For many people, a Stafford loan is the ideal solution for going to college. If you want to earn a college education but find money to be an issue, this type of loan may prove beneficial. Although this is indeed a loan, because interest is much less than a loan you would secure through a bank, credit union, or other financial institution, it is much easier to manage when it comes time for repayment.
The most important thing is to learn all you can about qualifying criteria for a Stafford Loan. To get started, you would first need to obtain an FAFSA application, which can be found at the financial aid office at the college or university interested in attending or downloaded online from the US Government website.
Then, for qualifying criteria for a Stafford loan, you would fall into one of two categories – independent student or dependent student. If you are a returning student, more than likely you would apply as a dependent student whereas being a new student would probably make you an independent student. To qualify for a Stafford loan as an independent student it means income from your parents would not be included. The following questions would help you identify the category in which you would fit.
• Is your birthday prior to January 1, 1988?
• Are you currently married (you would answer yes even if legally separated)
• At the start of the 2011/2012 school year will you be attending school to finish a Master’s degree or doctorate program?
• Since turning 13 have either parent become deceased, were you a ward of the state, did you depend on the state, or did you live in foster care?
• Has it been determined that you were/are in legal guardianship according to a court of law within the state of resident at the time the determination was made?
• Since July 1, 2010 has it been determined that you were/are a homeless and unaccompanied youth by the Director of an emergency shelter or a US funded transitional housing program under the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)?
• Since July 1, 2010 has it been determined that you were/are a homeless and unaccompanied youth or self-supporting but also at potential risk of becoming homeless by the Director of a homeless youth basic center, runway youth center, or transitional living program?
• Since July 1, 2010 has it been determined that you were/are a homeless and unaccompanied youth by a homeless liaison with your high school or school district?
• Has it been determined that you were/are legally emancipated as a minor through a court of law within your state at the time the determination was made?
• Are you a veteran of any United States military branch?
• Do you currently serve in any branch of the United States military?
• Do you have any dependents, excluding children and spouse, living with you and who receive over 50% of support from you currently or who will receive over 50% of support from you through June 30, 2012?
• Do you have children who will receive over 50% of support from you from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012?
In reviewing these questions, if any were given a “yes” answer then for you, qualifying criteria for a Stafford loan would be as a dependent student. If not, then financial information from your parents would be required to complete the FAFSA application, as well as other pertinent financial aid forms. Now, if you discover you are in fact considered a dependent student there are ways to optimize the amount secured but overall, the amount of the Stafford loan would be based on several specific factors. For one, your grade level would be factored in and two, your current status as a college student is used.