Georgia Student Loans
As the eighth most populous state in the U.S., Georgia is growing at a rapid rate. The economy, culture, and educational opportunities in the Peach State rival any of the southeastern states. With nearly 50 private postsecondary institutions and over 70 public colleges and universities, Georgia has a wealth of academic opportunities to offer its students. The state’s flagship school, the University of Georgia (UGA), is the one of the oldest public universities in the country, receiving its charter from the state in 1785. Located in Athens, GA, UGA is still one of the most prominent research universities in the Southeast.
In addition to four-year universities and colleges like Georgia State University in Atlanta and Mercer University in Macon, Georgia has a network of 25 technical colleges called the Technical College System of Georgia, or TCSG. Member schools are located throughout the state, in cities as diverse as Atlanta, Augusta, Albany, Marietta, Rome, and Savannah. From its large state schools to its small private liberal arts colleges and vocational programs, Georgia provides its students with the academic resources they need to build a positive future. Georgia student loans, grants, and scholarships can help you achieve that future at a price you can afford.
State Loans in Georgia
The state of Georgia has two student loan programs to help students in undergraduate and technical programs fill gaps in their aid. These private educational loans, administered by the Georgia Student Finance Commission, include the Student Access Loan Program (SAL), and the Student Access Loan – Technical (SALT) Program. Eligible students are Georgia state residents enrolled in a participating postsecondary program. Both the SAL and SALT programs have the following terms:
- A fixed interest rate of 1 percent for the life of the loan, as long as the borrower keeps up with payments in a timely manner
- A Keep in Touch (KIT) payment of $10, due each month until the borrower graduates and while he or she is in the grace period following graduation
- A loan period of up to 10 years
- An origination fee of 5 percent of the value of the loan, not to exceed $50
To apply for these loans, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Loans are issued on a first come, first served basis, and funds are limited. Disbursements are sent directly to the borrower’s school to cover the costs of tuition, fees, and other academic expenses.
Before qualifying for a SAL or SALT loan, students must apply for all other forms of federal and state aid for which they are eligible. The SAL and SALT programs are not intended to provide students with a primary source of funding, but to make up for deficits in their financial aid.
Private (Alternative) Loans
Private loans, also known as alternative loans, are issued through many financial institutions in Georgia. While federal loans and SAL/SALT loans have low, fixed interest rates, private loans may have higher, variable rates that can increase over the duration of the repayment period. Private loans, unlike federal loans, are not backed by the U.S. Department of Education, and are not subsidized, or financially supported, by the government.
According to the University of Georgia’s Office of Financial Aid, UGA students have received private loans from institutions such as:
- Credit unions
- Sallie Mae
- Wells Fargo
- Georgia’s Own Credit Union
UGA does not recommend or prefer any of these financial institutions for its students. There are numerous banks, credit unions, and other organizations that offer alternative loans to Georgia students. Because interest rates, fees, and eligibility requirements vary from one institution to another, it pays to compare offers from several lenders before accepting a loan.
Federal Student Aid for GA Students
Federal student aid is the financial cornerstone for many Georgia college students. The U.S. Department of Education provides loans and grants through several programs: Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Perkins Loans, Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants, and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants. While federal student loans have to be repaid with interest, grants are considered “gift aid,” meaning that the student does not have to repay them as long as he or she adheres to the terms of the grant.
When you complete the FAFSA, you will be considered for federal loans and grants based on your income, background, history, and future plans. The financial aid package you receive from your Georgia school will include the forms of support for which you are eligible.
The state of Georgia strongly supports students of all ages who want to pursue the dream of a higher education. To this end, the Georgia Lottery for Education funds three financial aid programs through its HOPE (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) Scholarship. Since the program’s inception in 1993, nearly $6.5 billion have been awarded to students in Georgia’s postsecondary schools through these programs:
- The Hope Scholarship: This scholarship is awarded to in-state, degree-seeking undergraduates who have demonstrated a high level of academic achievement in high school.
- The Hope Grant: The Hope Grant is awarded to state residents attending technical, vocational, or diploma programs. High school academic performance is not a consideration in this program.
- The Zell Miller Scholarship: To be considered for a Zell Miller Scholarship, Georgia residents must earn a minimum grade point average (typically at least 3.70) in high school and must earn a certain score on college placement tests.
The amount of a HOPE award depends on a number of factors, including your chosen program and your enrollment status. Students must attend an eligible high school to qualify, and they must continue to make satisfactory progress in college. Students may not be in default on a previous student loan, must comply with Selective Service requirements, and may not be convicted of a drug-related crime.
In addition to the HOPE program, there are numerous opportunities to receive “free” financial aid in Georgia. Private institutions, schools, professional groups, religious organizations, and other entities offer scholarships and grants in varying amounts. Listed below are just a few examples:
- The Georgia Governor’s Award: This merit-based scholarship is awarded to high school valedictorians who plan to attend a Georgia college or university.
- The HERO Scholarship: Members of the Georgia National Guard and U.S. Military Reserve, or their children or spouses, are eligible for this award.
- The Charles McDaniel Teacher Scholarship: Full-time students seeking a teaching degree at a public college or university in Georgia are eligible for this scholarship. Students are nominated by the postsecondary schools that participate in this program.
- The REACH Scholarship: This scholarship and mentorship program is needs-based, targeted at low-income students who perform well academically.
- The Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant Program (GTEG): This program provides tuition assistance to Georgia residents attending private colleges or universities within the state. Undergraduates enrolled full-time are eligible to apply for this grant, regardless of their financial need.
- The Public Safety Memorial Grant: Children of Georgia Public Safety Officers who were killed in the line of duty may use funds from this grant to attend public or private colleges, universities, or technical colleges in Georgia.
The more you know about opportunities for financial assistance in Georgia, the better your chances of graduating without a lot of student loan debt. It takes time to research all your options and to apply for state or private funds, but the effort can really pay off when it’s time to pay for your tuition and other expenses. Take advantage of our free Student Loan Comparison Tool to get the support you need to finance your education.