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College costs vary widely, depending on the type of institution and whether the students are in-state or out-of-state. For example, a 2021 College Board report found that average tuition was $10,740 at a public four-year institution for in-state students and $38,070 per year at a private purpose school. four-year non-profit.
The same report found that undergraduate students enrolled in the 2020-21 academic year received an average financial aid of $14,800.
While this aid is great on paper, it doesn’t always cover students’ financial needs, especially in the event of sudden job loss or unexpected expenses. In these situations, students can find help through emergency student loans.
What are emergency student loans?
Emergency student loans are a short-term loan option available to actively enrolled students. Funds are generally not eligible for tuition. Instead, they are intended to be used for unexpected family emergencies, such as a death in the family, or financial hardship, such as loss of a home or food insecurity.
Loans are usually offered by the school itself through the institution’s financial aid office; however, not all schools offer these loans. The terms of these fast student loans also differ from institution to institution.
Generally, students must be currently enrolled in the academic year in which they are applying for the emergency student loan. They must also be in good standing with the college or university, provide documented proof of their urgent financial need, and commit to repaying the loan on time.
How to Get an Emergency Student Loan and Extra Help
If you are having financial difficulty, you can determine if emergency student loans are an option. Here’s how.
Start with your school’s financial aid office
The first step is to ask your school’s financial aid office if they offer emergency short-term student loans. Share your unique situation with the financial aid administrator to learn more about the options available to you.
If your school offers emergency student loans, it may be helpful to have documentation proving your financial emergency. Taking this step preemptively can help get the process started sooner, which is essential when you’re in an urgent situation.
In May 2021, the Department of Education provided $36 billion in funding to institutions to support students in need during the Covid-19 pandemic. Your school may have a dedicated fund allocated for emergencies like the one you are facing.
Claim unused federal student aid
If you have already submitted your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and have been approved for federal financial aid, you may be eligible to apply for additional funding.
Before your emergency happened, for example, you may have been offered $2,000 in federal loans, but only asked for $1,000 of that help. If you find yourself in financial difficulty later in the academic year, you can still claim the unused portion of federal student aid. Your financial aid office can help you determine if this is an option for you.
Consider private student loans
Private student loans are another option if you desperately need an emergency student loan. However, this type of loan should generally be a last resort when it comes to meeting an urgent financial need.
Private loans are more flexible in how much you can borrow, but private debt also has stricter credit requirements. Qualifying for the loan without a co-signer will be difficult for students with no or bad credit. If you can qualify, private loans often have higher interest rates than the other options on this list.
This type of loan can also become problematic if your short-term emergency becomes a long-term hardship, as deferral and forbearance options are not always guaranteed. Make sure you can manage the monthly installments before proceeding.
5 alternatives to emergency student loans
Apart from emergency student loans, students in need can look for additional resources that can help them meet unexpected costs in an emergency.
1. Apply for your financial aid
If your or your family’s financial situation has changed significantly since submitting your FAFSA, consider asking your school for a professional judgment on your financial aid.
A professional judgment is a formal evaluation made by your school’s financial aid administrator. On a case-by-case basis, an administrator may revise your FAFSA data based on new circumstances that affect your financial aid award. If you’re listed as a dependent on your FAFSA, you may be eligible for additional help if your parent unexpectedly becomes disabled and can no longer work, for example.
If the judgment concludes that extenuating circumstances affect your financial situation, the school may decide to modify your financial aid program and possibly increase your scholarship.
2. Additional grant programs for research
If your school doesn’t offer emergency student loans, check to see if your state or local nonprofit organization offers one-time emergency grants for students in financial difficulty.
For example, the California College Student Emergency Support Fund offers small emergency grants of $500 to eligible students who demonstrate financial need. Programs like this can be a lifesaver for students, and depending on the program, the money may not even have to be repaid.
3. Find a pantry on campus
Food expenses can eat into your discretionary funds in an emergency. Some college campuses help support students by offering pantry resources.
These pantries can supply basics like canned foods, pasta, dry breakfast foods and more. For example, the University of Florida runs its “Feed-A-Bull Food Pantry,” a confidential program that provides personalized food bags to enrolled students.
4. Explore On-Campus Voucher Programs
Another way to find help is through campus voucher programs. These programs provide additional financial assistance for costs such as housing, books, and supplies.
For example, the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Professional Studies provides short-term assistance through textbook grants. Recipients receive a $200 voucher that can be used at the school bookstore to help reduce textbook costs.
5. Arrange a Tuition Payment Extension
If you’re not sure you can pay your tuition on time due to a sudden emergency, check to see if your financial aid office offers temporary payment extensions or payment plans.
These extensions provide short-term relief, typically extending your payment term for a set period. For example, the University of Houston offers an emergency deferment plan that allows enrolled students to defer payments until the 90th day of the fall or spring term, or until the 45th day of the summer term. summer.
As you explore this alternative, find out about any fees or interest charges that might apply.
Managing financial responsibilities for higher education costs in the face of an unexpected emergency is a challenge. However, exploring emergency student loans and other student aid programs from your school, state, or local community could help you weather a short-term financial crisis.
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