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Despite all the headlines about rising college costs and the heavy burden of student loan debt, there’s some good news about higher education that suggests the tide is turning.

Consider that:

  • Many states are restoring funding to public universities that was cut during the recession, slowing growth in tuition in fees.
  • Students don’t usually pay the advertised sticker price to attend college — school-based, state and federal aid can greatly reduce the net cost of attending college.
  • Private universities, mindful of the public outcry over rising costs, have increased tuition discounts to nearly 50 percent.
  • Borrowing per student has declined for four years in a row and was 10 percent lower in 2014-15 than in 2010-11.
  • A disproportionate number of borrowers who are struggling to repay students loan debt attended for-profit colleges or non-selective schools, often without obtaining a degree or skills that boosted their earning power.
  • Graduates with marketable job skills are much more likely to be paying down their student loan debt.

That said, if you’re a student headed to college next fall or the parent of a child returning to school, you may still be wondering how you’re going to cover all of your expenses.

If you’ve rounded up all of the grants, scholarships, and work study you’re eligible for, you’re probably evaluating your student loan options.

College financial aid counselors say that if you must borrow to fund your education, you should start with federal student loans. But there are several types of federal loans, and some are a better deal than others.

Once they’ve taken out all the most advantageous federal student loans they’re eligible for, many students and their families are turning to private lenders to close college funding gaps.

With interest rates still hovering near historic lows, rates offered by private lenders can be quite competitive with those on government PLUS loans for graduate students and parents.

Because everybody’s situation is unique, and because it’s important to consider all of your options, Credible has produced this downloadable guide to help you understand how and when to use private student loans to fill college funding gaps.

Topics covered in this guide include:

  • Advantages of federal direct subsidized loans
  • Hidden costs of federal direct unsubsidized loans
  • Borrowing limits on federal student loans
  • Grace periods, deferment and forbearance
  • Repayment plans
  • Features of private loans
  • Fixed-rate vs. variable-rate loans
  • Cosigners

Once you’ve digested the contents of this guide, you’ll be better equipped to decide how to cover unmet funding needs. If you decide a private student loan makes sense for you, you can use Credible to compare rates offered by multiple, vetted lenders on the Credible platform. 

Credible is a multi-lender marketplace that allows borrowers to get personalized rates and compare loans from vetted lenders.