College is expensive. The average cost of attending a four-year public college in the U.S. is $28,000, according to Forbes, and $59,000 at private universities. Graduate from school and you’ll likely be saddled with major student loan debt. For 2015 graduates, the average amount of student loan debt is $35,000, up from previous years.
But while student debt is up, so are day-to-day living expenses. And surviving a budget can be difficult for college students, especially when emergencies crop up. Whether you’re faced with a health emergency, car repairs or last-minute school fees and textbook purchases, emergency student loans can help you afford unexpected expenses.
What Types of Emergency Student Loans Exist?
Different colleges offer different types of short-term loans for students, in varying amounts. Here are common types of emergency loans your financial aid office can offer:
Emergency cash loan: An emergency cash loan is used solely for an unanticipated event or emergency, such as a medical issue or car repair. This type of loan has a short repayment window — typically 30 to 60 days — is interest free, and can be taken out for a few hundred dollars.
The University of California, Los Angeles, for example, offers emergency cash loans for up to $200. Evergreen State College in Washington lends up to $400. The University of Texas at Austin will lend up to $500.
Living expense loan: This type of loan is designed for students struggling to pay housing needs, like a security deposit or rent payment. At the University of California, Los Angeles, for example, students can take out living expense loans for up to $350.
Financial aid advance: A financial aid advance is available to students who have been approved for financial aid but who have not yet received funds. According to the University of Michigan, circumstances that qualify students for this type of loan include loss of job, change in health, marital status change, bankruptcy, foreclosure and other financial hardships.
Applying for Emergency Loans at School
Your school’s financial aid office or website is generally the place to apply for emergency student loans. Keep in mind that emergency loans are generally first come, first serve and might be available for limited periods of time. Once the school depletes its emergency loan fund, you’ll have to wait another semester before applying again.
If you do apply for an emergency loan, approval and distribution of the loan can be fast, taking between a few days to a week. To qualify for emergency student loans, you will need to meet the following criteria:
- You must be a currently enrolled student. Several forms of ID might be needed, such as your student ID or driver’s license.
- You must show proof of what your emergency loan will be used for.
- Your student fees for the semester should already be paid in full.
- You cannot have any previously unpaid emergency loans or a class registration block.
- In certain cases, you might need to show proof of employment or financial hardship.
Penalties for Late Payments and Misuse of Emergency Loan Funds
Although there are usually no double-digit interest rates attached to short-term student loans, there are several penalties if you misuse or fail to repay your loan, such as:
- Late fees
- Unpaid debt might be sent to collections, damaging your credit score
- Your university can withhold academic transcripts and other documentation
Other Emergency Loans for Students
If you’d prefer to do your borrowing off campus, you can seek out a personal loan from your bank or credit union. Be mindful, however, that personal loans tend to carry high interest rates that can make your loan difficult to pay back. Another option is peer-to-peer lending, which allows you to borrow money from individuals without the use of a bank.
If you can, borrow money from a friend or family member. Money borrowed from your peers comes interest free and without any of the rules and regulations banks typically impose on borrowers.
Emergency loans for students can be useful in a pinch. With low- to no-interest charged on your short-term loan, you can borrow money without worrying about falling behind on finances. Meet with your campus’ financial aid office to learn more about emergency loans offered by your college.