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 $35,000||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:
1. Fill out the FAFSA.
To apply for federal aid, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This can be done in less than an hour if you have all of your information on hand.
Once you’re finished, you’ll see your estimated contribution as well as any loans or other federal aid you may qualify for — including the Pell Grant and the Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program.
2. Search for scholarships and grants.
After filling out the FAFSA, you should look for scholarships and grants you might qualify for. Talk to your school’s financial aid office to see if there are any institutional options you might be eligible for. You can also look for scholarships and grants from private organizations, as well as those available through your state.
Exhaust all of your free options before turning to federal or private loans.
3. Compare private student loans.
If federal student loans and other funding options aren’t enough, you can look into private student loans. Ensure your school or program is eligible first, then compare factors like interest rates, loan terms, cosigner options and repayment plans to find the best fit for you.
Once you’ve found a lender, you can typically apply online. After you submit your application, your lender will verify your program’s cost of attendance and the information you supplied. If approved, you’ll be sent a contract outlining your loan amount, rate, fees and terms. Once you sign the contract, your lender typically sends the funds directly to your school.
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.
Frequently asked questions
Will I be eligible for student loans if I have bad credit?
It depends. Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans don’t have credit requirements, but most private lenders do. If you fail to meet your lender’s requirements, see if you can apply with a cosigner to increase your chances of approval.
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