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Can International Students Get Student Loans in the United States?

If your top-choice university doesn't offer the major you want to study, you may be asking yourself what to do.

The short answer is: yes, international students can take out loans in the United States to help them pay for college. However, the loans available to international students are different from those available to U.S. residents. Here is what you need to know about getting students loans in the United States.

Who can get an international student loan?

If you are not a U.S. citizen and plan to attend a U.S. college or university, you may be eligible for an international student loan. International student loans are specialized private education loans that are only available to international students studying in the United States. They can help pay for tuition, books, fees, insurance, and room and board at your college.

Before you can apply for an international student loan, you must be accepted by a college or university. Most lenders will ask you for your student VISA and proof of acceptance to a U.S. college or university. Many will also require a cosigner.

You can borrow up to the total cost of your education after you’ve subtracted any aid given by your school, scholarships, or grants. To get this number, contact the financial aid office at the college or university you plan to attend. Before you can get a loan, the school must certify the amount.

What is a cosigner?

The term cosigner means someone who signs with you. Basically, a cosigner promises to repay the loan if you don’t. Your cosigner must be a permanent US residents with good credit. This person must have lived in the United States for at least the past two years. A close friend or relative living in the United States may be able to cosign a loan for you.

Most international students need a cosigner to apply for a loan. If you cannot find a cosigner, there are some online lenders who may still offer you a loan. Research these lenders carefully to make sure they are reputable and that you can afford the terms they offer.

What will I pay and when?

The full cost of a loan includes the amount you borrowed plus interest. Interest is the amount charged by the lender in exchange for loaning you money. Your interest rate depends on funding rates set by a national government and on your co-signer’s credit score.

Some loan providers will expect you to begin repaying your loan immediately. Others may delay or defer payment until six months after you graduate. In some cases, you may need to pay only the interest on your loan while you’re in school. Regular payments will not start until 45 days after graduation.  

Is an international student loan the best option?

Although you can get a student loan as an international student, that doesn’t mean you should. Other funding options can be more affordable, and help you avoid debt. Explore opportunities for scholarships, grants, and school-based financial aid before looking for a private international student loan. Your home country may also offer loans or assistance that might be easier to get than an international student loan.

US News Global Education has put together some useful resources to help international students find scholarships and other funding. Start exploring your options.