Student loans are an integral part of college, especially in a country like the U.S. where tuition rates are sky high. However, international students are at a disadvantage when it comes to obtaining loans to help pay tuition. Federal loans are off the table and can only be acquired by citizens. However, more and more private loans are becoming available to international students. This is great news, as are some important benefits from obtaining student loans. Here are the benefits of student loans when you’re an international student:
- They Fill the Gap That Scholarships Cannot
If you’re studying internationally, hopefully you’ve scoured all available options for scholarships. Many universities will have opportunities for you, while some are known for being extremely generous to their international students. Getting your education fully funded is still unlikely unless you’re one of the absolute top students in your class.
Student loans aren’t merit based, so anyone attending an eligible school can potentially receive what they need to pay for school regardless of their grades. However, if you’re looking to go to school in the U.S., you’ll need a co-signer who’s either a permanent resident or a citizen. Your home country might also have some financial aid for international students; do a search for those.
Regardless, having to pay back loans is a lot less fun than receiving the money outright in a scholarship. Don’t fret – this brings us to the next benefit of student loans.
- The Rates Are Usually Reasonable
When it comes to private loans, the interest rates will vary quite a bit depending on where you go. The good news is that interest rates in the past few years have been comparatively low compared to the past. These lower rates make an enormous impact over time and make it a lot easier to pay off since you won’t be stuck with too much interest.
On the downside, tuition prices in the U.S. are at an all-time high. The low interest rates don’t cancel out those prices, but it does help lessen the burden.
- You’ll Have Time to Pay It Off
Every student loan is different, but it’s common to have to start paying back loans six months after graduation. From then, loans can be paid back over the period of about 10 to 15 years, or longer if the debt is large. Having such big debts when dealing with an uncertain job market is stressful for anyone, but at least there’s time to sort things out while making the minimum payment. If you find yourself in rough financial shape, it’s possible to get forbearance for a year or two where you only need to pay interest. The extra time allows you to get your finances in order, hunt down better deals for yourself in terms of car payments, housing and utility bills. Once you get those trimmed down and figured out – you’ll be a lot better at budgeting for your debt repayments.
- They Build Credit
If you’re planning a future beyond graduation in the country where you’re attending university, student loans are useful. By taking out a loan and paying it back responsibly, you’ll build up your credit score. The same goes for paying your credit card and utility bills on time. Having a good credit score helps out in the next stage of your life. It’ll allow you to increase your credit card limits, receive favorable interest rates on car and home loans and even make it easier to lease an apartment – some places do credit checks on potential renters. This is a nice bonus to those big loans you took out that pretty much lasts a lifetime.
Anum Yoon is an international student currently working in the U.S. on her OPT. She spends all her free time running a personal finance blog for fellow millennials and international students over at Current on Currency.