South Carolina Student Loans
South Carolina’s reputation for achievement in higher education is growing. According to the Post and Courier, over 70 percent of high school students in this state went on to enroll in college in 2008 — a rate that exceeds the national average. Home to institutions like the University of South Carolina, Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the College of Charleston, South Carolina offers a wealth of educational opportunities. There are also numerous technical colleges and professional programs in the Palmetto State.
With tuition costs rising each year, it’s become more important than ever to research your financial aid options when you’re preparing for an advanced education. Whether you’re interested in a public university, a private college, or a professional program in SC, you’ll find that there are many scholarships and loans to help you achieve your goals.
Federal Loans for SC Students
These days, it’s nearly impossible to earn a college degree without some form of financial assistance. The University of South Carolina estimates that 87 percent of its student body receives financial aid, including state residents and non-residents. A large percentage of this aid comes in the form of federal loans issued through the U.S. Department of Education, including:
- Perkins Loans: Based on financial need, the Perkins Loan Program provides financial assistance for higher education at low interest rates.
- Stafford Loans: Federal Stafford Loans help eligible students finance their education at a fixed interest rate.
- Direct PLUS and GradPLUS Loans: These loans provide low-interest funding for students attending a professional degree program or graduate program at least half-time.
You can apply for federal assistance with a single application: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal loans can supplement your state-based financial aid and help you complete your degree at an affordable rate.
State-Specific SC Student Loans
Private loans can help you finance your education in South Carolina at lower-than-average interest rates. South Carolina Student Loans (SCSL) is a well-established, non-profit educational lender that has been issuing affordable financial aid since the 1970s. The SCSL sponsors several loan programs for South Carolina residents and non-residents alike:
- The Palmetto Assistance Loan (PAL): The PAL program offers private loans to legal U.S. citizens at low, fixed interest rates. These loans can be used to cover tuition and educational fees, books, supplies, or a personal computer. Applicants must be enrolled in a public or private school or certificate program in South Carolina. Alternatively, SC residents may qualify for PAL if they are attending an eligible school in another state. The PAL program is open to SC residents and non-residents.
- The SC Teachers Loan Program: This forgivable loan program was designed to attract gifted college students into the teaching profession. Graduates who elect to teach in South Carolina in a subject or geographic area with a critical shortage can qualify for loan forgiveness. This program is available to SC residents, and applicants must meet specific GPA requirements.
- The SC PACE Loan: Students enrolled in the South Carolina Program of Alternative Certification for Educators (PACE) may qualify for a PACE Loan. Applicants must have a current SC teaching certificate and must be working full-time as a teacher in a South Carolina public school.
- The SC Career Changers Loan: This program was initiated to support South Carolina professionals who dream of becoming teachers. Applicants must have earned their baccalaureate degree at least three years prior to application, or must be working as instructional assistants in a public school in South Carolina. Work experience requirements also apply. Both the SC PACE Loan and SC Career Changers Loans are eligible for loan forgiveness.
- The PAL Consolidation Loan: Consolidation can save you money and simplify your finances by combining multiple student loans in a single loan. With a PAL Consolidation Loan, you can pay off federal and private loans in one monthly payment. You may also be able to get lower interest rates when you consolidate. To qualify for PAL, applicants must be U.S. citizens who are either legal residents of SC or non-residents with outstanding loans at SC schools. Your credit score and debt-to-income ratio will also be considered. If you don’t meet the financial requirements for the program, you must have a cosigner who does qualify.
Private Educational Loans in SC
In addition to federal loans and SCSL loans, financing is available through private lenders inside and outside of South Carolina. These include banks, credit unions, corporate entities, and other financial institutions. Because private educational loans — also known as Alternative Education Loans — typically have higher interest rates and less favorable repayment terms than loans sponsored by the government or state institutions, you should ideally not rely on these loans as a primary source of financial aid.
Students who apply for private educational loans are strongly encouraged to compare their interest rates, lending fees, and repayment terms before making a commitment to a private lender. Borrowers should be aware that some private loans have a higher interest rate after the student graduates and the loan enters repayment.
Unlike federal loans, private educational loans are not backed by the government and not subject to the same regulations. Interest rates are typically higher than the rates for federal loans, and lending fees can be steep. It’s very important to consider not only the terms of a private educational loan, but the financial stability and history of the lender before you accept credit.
Applying for SC Student Loans
You can apply for any of the loans issued by South Carolina Student Loan by contacting this agency for an application or by downloading an application directly from the SCSL website. If your application is accepted, you will be asked to sign a promissory note. A promissory note is a binding legal contract that sets out the repayment terms and interest rate of your loan. The promissory note also clarifies the lender’s cancellation and deferment policies.
South Carolina Student Loan requires that students who receive a loan attend entrance and exit counseling sessions. Borrowers must complete entrance counseling before they receive their first loan disbursement and exit counseling before graduation. Counseling ensures that student borrowers understand the terms and conditions of their loans.
Loans aren’t the only way to finance a higher education. When you’re searching for financial aid, your first priority should be finding sources of “free” financial assistance, like scholarships, work-study jobs, and tuition grants. Check with the Office of Financial Aid at your college or university for information on funding sources that won’t increase your student loan debt.
South Carolina sponsors several programs to make higher education affordable for its college students. When you apply to a university or college in SC, you’ll have the opportunity to apply for one or more grants or scholarships, as well as loans. Scholarships may be awarded based on academic achievement, community involvement, financial need, or a combination of these factors.
Listed below are three of the most popular scholarships available to South Carolina residents:
- The Palmetto Fellows Scholarship: Based on academic merit, the prestigious Palmetto Fellows Scholarship is sponsored by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education. To qualify initially, students must be legal residents of South Carolina enrolled in a public or private high school or home schooling program. The scholarship applies to four-year degree programs, and qualifying students receive funding for their freshman through senior years.
- The LIFE Scholarship: The LIFE Scholarship is awarded to South Carolina residents who are seeking their first undergraduate degree. Students who qualify for the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship are not eligible for the LIFE Scholarship.
- The HOPE Scholarship: The HOPE Scholarship is available for legal residents of South Carolina who are enrolled in an undergraduate program and seeking their first degree. Students who qualify for the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship or the LIFE Scholarship cannot receive funds from the HOPE Scholarship.
To qualify for a South Carolina scholarship, applicants must meet specific requirements, such as achieving minimum scores on standardized tests or maintaining a certain grade point average (GPA). Students who are in default on federal loans or who have committed felonies or misdemeanors usually do not qualify. Unlike student loans, scholarship funds do not have to be repaid; however, most scholarships have requirements and restrictions for maintaining your funding.
There are many private, non-institutional scholarships available to undergraduates and graduate students in South Carolina. These funds are issued by community organizations, professional clubs, businesses, or individuals. Remember that financial assistance from private scholarships can affect the total amount of your federal or state-based aid.
Tuition Grants in SC
Grants are awarded by government departments, corporate entities, foundations, trusts, educational institutions, or non-profit organizations. There is no obligation to repay these funds; however, awardees must meet specific requirements to maintain their funding. South Carolina residents can apply for a number of federal and state-based grant programs, including:
- PELL Grants: Subsidized by the U.S. Department of Education, the Pell Grant Program provides need-based federal grants to qualifying undergraduates. Unlike federal loans, PELL grants do not need to be repaid. Students who complete the FAFSA to apply for federal aid will be considered for a PELL Grant.
- South Carolina Tuition Grants: Subsidized by the South Carolina Higher Education Tuition Grants Commission, these need-based grants are awarded to legal residents of SC who are pursuing a degree at a public or private college in the state. In addition to establishing financial need, applicants must meet certain academic standards. Students may apply for South Carolina Tuition Grants when they apply for federal aid through the FAFSA.
- Lottery Assistance Tuition Grants: The SC Lottery Tuition Assistance Program utilizes state lottery funds to help students attending two-year programs in South Carolina cover their tuition costs. Full-time and part-time students may qualify if they are attending an eligible two-year technical institution or community college. The FAFSA application can be used to apply for lottery assistance.
Planning Your Future
Higher education is one of the most significant investments you can make. While many SC students take advantage of state-sponsored scholarships and grants, most will need some form of credit to finance their degree. With so many student loan options available, it can be difficult to make an informed decision about financial aid. Our Student Loan Comparison Tool helps you select the loan that’s right for you.
What are the eligibility requirements for Palmetto Assistance at South Carolina?
Palmetto Assistance (available via South Carolina student loans) comes with a number of benefits. In order to apply for this option, students must be enrolled at least part time. Students should also be enrolled in an eligible school in state of South Carolina, have a satisfactory credit history, and should not be in default on any previous student loans. In addition, students must be legal U.S. residents and should adhere to SAP guidelines in order to continue receiving financial assistance.