Although Alaska is the largest state in the U.S., it has one of the smallest populations. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau put Alaska’s population at 739,795 in mid-2017.
However, residents have access to a variety of state-sponsored Alaska student loans and grants.
For instance, the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education (ACPE), funded by the Alaska Student Loan Corporation, offers financial aid for college and career training. The ACPE also offers the Alaska Refinance Loan if you’re looking to snag a lower interest rate or adjust the monthly payments on your current student debt.
Whether you’re an Alaska resident or a student heading there for college, check out this guide for all your options on Alaska student loans.
Alaska student loans for state and nonstate residents
Alaska offers a few options for state residents and nonstate residents enrolling in Alaska schools.
Alaska Supplemental Education Loan
As with a private student loan, you need to have a credit score of at least 680 (or apply with a cosigner who does) to get an Alaska Supplemental Education Loan (ASEL). These loans come with fixed interest rates of 5.75% for the 2017-2018 school year, with the possibility of additional rate discounts.
Undergraduates can borrow up to $14,000 per year. Graduate students can borrow up to $15,000. Those heading to career training or vocational programs or flight school can also borrow up to $10,000 per year.
As with federal loans, you don’t have to start repayment on an ASEL until your grace period ends six months after graduation.
Family Education Loan
The Family Education Loan (FEL) is designed for parents or other family members borrowing money on behalf of a student. Although you don’t need a certain credit score to qualify, you can’t have an adverse credit history.
This loan comes with a fixed interest rate of 5.75%, but you can get a 0.25% discount for setting up autopay. Repayment begins right away on an FEL, typically 60 days after the loan has been fully disbursed.
Alaska Refinance Loan
With an Alaska Refinance Loan, you can qualify for an interest rate as low as 4.95%. You might be able to combine multiple loans, plus choose new terms of five, 10, or 15 years.
To qualify, you must have a minimum FICO score of 720, or you can apply with a cosigner who does. The Alaska Refinance Loan is only available to Alaska residents.
Winn Brindle Memorial Education Loan
This special student loan goes to Alaska residents enrolled in a fisheries-related program, such as fisheries science, seafood processing, or food technology. It has a fixed interest rate of 5.00%, plus you might be eligible for 50% forgiveness if you work in Alaska.
Along with enrolling in an eligible program, you must have good credit to qualify for this loan.
Alaska WWAMI Biomedical Program
This program offers Alaska student loans to individuals heading to an out-of-state medical school. This competitive loan goes to 20 students each year, and you have to go through an interview process to qualify. It comes with a 3.25% fixed interest rate. If you return to Alaska to work in the medical field, you could qualify for total student loan forgiveness.
Professional Student Exchange
Alaska’s Professional Student Exchange program supports students heading out of state to study to become a dentist, occupational therapist, optometrist, podiatrist, pharmacist, physical therapist, or physician’s assistant.
This loan comes with a 5.75% fixed interest rate and no origination fee.
Federal options for Alaska student loans
All U.S. citizens and qualifying noncitizens have access to the federal student loan program, administered by the Office of Federal Student Aid. These loans come with competitive fixed interest rates, as well as a variety of flexible repayment plans.
To access these loans, all you have to do is submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your college will offer you loans in your financial aid package, and you can choose how much to take out to pay for college.
These are the three types of federal student loans for college and graduate students.
Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans
Undergraduate students who demonstrate a financial need are eligible for Direct Subsidized Loans. Undergraduates, graduates, and professional students without a demonstrated financial need are eligible for Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
For more information on how to determine which type of Direct Loan you qualify for, check out our guide on subsidized and unsubsidized loans.
As of July 1, 2017, Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans have a fixed interest rate of 4.45% for undergraduates. Graduate students with Direct Unsubsidized Loans are looking at a fixed interest rate of 6.00%. All of these loans come with a 1.066% fee, as of Oct. 1, 2017.
When you repay these loans, you can choose between the standard 10-year plan and a number of income-driven repayment plans.
PLUS Loans are designed for graduate students, professional students, or parents of dependent undergraduate students. These loans come with a fixed interest rate of 7.00% and an origination fee of 4.264%, as of Oct. 1, 2017.
You can borrow up to the cost of attendance minus other financial aid you or your child have received.
Although Parent PLUS Loans aren’t eligible for as many repayment plans as Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans are, you’ll still find some flexibility when it comes to repayment.
After submitting the FAFSA, speak with your or your child’s financial aid office for any additional instructions on how to apply for a PLUS Loan.
Direct Consolidation Loan
A Direct Consolidation Loan is typically best for student loan borrowers who’ve already graduated from college. This loan combines all your federal student loans into one new loan with a single repayment plan.
It can help simplify your monthly payments, plus it’s a useful tool if you need to get out of default.
Your new interest rate will be the weighted average of your previous rates rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of a percent. Note that taking out a consolidation loan, unlike refinancing with a private lender, can actually raise your interest rate slightly.
Consider private student loans as well
While the state of Alaska offers a robust student loan program for its residents and visiting students, Alaska student loans aren’t your only option for funding. You can also look to other private lenders offering student loans to borrowers across the country.
This lender could be a traditional bank, such as Citizens Bank, or an online lender, such as CommonBond or College Ave.
You might also explore credit unions, such as Credit Union 1 or Alaska USA Federal Credit Union. Credit unions often offer competitive rates and strong customer service.
Besides taking out a new private student loan, you can refinance existing student loans with a private lender. Refinancing can help you lower your interest rate or adjust your monthly payments.
Whether you’re looking to take out a new loan or refinance existing ones, you’ll need to pass a credit check or apply with a creditworthy cosigner.
Note that private student loans typically don’t have the same repayment plans as federal student loans, so make sure to learn about your repayment options before signing on the dotted line.
Compare your options for Alaska student loans
If you’re an Alaska resident or heading there for college, the state can hook you up with a number of low-interest fixed-rate Alaska student loans. Besides these state options, you also have access to federal student loans and private loans from banks and alternative lenders.
Whatever you choose, make sure to shop around so you can choose the loan with the lowest cost of borrowing. Use our student loan calculatorsto estimate interest charges and your future monthly payments.
By putting in the legwork to compare your student loan options now, you’ll save yourself money in the future. Plus, your efforts will ensure you don’t take on a burdensome amount of student debt.
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