South Carolina college graduates left school in 2016 with an average of $30,123 in student loan debt, according to The Institute for College Access and Success. While that sounds like a lot, it’s about 20% below the national average student loan balance of $37,712.
It’s ideal to limit your student debt, but it can be hard to make it through college without it. To lighten your burden, it’s important that you know where to get the best rates on your South Carolina student loans and how to reduce the amount you need to borrow.
South Carolina student loans
South Carolinians have access to federal and private student loans to help them pay for college. If you’re planning on pursuing a career as a teacher, you might have another alternative through the South Carolina Teacher Loan Program.
Federal student loans
The U.S. Department of Education offers a few federal loan options to undergraduate and graduate students. As you shop around, keep in mind that most federal student loans offer special benefits, including income-driven repayment (IDR) plans and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Here’s a summary of what’s available as of March 2018.
|Loan type||Designed for||Requires a credit check?||Interest rates||Loan fee|
|Direct Subsidized Loans||Undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need||No||4.45%||1.066%|
|Direct Unsubsidized Loans||Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students||No||4.45% for undergraduates, 6.00% for graduate and professional students||1.066%|
|Direct PLUS Loans||Graduate and professional students, and parents of undergraduate students||Yes||7.00%||4.264%|
Private student loans
All private student loan companies require a credit check. If your credit history is bad or limited, you might need to find a cosigner to help you get approved. Also, you likely won’t have access to IDR plans or student loan forgiveness programs.
That said, the best private student loan companies offer competitive interest rates and terms. Here are some of the top examples, with rates:
|Student loan company||Variable interest rates||Fixed interest rates||Origination fees|
|LendKey||As low as 4.21%||As low as 5.36%||None|
|Citizens Bank||3.53% – 11.63%||5.25% – 11.99%||None|
|College Ave||3.92% – 11.52%||6.07% – 12.66%||None|
Compare these and other private student loans to determine if they’re the right choice for you.
South Carolina Teacher Loan Program
If you’re a resident of South Carolina and plan to teach in the state’s public school system, you might qualify for the South Carolina Teacher Loan, which is eligible for forgiveness if you meet certain requirements.
Depending on where you teach, your loan could be forgiven at the following rates:
- Twenty percent or $3,000, whichever is greater, if you teach in a critical subject or critical geographic area
- Thirty-three-and-a-third percent or $5,000, whichever is greater, if you teach in both a critical subject and a critical geographic area
If you decide not to teach, you’ll have to pay back the loan as normal. The interest rate is 2% higher than the current rate on Direct Unsubsidized Loans from the Department of Education.
Refinancing South Carolina student loans
If you’ve left school and started your career, you might be feeling overwhelmed with the amount of student debt. To potentially get a lower interest rate on your South Carolina student loans, consider refinancing your debt. Student loan refinancing companies typically offer variable and fixed interest rates, and some of those variable rates are lower than what you’d get on an undergraduate federal loan.
Additionally, you could get access to varying repayment terms and other features that could give you extra flexibility.
You typically can refinance your undergraduate and graduate student loans at the same rates. But like private in-school student loans, these refinancing loans require a credit check. And they usually don’t offer IDR plans or student loan forgiveness like federal loans do.
Here are a few of the top student loan refinancing companies and some of the terms they offer:
|Student loan company||Variable interest rates||Fixed interest rates||Minimum loan balance||Origination fees|
|CommonBond||2.57% – 6.39%||3.18% – 6.49%||$5,000||None|
|Earnest||2.57% – 5.87%||3.25% – 6.32%||$5,000||None|
|SoFi||2.58% – 7.07%||3.25% – 7.25%||$5,000||None|
To improve your chances of getting a lower interest rate, compare several student loan refinancing companies and look at rates, repayment terms, and other features that fit your needs.
Ways to limit your South Carolina student loans
Regardless of what the average student loan debt is, leaving college with more than $30,000 in student loan debt can be stressful for anyone. If you’re still in college, take steps to reduce the amount you borrow as you finish your education. Here are some things you can do:
- Choose an inexpensive college: Attending a prestigious university looks great on paper, but you can get a quality education at an affordable school. Take a look at all your options before you choose one.
- Apply for scholarships: Search for organizations and companies that offer scholarships and apply for as many as you can. You won’t get approved for all of them, but even one scholarship can make a big difference. And don’t forget about the Student Loan Hero $5K Scholarship.
- Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): The FAFSA form helps the Department of Education determine how much financial aid you need to attend college. If your need is high enough, you might qualify for a Pell Grant, which, like a scholarship, doesn’t have to be repaid.
- Get a job: Getting a job can help you pay for college and cover the costs that South Carolina student loans might not cover.
- Finish early: You usually have to take only 12 credit hours to count as a full-time student, but you might be able to take up to 18 credit hours without having to pay extra tuition. If you consistently take extra credits, you might be able to graduate a semester or two early.
Responsible student loan use is wise
To reduce your student loan debt load and the interest you’ll pay, shop around and apply for loans with low interest rates. Use other ways, as well, to limit the amount you borrow while you’re a student to help save money in the long run.
You’ll be better prepared to face the real world because you won’t be weighed down by unnecessary debt.
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2 = CollegeAve Autopay Disclaimer: The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
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|Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents||VISIT COLLEGEAVE|
|3.62% – 11.85%*3||Undergraduate and Graduate||VISIT SALLIEMAE|
|Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents||VISIT COMMONBOND|
|Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents||VISIT CITIZENS|
|4.21% – 9.69%||Undergraduate and Graduate||VISIT LENDKEY|
|3.35% – 10.89%||Undergraduate and Graduate||VISIT CONNEXT|