Oregon Student Loans

Oregon Student studyingOregon is the home of numerous public and private colleges. According to the State of Oregon, the public school system includes both community colleges (offering two-year degrees) and universities (offering four-year degrees).

For instance, the capital of Salem is home to Chemeketa Community College. Although it’s not the capital, Portland is certainly one of the state’s largest hubs for higher education. Students interested in attending a public school in Portland will have several choices, including Portland Community College, Oregon Health Sciences University, and Portland State University. Outside of Portland, students may also consider the well-known University of Oregon, located in Eugene.

Facts on Oregon Colleges and Universities

College selection is one of the most exciting parts of the college planning process. One important decision will be whether to remain in one’s home state and attend a public school or select a private college, either in the state or in another state. With a private college or university, there is no difference in tuition rates based on residency status. When tuition varies, it is usually based on the major course of study. Oregon is home to numerous private colleges and universities. In Portland alone, students have several options, including the University of Portland, Lewis and Clark College, and Everest College. The largest colleges and universities are usually the most well known because of their large student bodies and, ultimately, large graduating classes. According to College Stats, the following schools are the top five in Oregon in terms of the size of the student body:

  • Portland Community College (52,960 students)
  • Portland State University (40,210 students)
  • Oregon State University (31,757 students)
  • University of Oregon (28,124 students)
  • Chemeketa Community College (22,594 students)

The size of Portland Community College makes it clear that many students in Oregon start their academic career in a two-year degree program. Many will then go on to matriculate at a four-year school. Wherever one begins his or her college studies, there are numerous offerings in Oregon.

Residency and Tuition Rates

Students with Oregon resident status can expect to pay in-state tuition rates whereas non-residents will be assessed out-of-state tuition rates (rates vary among schools). To illustrate, consider the difference in tuition at Portland Community College. For the 2015 academic year, residents of Oregon and the border states of Washington, California, Idaho, and Nevada are charged $96 per credit. Students with a residency status outside of these states, as well as international students, are assessed $224 per credit. That’s a difference of $128 per credit.

Similarly, tuition rates at the University of Oregon are highly favorable for in-state residents. For the 2015-2016 academic year, full-time study will cost an in-state resident $10,287 whereas an out-of-state student can expect to pay $32,022. That’s a difference of $21,735. Just imagine: three in-state residents could attend this university for a little less than the cost of tuition for one non-resident student. It is important to note that residency status does not bear on the cost of other expenses, such as housing fees.

Students who do not have lawful immigration status but meet the legal criteria for in-state residency may receive the in-state tuition rate at Oregon public institutions of higher education. As detailed on the University of Oregon site, students who do not possess a resident alien card, citizenship, or other qualifying status will need to meet the following requirements to receive in-state tuition at this university:

  • Must have matriculated at a school anywhere in the United States for at least five years;
  • Studied for at least three years at an Oregon high school;
  • Graduated from a high school in Oregon within three years of starting the university; and
  • Demonstrate an intent to obtain lawful residency status at present or as of the time of eligibility

Students who are not Oregon residents will often ask one very smart question: Can I establish residency, for in-state tuition purposes, after I have gone to school in Oregon for more than a year? This question should be directed to the financial aid office of the public college or university. There are specific rules governing this scenario. It is also important to continually check in with the financial aid office as rules in this area may change year to year.

Federal Student Loan Options

Determining how to pay for college can be daunting when a student is just beginning to consider pursuing a degree. Wherever a student goes to school, the starting point to get financial aid is the same for everyone. Students are required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Each school that offers a student admission will rely on information reported on the FAFSA to create a financial aid package. Schools will usually first consider eligible students for gift aid, such as grants and scholarships, which do not need to be repaid. Once these sources are exhausted, as needed, schools will consider students for student loans. When it comes to student loans, there are generally only two sources: the federal government and private banks (also called alternative loans). Oregon does not offer state student loans. Part of the reason Oregon and other states do not offer student loan products is that the federal government and private banks are usually able to provide the needed coverage. Some students may come across the term “institutional loan,” which means the school is the lender; however, it is important to note that these loans are not usually part of the financial aid package. Schools that provide institutional loans have specific criteria. A student who many need an institutional loan is best advised to contact the school’s financial aid office directly for further information.

In terms of federal loans, the federal government offers one loan program: the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. The Direct Loan program offers both subsidized and unsubsidized loans. In general, schools will first consider students for the more subsidized loans because their terms are more favorable than unsubsidized loans.

The main difference between the subsidized and unsubsidized loan types is that under the subsidized program, the federal government will pay the interest that accrues during periods of deferment such as when a student is in school, during the payment grace period after graduation, and during times of hardship when in repayment. When it comes to unsubsidized loans, the interest is usually always the responsibility of the student borrower.

When it comes to federal loans, the student is generally the borrower; however, the Direct Loan program provides a loan product for parent borrowers. Direct PLUS Loans are available to parents of dependent undergraduate students. Approval of this loan type relies on factors such as the parent’s credit score. Direct PLUS Loans often provide more favorable terms than private loans. However, parent borrowers are always encouraged to be informed consumers and research loans products with private banks and credit unions as well.

Private Student Loans

Girl and father discussing Oregon student loansIn general, a student borrows private loans to cover needs that the school’s financial aid package does not cover sufficiently. Students who attend private colleges or who must pay non-resident tuition at a public school may find that they need private loans to cover the higher cost of tuition.

There are some important rules associated with borrowing student loans. Usually, the amount to be borrowed cannot be greater than the cost of attendance (including housing and other expenses) minus all financial aid (including any federal loans). In this way, private loans should be thought of as supplemental to financial aid. For undergraduate study, private loans are generally based on the student’s credit history. For students who do not have a credit history (and most recent high school graduates do not) a creditworthy co-signer will be required.

As Forbes discusses, a multitude of private banks offer student loan products. In general, interest rates range from 3-12 percent. Origination and other charges vary by lender. The admitting college or university will usually not require students to borrow from any particular private bank. However, the school’s financial aid office should be able to provide a list of national and local banks that have lent money to the school’s students in the past.

It is the responsibility of the student, and co-signer (if any), to compare the terms of the different loans and pick the most advantageous one. It is important to note that federal loans generally provide far more desirable interest rates and repayment terms than private loans.