College Bills 101: Review for 2nd semester.

Written by
Sabina Haskell

November 19, 2020


second semester loans

Although learning looks different this year as schools and training programs continue to adjust their plans, VSAC’s commitment to Vermont students remains unchanged. As Vermont’s nonprofit higher education agency, we’re here to help families plan and pay for undergraduate and graduate education … and right now that includes looking ahead to second semester costs.

As students prep for exams and finish up fall semester—whether online or on campus—the deadline of paying for spring semester is not far ahead. At VSAC, we understand that paying for college any time of year can seem overwhelming, especially if you require an education loan to cover any funding gaps for tuition and other expenses.

Our goal is to help students and parents borrow confidently by helping them better understand the facts about student loans — and their choices — so that they borrow only what they need and minimize their cost of borrowing.

If you’re new to student loans, watch our watch our webinar about how to choose education loans, featuring a panel of Vermont financial aid experts: Marilyn Cargill, vice president of VSAC’s financial aid services, research and marketing; Greg Davis, director of financial aid at Champlain College and past president of the Vermont Association of Financial Aid Administrators; and Deborah Lessor, VSAC manager of private loan origination (and the parent of 5 students who have attended and successfully paid for college!). This webinar covers types of education loans, things to consider when choosing loans, and lots of helpful tips to help you choose confidently

Things to consider as you get you started:

Borrow only what you need. All loans are borrowed money that must be paid back with interest. This means that the amount you repay will always be more than the amount you borrow. Your goal should be to minimize loans as much as possible.

Apply for “free” money first. Before you even consider a loan, access all the “gift” money (money that does not have to be repaid) that you are eligible for by filling out the FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and the Vermont grant application. Watch our guided walk-throughs on how to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Learn more at and IMPORTANT: If your financial situation has changed, especially due to COVID-19, you may be able to ask for additional free aid. Learn how to ask.

Know more. Borrow less.Remember: education loans are not created equal. Learn about the differences between federal student loans, federal parent and graduate student loans, and the many variations of nonfederal (also called “private” or “alternative”) loans from your school, state agencies such as VSAC, and commercial lenders.

  • Start with federal student loans: Borrow federal Direct student loans first, because they offer income-based repayment and other repayment options and benefits.
  • Compare all other loans, including federal Direct parent loans (known as “PLUS” loans), for the lowest rates and best repayment terms. Understand the total amount you’ll need to pay back.

Consider interest rates, fees, and repayment. Fixed interest rates stay the same over the life of the loan. Variable interest rates change with the financial markets (the rate may go up!). Variable rates may be very low at first but can end up costing a lot more over the life of a loan. Beware of “teaser” interest rates for which few people actually qualify. Never sign/approve a loan without knowing what you might ultimately pay and determining all possible interest rates, costs, and fees and how they impact what you must repay. Also consider when you’ll need to start repaying the loan, what the monthly payments will be, and any options for reduced or suspended payments.

Vermont students and families have access to VSAC’s student and parent loans for undergraduate and graduate education. Out-of-state students studying at a Vermont school can also apply for VSAC loans. For the 2020-2021 academic year, VSAC offers loans with a fixed rate as low as 3.99% APR—our lowest fixed rate ever. VSAC education loans can be used by Vermont residents going to programs anywhere in the U.S. or internationally AND for any students attending a Vermont school. If you’ve already maximized available federal Direct student loans, a VSAC loan may be your lowest-cost option.

More ways VSAC can help. 

Serving our community is at the heart of all we do. We remain available and committed to help you navigate all your career and education needs.