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Alternative Loan Resources

An alternative (also called private) loan is a loan through a commercial lender. Only look to alternative loans after you have considered all potential scholarships, and need based grants, work study funds, and federal loan programs via the FAFSA application process.  While alternative loans might be the difference between attending college or not, alternative loans generally have higher interest rates than federal loan programs and eligibility is based on your creditworthiness, not financial need.

How do I find a lender? 

CofC does not refer or recommend Alternative Loan lenders to students and/or parents. While we understand that you may have questions, we believe you have the right and ability to seek the education loan provider of your choice. 

CofC references ELMSelect as an online, lender-neutral platform to display a historically cumulative list of lenders and education loan products that CofC students may have used in the past. ELMSelect features side-by-side field-level comparisons of several different student loan products for Undergraduate, Graduate, MBA, and Parent; enabling students to compare and select a lender that best fits their loan needs.  You are not limited to those on the ELMSelect list. ELMSelect lenders presented in random order. 

We recommend comparing loan products and lenders to find the best interest rate and repayment options for your situation. It is your responsibility, as the consumer, to assess the advantages and disadvantages of these programs and make your selection based on those features that best meet your financial needs.

Before you apply

  1. Collect all the information that you need prior to starting the application process. Most lender applications require information on the borrower (the student), a co-borrower (also referred to as a co-signer) and several references.

  2. Identify a co-borrower (also called a co-signer) that will strengthen your application. A co-borrower guarantees the loan taken out by the student borrower. A co-borrower can be a parent, a grandparent, a relative or any individual willing to take on that responsibility. You will want to ensure that they have good credit, as their credit status will play a significant role in the pricing of your loan. Given the current “credit crunch”, having a creditworthy co-borrower can be critical to getting your loan approved.

  3. Plan to apply for more than one loan. Research indicates that applying for too many loans can have a negative impact on your credit score. The tradeoff is that by not applying for more than one loan you may be missing an opportunity to save on your loan.

    It pays to compare! Because private loan providers offer variable rates and special incentives, do your homework and find the lender that best suits your needs. Moreover, be wary of comparing loans with different repayment terms according to APR, as a longer loan term reduces the APR despite increasing the total amount of interest paid.

  4. Understanding the interest rate index tied to the loan (i.e., what is LIBOR & Prime?) Interest rates on alternative loans are typically priced off an index, such as the Prime Rate or LIBOR index (one or three month LIBOR are common). The loan is then priced as a margin over that index (e.g., 1 month LIBOR + 6%). The current rates on these indices may be found @ Bankrate.com.

    Please note that lenders update their indices on a regular basis (typically monthly or quarterly) so the rates listed above may not match the actual rates charged by lenders. Ask the lender what its Current Index is which will answer this question.

Loan options for International Students

  • Global Student Loan Corporation - offers alternative loans to accommodate International Students without having to provide a U.S. cosigner.
  • International Student Loans - offers alternative loans to international students studying in the USA based on the country you are from and where you are studying. U.S. cosigner is required.
  • International Education Financial Aid - comprehensive listing of grants, scholarships, loan programs and other information to assist students in their quest to study abroad.
  • The Paras Education Foundation - a financial consultant helping all International Students to obtain study abroad loans.  Must provide a U.S. cosigner.

Springs Close Foundation

Provides grants and interest-free loans for undergraduate students who reside in Lancaster County, Chester Township in Chester County and Fort Mill Township in York County. Applicants must be attending a South Carolina institution. Applications and additional requirements are available from the Springs Close Foundation website, or you may contact them at: 1826 Second Baxter Crossing Fort Mill, S.C. 29708. Tel: 803.548.2002

Other resourceful websites

Other resourceful websites that may assist you in obtaining an alternative loan include FinAid's Loan Discount Analyzer; a website used to generate an apples-to-apples comparison of different loan programs. And the Private Student Loan Comparison Chart; a website that provides a basic comparison chart that highlights the key characteristics of the major private education loan.

Institutions are required to provide applicants the Private Education Loan Applicant Self-Certification Form upon request. Note most lenders will provide you this form during your application process. Forms should NOT be sent to College Of Charleston. If you need a copy of the Self Certification form, you may download it here. While we cannot fill out this form for you, we can give you the information needed to complete the form.