Florida Student Loans
Florida has a reputation for being one of the most desirable college states, and Florida schools certainly attract many students. U.S. News reports that during a 10-year period ending in 2009, undergraduate matriculation at Florida schools increased by 54 percent.
The Florida education system is composed of the following school systems:
- Florida College System (FCS) that includes community colleges and state colleges
- State University System of Florida (SUSF)
- Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF)
- Other private institutions
According to the Florida State Department of Education (FCS), for Fall 2013, there were over 879,948 students enrolled across the system’s 28 colleges and 68 public campuses. In 2012 – 2013 alone, the FCS awarded 105,886 degrees. In-state residents of FCS schools qualify for lower tuition than non-residents. For instance, for the 2014 – 2015 academic year, Palm Beach State College charges $98.24 per credit to residents and $358 per credit for non-residents (a full course load is 12 – 18 credits per semester).
According to the State University System of Florida, Board of Governors (SUSF), there are 11 universities and one college in this system. Florida state residents are eligible for in-state tuition rates at all 12 schools whereas admitted non-residents will pay higher tuition. According to Florida State University, for instance, in 2014 – 2015, the cost for full-time matriculation and on-campus living at the main Tallahassee campus is estimated at $21,684 (residents), and $39,058 (non-residents).
According to the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF), there are 31 educational entities included in this association. These institutions have accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools (SACS). There are more than 155,000 students matriculated at 135 ICUF sites. Further, the ICUF awards 25 percent of all Florida bachelor’s degrees. The cost of attendance at these private colleges is often high. For example, according to Jacksonville University, the tuition rate alone for 2014 – 2015 is $15,685 per semester.
Financing College in Florida
Although public institutions in Florida offer low tuition and provide financial aid, students may still require help with uncovered costs. Students may especially need financial aid if attending a private college. According to the Florida Department of Education, students requiring financial aid should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) and may be eligible for aid that does not need to be repaid, such as:
- Federal Pell Grant
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG)
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant
- Florida Student Assistance Grant Program
- Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program
- Florida Work Experience Program
As grants and scholarship may not be sufficient to cover all costs, students may need to borrow money via loans. In Florida, the following student loan programs are available:
- Federal Direct Loans (including Stafford and PLUS loans)
- Federal Perkins Loans
- Private loans from banks or credit unions
It is usually recommendable that students first exhaust their federal loan options before borrowing private loans, which carry higher interest rates. Students who are considering private loans can consider taking the following preparatory steps:
- Maintain or improve your credit score.
- Have a co-signer with good credit.
- Work with banks in which you have an established history.
- Seek lending opportunities outside of major banks from sources such as micro-lenders, small institutions with funding from donors, and emergency loans available at some colleges.