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If a traditional four-year degree doesn’t seem right for you, another option you might consider is a certificate program. With this type of program, you can obtain specific career skills and qualifications in a short period of time — usually a few months to a few years, depending on the certification.
Many traditional and vocational schools offer a variety of certificate programs. Some popular certificates include:
- Business and management
- Information technology (IT)
There are several potential ways to pay for a certificate, such as taking out student loans or applying for financial aid.
Here’s what you should know about student loans for certificate programs:
- 4 student loans for certificate programs
- How to pay for a certificate program
- How to qualify for a certificate program private student loan
- Additional ways to pay for a certificate program
4 student loans for certificate programs
Certificate programs are usually less expensive than traditional degree programs — you can generally expect to pay between $1,000 and $5,000, though some programs can be as expensive as $15,000 to $20,000, according to BestColleges.
If you’re thinking about getting a student loan to pay for a certificate program, it’s important to take the time to shop around and compare your options from as many lenders as possible. This way, you can find the right loan for your needs.
Here are Credible’s partner lenders that offer private student loans for certificate programs:
|Lender||Fixed rates from (APR)||Variable rates from (APR)||Loan amounts||Loan terms (years)||Min. credit score|
|3.21%+||1.46%+||$2,001 to $200,000||7 to 20||540|
||0.94%+2,3||$1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance||5, 8, 10, 15||Does not disclose|
|3.02%+7||2.37%+7||$1,000 to $200,000||7, 10, 15||750|
|3.5% - 12.6% APR9||1.13% - 11.23% APR9||Up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance||15||Does not disclose|
|*Federal student loan interest rates apply to loans disbursed between July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022.|
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How to pay for a certificate program
If you’re ready to find funding for a certificate program, follow these five steps:
1. Check into employer funding
If you’re already working in the industry that you’d like to be certified for, consider asking your employer if they will partially or fully fund your program.
Because certificate programs tend to offer very specific skills, your employer might be willing to cover your education costs in return for you becoming a highly skilled worker — especially if your proposed certification will cover a knowledge gap at your place of employment.
2. Fill out the FAFSA
If you’re enrolled in a qualifying certification program that participates in the federal financial aid program, it’s a good idea to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can check to see if your program is eligible through the National Center for Education Statistics.
Your school will use your FAFSA results to determine what federal student loans and other aid you qualify for. Keep in mind that some aid is given on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s wise to complete the FAFSA well before the deadline — for the 2022-23 academic year, you have until June 30, 2023.
3. Apply for scholarships and grants
Unlike student loans, college scholarships and grants don’t have to be repaid — which essentially makes them free money to use for school. There’s no limit to how many scholarships and grants you can get, so it’s a good idea to apply for as many as you can.
You might also be eligible for school-based scholarships depending on your FAFSA results.
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4. Take out federal student loans
If you need to borrow for school, it’s usually best to start with federal student loans. This is mainly because these loans come with federal benefits and protections, such as access to income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness programs.
After you complete the FAFSA, your school will send you a financial aid award letter detailing what federal student loans and other federal aid you qualify for. You can then choose which aid you’d like to accept.
5. Use private student loans to fill any gaps
After you’ve explored employer funding and exhausted your scholarship, grant, and federal student loan options, a private student loan could help fill any financial gaps left over.
Private student loans are offered by private lenders, such as online lenders as well as traditional banks and credit unions. Keep in mind that these loans don’t come with federal protections. However, they do offer some benefits of their own — for example, you can apply at any time and might be able to borrow more than you’d get with a federal loan.
How to qualify for a certificate program private student loan
Student loan requirements for private loans can vary by lender. But there are some common qualifying criteria you’ll likely come across. Typically, you must:
- Enroll in an eligible program. To qualify for a private student loan, you must attend an eligible school. Some lenders also require you to be enrolled in a degree-seeking program — if you’re pursuing a certificate instead of a degree, check with the lender to see if you’re still eligible.
- Meet demographic requirements. Most lenders require you to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a Social Security number. There are also some lenders that work with nonresident borrowers who have an eligible cosigner. Additionally, you’ll typically need to be 18 or older and have a high school diploma or an equivalent.
- Use the loan for education purposes. Private student loans can only be used by students for education costs. While your lender likely won’t be watching where you spend every penny of your loan, it’s a good idea to use your loan funds for necessary school expenses. This way, you can keep your future repayment costs as low as possible.
- Have good credit history. Unlike with most federal student loans, you’ll typically need good to excellent credit to qualify for a private student loan — a good credit score is usually considered to be 700 or higher. If you have poor credit and are struggling to get approved, applying with a creditworthy cosigner could improve your chances.
- Have a verifiable income. Lenders want to see that you’ll be able to repay your loan. Some have a minimum income requirement while others don’t — but in either case, you’ll likely need to show proof of income.
- Have a low debt-to-income ratio. Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is the amount you owe in monthly debt payments compared to your income. To qualify for a private student loan, your DTI ratio should be no higher than 40% — though some lenders might require lower ratios than this.
Before taking out a student loan, it’s important to consider how much you’ll actually pay for a loan. This way, you can be prepared for any added expenses.
You can find out how much you’ll owe over the life of your federal or private student loans using our student loan calculator below.
Enter your loan information to calculate how much you could pay
With a $ loan, you will pay $ monthly and a total of $ in interest over the life of your loan. You will pay a total of $ over the life of the loan, assuming you're making full payments while in school.
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Additional ways to pay for a certificate program
In addition to financial aid and student loans, there are also a few other potential ways to pay for a certificate program, including:
- Payment plan: Some programs offer payment plans to students, which will let you pay for your education in regular installments instead of all at once. This can make your payments more manageable.
- Income-share agreement: With this type of loan, an income-share agreement (ISA) provider will give you money for your education. In return, you’ll pay the provider a percentage of your salary (typically anywhere from 2% to 17%) for a fixed period ranging from two to 10 years. This means your payments can vary based on how much you end up earning in your career — if you earn a high salary, you could wind up paying much more than you initially borrowed.
- Personal loan: A personal loan can be used for almost any personal expense. You can typically borrow $600 to $100,000 or more with a personal loan, depending on the lender. Keep in mind that some lenders don’t allow their loans to be used for education purposes, so be sure to check with the lender first.