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Eligibility for Federal and Private Student Loans

Eligibility for Federal and Private Student Loans

Student loan eligibility depends on the type of student loan. Federal and private student loans have different eligibility criteria. Read on for more information about your loan eligibility.

Eligibility for Federal Student Loans

Eligibility requirements for federal student loans include:

  • The student must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • The borrower must be enrolled for at least a half-time basis
  • The borrower must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or eligible non-citizen
  • For Federal Parent PLUS loans, the student must satisfy the citizenship criteria
  • Eligibility for Federal Stafford loans does not depend on the borrower’s credit
  • The borrower of a Federal PLUS loan must have a good credit history
  • Eligibility for federal education loans does not depend on credit scores, debt-to-income ratios, minimum income thresholds or employment history, but the borrower must not be in default on a federal education loan
  • There is no minimum age for a borrower of a federal student loan
  • Eligibility for subsidized loans depends on the student's financial need
  • The student must be enrolled as a regular student in an eligible program
  • The student must satisfy the general eligibility requirements for federal student aid, such as Selective Service registration for male students, having a high school diploma or GED (or a home-school equivalent that satisfies state requirements) and maintaining satisfactory academic progress (minimum 2.0 GPA/4.0 scale)
  • Federal student loans are not available to borrowers after graduation, such as during a medical school residency or after law school

Eligibility for Private Student Loans

Eligibility requirements for private student loans include:

  • The borrower must be creditworthy or have a creditworthy cosigner. More than 90% of private student loans to undergraduate students and more than 75% of private student loans to graduate students are made with a creditworthy cosigner.
  • Creditworthiness can be measured using credit scores, annual income, debt-to-income ratios and employment history.
  • The minimum legal age of a private student loan borrower may depend on the state of residence. The age of majority is 21 in Indiana, Mississippi and New York, 19 in Alabama and Nebraska and 18 in most other states.
  • The borrower and cosigner must satisfy citizenship requirements. All lenders require the cosigner to be a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Most lenders also require the student to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Some lenders will allow an international student to qualify with a cosigner who is a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Most lenders require the borrower to be enrolled for at least a half-time basis. Some have special loan programs for continuing education students.
  • Eligibility also can depend on a degree, academic major or participating school.
  • Private student loans do not require the student to file the FAFSA.

Student Loan Eligibility Comparison Chart

This chart summarizes eligibility for Federal Stafford loans, Federal PLUS loans and private student loans.

Student Loan Eligibility Criteria
Federal Stafford Loans
Federal PLUS Loans
Private Student Loans
Enrollment Status
Minimum half-time
Minimum half-time
Varies by lender
Minimum Age
No minimum
No minimum
Legal age for state of residence
FAFSA Required
Yes
Yes
No
Credit Criteria
None
Borrower must not have an adverse credit history
Credit Score
Debt-to-Income Ratio
Minimum Income
Employment History
Cosigner
None
Not required, but can have an endorser if the borrower has an adverse credit history
Required for 90% of undergraduate borrowers and 75% of graduate borrowers
School Certification
Yes
Yes
Yes
Collateral (Secured)
None
None
None
Citizenship
U.S. citizen, permanent resident or eligible non-citizen
U.S. citizen, permanent resident or eligible non-citizen
Most lenders require the student to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Some lenders allow international students. Cosigner must be a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
Selective Service
Registration required if male
Registration required if male
Not required
Eligible Colleges
College must be eligible for Title IV federal student aid
College must be eligible for Title IV federal student aid
Varies by lender
Minimum GPA
2.0 on a 4.0 scale (C)
2.0 on a 4.0 scale (C)
Varies by lender
Financial Need
Financial need required for subsidized loans but not unsubsidized loans
Not required
Not required
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