Rose, Proud Giants fan.
Putting her first since 2002.


Understanding student loans

If you're getting ready to go to college and need some help paying for tuition, you do have options. Understanding the different types of student loans can help you make an informed financial deciscion.

Different Types of Student Loans


If you're getting ready to start college soon, you’ve probably noticed that the sticker price for a college education has risen considerably in recent years. 

Though the costs can be steep, a college degree is a good investment in your future. To get the best value from that investment, make sure you get the right type of student loans for your individual situation.



Private Student Loans

For most people, federal student loans are a better deal than student loans from private entities like banks, colleges, and other lenders.

This is because private student loans are structured much like other types of personal loans. Interest rates can be quite high, and they’re often variable, so there’s uncertainty about exactly how much you’ll owe.

Also, repayment options are generally not flexible, and some may even require repayment to begin while the student is still in school.



Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans, which carry fixed interest rates, are generally available to all students, and most require no credit check and no cosigner.

Though you accrue interest while in school, you generally won’t be required to begin repayment until you graduate. And those with financial need may qualify for subsidized loans, which reduce their costs even more.

After you graduate, if you experience financial hardship, you may be able to reduce or postpone your payments. In some cases, you can even have the debt forgiven through public service work.

So, given the many advantages of federal student loans, why would anybody take out private student loans?

Well, it’s those high costs mentioned above. While federal loans are a good deal, there are limits to how much a student can borrow, and that may not be enough to cover their college costs.

However, though a college degree will usually pay off, it’s important to take a hard look at your earning potential after college when deciding how much to borrow.

A smart rule of thumb is to borrow no more than what you expect to make in your first year of employment after graduation. This ensures a reasonable debt load that can probably be paid off within ten years or so.

And remember, neither federal nor private student loans are likely to be forgiven, even if you declare bankruptcy. So, even if you can borrow more, it’s wise to take on the minimum amount of debt you absolutely need.

Related Content


How to Pay Off Student Loans

If you’ve recent­ly grad­u­at­ed, or are grad­u­at­ing soon, you’re prob­a­bly think­ing about how to repay your stu­dent loans. It can seem intim­i­dat­ing, but it does­n’t have to. Here’s a study guide that cov­ers every­thing you need to know about repay­ing loans. 

Learn More


10 Types of Loans

There are many dif­fer­ent types of loans for dif­fer­ent pur­pos­es. Each has its own terms, require­ments, and repay­ment struc­tures. Learn more about types of loans, what they can be used for, and which ones you should avoid. 

Learn More


How to Invest on a Small Budget

A com­mon myth about invest­ing is that you need a lot of mon­ey just to get start­ed. In real­i­ty, you can start build­ing a sol­id port­fo­lio with a few thou­sand, or even a few hun­dred, dollars.

Learn More

Discover More

Nehemiah, international photographer.
Putting him first since 2012.

Checking you can count on

We offer the Bay Area’s best checking account. No minimum balance, no monthly fee, and up to 12 ATM surcharge rebates per month.

Learn More
Nehemiah, international photographer.
Putting him first since 2012.
Kundan, Bay Area artist.
Putting her first since 2016.

Get the card that works for you

Our fee-friendly Platinum Visa Credit Card comes with rewards, travel benefits, and a low APR.

Learn More
Kundan, Bay Area artist.
Putting her first since 2016.

Let's Talk

As a local credit union, we want to get to know you and help you achieve your goals. Come into a branch or call us today. Our people are happy to serve you.


(415) 674-4800
(888) 499-FIRE (3473)
Mon – Fri 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Sat 9:00AM - 5:00PM


Stop by a branch

Branch hours
Mon – Fri 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Saturday 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Find a Branch or ATM