Despite lacking the nest egg in your savings to pay for a certificate program, you can still sign up. There are multiple options — including federal student loans — you can use for training to jumpstart your career.
7 student loans you can use for a certificate program
|Loan amounts||APRs||Terms||Eligibility requirements|
|Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans||Up to $20,500 per year||Up to 25 years||Graduate or professional student, enrolled at least half time at a Title IV school, meet other federal student aid 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 requirements|
|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|
|Wells Fargo||Up to $120,000||Varies||Good to excellent credit or creditworthy cosigner, ages 18+, US citizen or permanent resident|
|Citizens Bank||$1,000 to $295,000||Up to15 years||Be the age of majority in your state, be enrolled as at least half-time at an eligible school, be a US citizen or resident and have good credit or a cosigner with good credit|
|College Ave||$5,000 to $150,000||5 years to 20 years||You're a graduate of an approved Title IV undergraduate or graduate program, at least 18 years old and an American citizen or a permanent resident of the US. You meet College Ave Refi’s underwriting requirements.|
|Stilt||$1,000 to $25,000||Up to 3 years||Be employed, have a US bank account, live in a state where Stilt operates, hold one of the following visas: F-1 and OPT, H-1B, H4, O-1, L-1, TN, J-1, DACA or be a US citizen.|
Can I get federal student loans for a certificate program?
Yes, there are federal student loans available for qualifying certificate programs. The US Department of Education has a pamphlet on financial aid for graduate and professional students, but in general, you may qualify for Direct Unsubsidized or Grad PLUS Loans.
If you’re thinking of pursuing a certificate program, apply for federal student loans before turning to private lenders — they tend to come with more flexible repayment options.
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How to apply for student loans for a certificate program
When you’re ready to get started, gather your W2, federal income tax return and bank statements. This will help make the application process faster. Then follow these steps:
What to watch out for when borrowing for a certificate program
Not all certificate programs are created equal. When you’re comparing your loan options, ensure your program and school meet your lender’s requirements before applying:
- Program eligibility. Bootcamps, seminars and other career development programs may not be eligible for traditional student loans. Check with your lender to make sure your program qualifies before applying.
- School eligibility. Some certificate programs are offered through Title IV schools, which means they’re eligible for federal aid and most private student loans. But if you’re going to a trade school or community college for your certificate, you may find you aren’t able to borrow from a traditional student loan provider.
Should I sign up for a certificate program?
It depends on your circumstances — both personal and financial. Consider the benefits and drawbacks before committing:
Benefits of a certificate program
- Advance your career. A certificate program can be the next step to a promotion or a job in a new industry. Having a formal background in your field can help set you apart from other candidates.
- Reduce costs. Full-fledged degree programs — especially graduate degrees — can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The cost of a certificate program is typically just a fraction of that expense.
- Smaller time commitment. Like costs, a certificate program takes much less time than pursuing a graduate degree — usually less than a year. If your schedule has less wiggle room, a certificate program may be much more accessible.
Drawbacks of a certificate program
- Poor return on investment. Although a certificate program can be helpful, it may not be worth the cost if you don’t land a high-paying job or have to pay back loans at a high rate. Ensure your program has a good placement rate and is in an industry you love before enrolling.
- Lack of accreditation. If you don’t go through an accredited school, your certificate may not be worth what you paid. Check that your program is legit and well respected — and preferably, offered through an accredited institution.
- May be limiting. A certificate can be useful if you’re trying to get qualified for a certain position, but it won’t expand your job prospects the same way a degree might.
Alternative ways to pay for a certificate program
On top of scholarships, grants and student loans, here are four other ways to pay for a certificate program:
- Employer funding. If your certificate directly relates to your current job, see if your employer will cover it or reimburse you some of the costs.
- Payment plan. Depending on your school, you may be able to get on a payment plan that breaks up the cost of attendance into several smaller installments.
- Income share agreement. Some schools and companies offer income share agreements to students. They cover your cost of attendance, and then you pay them back with a percentage of your income over a few years after you receive your certificate and land a job.
- Personal loans. After you’ve exhausted all your other options, you might want to consider taking out a personal loan. Many lenders have restrictions on how you can use the funds, so check with yours before you apply.
A certificate program can help you advance your career or make the switch to a new industry. When figuring out how to cover the cost, explore your federal loan options first before turning to private student loans.
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