your dream is to become a pilot, you have options to pay for flight school beyond traditional student loans.
5 student loans you can use for flight school
|Loan amount||APR||Term||Eligibility requirements|
|Federal Direct Subsidized Loans||$3,500 to $6,500 per year — depending on what year you are in school||
||Up to 25 years||
Undergraduate student, enrolled at least half time at a Title IV school, demonstrate financial need, meet otherfederal student aid eligibility requirements
|Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans||
||Up to 25 years||Undergraduate, graduate or professional student; enrolled at least half time at a Title IV school; meet other federal student aid eligibility requirements|
|Federal Direct Grad PLUS Loans||Up to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance||
||Up to 25 years||Graduate or professional student, enrolled at least half time at a Title IV school, no adverse credit history, meet other federal student aid eligibility requirements|
|Wells Fargo||Up to $120,000||
||Varies||Good to excellent credit or creditworthy cosigner, ages 18+, US citizen or permanent resident|
|Sallie Mae||$1,000 to $200,000||
||Varies||You may be eligible if you are at least 18 years old and if you are US citizen or permanent resident|
In addition to these loan options, some lenders offer financing specifically for pilot training. AOPA Aviation Finance and We Florida Financial Credit Union both provide financing to help you earn your pilot’s license.
Can I get federal student loans for flight school?
Yes, but only if you’re attending an accredited flight school, like the National Aviation Academy. Most flight schools aren’t accredited, however.
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How to apply for student loans for flight school
When you’re ready to apply for aid, make sure you have information about yourself and your finances on hand to make the application process a little easier. Then follow these steps:
What to watch out for when borrowing for flight school
Keep these three factors in mind when you’re comparing loans for flight school:
- High interest rates. Private student loans and personal loans tend to have higher interest rates than federal student loans — especially if you don’t have the best credit. Understand the amount you’ll need to repay before you commit to a loan.
- Eligibility requirements. You’ll need to attend an accredited flight school to qualify for federal aid and most private student loans. And personal loan providers might not let you use the funds for postsecondary education.
- Immediate repayments. While federal student loans and most private options come with deferred repayments until after you finish school, this isn’t the case with personal loans — repayments usually begin within a month.
Should I go to flight school?
Weigh the benefits and drawbacks before deciding if flight school is right for you:
Benefits of attending flight school
- Quick programs. Training for a private pilot’s license typically only takes a few months to complete. And training to fly commercially can take as little as two years — it all depends on how fast you’re able to bank 1,500 flight hours, on top of ground training.
- High pay. Commercial pilots earned a median pay of $115,670 in 2018, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Ease of travel. Once you get your private pilot’s license, you can travel just about anywhere.
Drawbacks of attending flight school
- Different training adds up. Pilots need to earn a variety of licenses — especially if you plan to fly commercial planes. While the payoff can be decent, taking out multiple loans for different programs can get expensive.
- Limited loan options. If your program isn’t accredited — and most aren’t — you won’t be eligible for federal loans and quite a few private options.
- Costs are per hour. For most flight schools, you pay an hourly rental fee in addition to the cost of testing. This means earning your license can cost more if you need additional instruction or just want more time in the air before you go it alone.
Alternative ways to pay for flight school
Beyond student and personal loans, here are three other ways you can reduce the amount you pay toward flight school:
- Scholarships and grants. There are plenty of scholarship opportunities available through aviation organizations. If you’re looking for a way to cut the cost of flight school, look to these first.
- Airline training programs. Some airlines — like JetBlue, PSA Airlines and Delta — offer training programs that end with a job offer. The exact scope of the training and how much you pay will vary, so compare programs to find the airline that best suits your needs.
- School financing. Some schools partner with private lenders to offer financing. This can help ease the burden of searching for loans you may not ultimately qualify for.
Ready to turn your dream of becoming a pilot into a reality? You might want to start by looking into scholarships offered by different aviation organizations to reduce how much you need to borrow. Then you can pick up the slack by taking out a student loan or personal loan from a private lender.
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