Colorado Student Loans
There are over 470 postsecondary programs in Colorado’s higher education system, including private and public four-year colleges, universities, religious institutions, technical schools, and vocational programs. Denver, the state’s capital, is home to state schools such as the University of Colorado at Denver, the Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, as well as private institutions like Regis University and the Iliff School of Theology.
State universities outside of Denver include Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado State University at Pueblo, and the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley, among others. Private schools like Colorado College in Colorado Springs and Naropa University in Boulder are known throughout their country for their unique and prestigious academic programs. In addition, Colorado has a broad network of community colleges, specialty career programs, technical schools, and occupational schools. Along with its opportunities for outdoor recreation, Colorado gives its students access to numerous cultural venues, sporting events, and historical sites to enrich their educational experience.
Financial Aid From the U.S. Government
Free forms of aid, like grants and scholarships, are preferable to loans, because they do not have to be paid back. By completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, you are automatically considered for all federal loans, as well as “gift aid.” Free forms of federal assistance include Pell Grants, Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants, and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG).
Student loans should not be your primary source of financial aid; however, most Colorado students will need at least one loan to achieve their goals. Federal loans are the most affordable way to borrow, with low fixed interest rates and low origination fees.
- Federal Direct Subsidized Loans: Partially funded by the U.S. Department of Education, subsidized loans are available to low-income undergraduates attending an eligible postsecondary program at least half-time. Interest is not charged on the loan while you are still attending college, or if your loan is in deferment.
- Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Unsubsidized loans are not financially supported by the U.S. Department of Education. Interest is due on these loans from the time they are disbursed until the time they are repaid. Graduate students, professional students, and undergrads at any income level can apply for these loans.
- Federal Direct PLUS Loans: Direct PLUS Loans are available to help graduate students, professional students, and the parents of dependent children finance the costs of higher education.
- Perkins Loans: These low-interest loans are issued by participating schools using federal dollars. Awards are based on the student’s financial need, educational costs, additional forms of assistance, and the availability of funds.
As you develop a plan for financing your education, consider carefully how much money you really need to borrow, and how much that loan will end up costing you in interest and fees. Online loan calculators can help you estimate your academic expenses to come up with an accurate approximation of how much money you’ll need to borrow.
Colorado Student Loans
The state of Colorado does not sponsor student loans. However, student loans are available via private financial institutions, such as banks and credit unions. Because private loans (also known as alternative loans) have higher interest rates, higher fees, and poorer repayment terms than federal loans, they should only be used to make up for gaps in your funding. With private loans, it’s especially important to borrow only what you need in order to avoid high interest rates and penalties for late repayment.
How do private loans compare with federal loans? Here are a few of the most significant differences to watch for:
- Federal loans offer a low fixed interest rate that will not increase over time. Private loans may have variable interest rates, which means that interest may rise throughout the length of the loan. Having a co-signer (a financially independent adult who can guarantee repayment) for a private loan may help you get better interest rates.
- With federal loans, you don’t have to start repaying the loan until you graduate from school. With private loans, you may be charged payments while you’re still attending college.
- If you are an undergraduate who can demonstrate financial need, you may qualify for more affordable loans that are partially supported by the government (subsidized loans). Private lenders generally do not offer more favorable rates to students with greater financial need.
- The interest on federal student loans can be deducted from your income taxes. The interest on private loans may or may not be deductible.
Your financial aid pool should include a number of different sources, with an emphasis on “free” aid like scholarships, grants, or student employment. Work-study programs enable Colorado students to earn an income at career-related jobs while they’re still in school, so they can cover their educational expenses while learning more about their chosen profession.
CO Grants and Scholarships
The state of Colorado assists its students through several grant and scholarship programs. State financial aid is usually limited to applicants who can meet the requirements for state residency, such as living in Colorado for a certain period of time, or having a parent or guardian who lives in Colorado. Your school’s admissions department can provide details on the necessary qualifications for state residency.
Some of the most popular forms of state-based aid in Colorado are:
- Colorado Student Grant and Colorado Graduate Grant: These awards are available to state residents who can establish financial need.
- Colorado College Responsibility Grant (CCRP): Funded by the Colorado General Assembly, these grants are awarded to undergraduates who are Colorado state residents enrolled at least half-time in an eligible program. Applicants must be able to demonstrate financial need.
- College Opportunity Fund (COF): In-state undergraduates can receive vouchers for reduced tuition through the College Opportunity Fund, which uses Colorado state tax dollars to support students enrolled at public institutions. Graduate students and out-of-state students are not eligible for COF. In order to receive reduced tuition, students must authorize the vouchers during the registration process at their school. Once COF is authorized, the vouchers are applied directly to tuition at the student’s school.
- Commitment to Colorado Grant: Students attending Colorado State University — the only Land Grant University in Colorado — are eligible to receive this grant. Recipients must be in-state undergraduates whose family income does not exceed a specified limit.
- CU Promise Grant: This institutionally funded grant is available to undergraduates at the University of Colorado at Boulder who are seeking their first degree. Applicants must be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant and must be attending CU Boulder full-time.
- Dependent Tuition Assistance Program: This program provides grants to the dependent children of law enforcement officers, firefighters, or National Guard members who were killed while protecting the public. Dependents of military personnel who were killed in active duty, prisoners of war, or missing in action are also eligible. The program covers college-related expenses such as tuition, fees, and on-campus housing.
There are many merit-based and need-based scholarships in the state of Colorado, including the Green and Gold Scholarship, the First Generation Award, the Creative and Performing Arts Award, the Honors Scholarship, and the Ram Recognition Award. Students who attend state schools in Colorado are considered for many of these scholarships when they apply. In addition to academic performance and financial need, the following factors may be taken into consideration:
- Extracurricular activities
- Community service
- Demonstration of leadership
- Outstanding citizenship skills
- Extraordinary talents
The time and effort that you spend on your college application and your applications for financial aid can really pay off when it comes to qualifying for scholarships or grants. These awards are very competitive and funds are limited, so the sooner you submit your application, the greater your chances of getting financial support.