The average student loan debt in Iowa is among the highest in the country at $30,045, according to The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS). That’s no small amount, and if you want to avoid borrowing Iowa student loans as much as possible, then scholarships and grants will be key.
So if you’re headed to one of the state’s 18 public colleges or 53 private ones, have a look at:
Avoiding student loans in Iowa with scholarships and grants
There’s an ocean of scholarship and grant awards out there — in fact, there are many dedicated search tools just to find these opportunities. You’ll want to apply to as many as you can, prioritizing those you see as best matching your own personal profile and situation.
A good start is looking at some of those scholarships and grants special to Iowa. Here are six to consider:
1. All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship (AIOS)
2. Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship
3. Iowa National Guard Service Scholarship
4. Iowa Tuition Grant
5. Iowa Vocational-Technical Tuition Grant
6. Kibbie Grant (Iowa Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant)
All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship (AIOS)
The All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship is available to first-time freshmen Iowa students who attend an eligible in-state college or university.
Applicants must have been an Iowa high school graduate or received a diploma equivalent within the last two years. Students also submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and have an expected family contribution (EFC) of $0 to $9,288.
Recipients for the 2020-2021 school year received a scholarship award up to $4,644. The award for this scholarship, however, changes each year. Recipients can renew their scholarship for up to eight full-time (or 16 part-time) semesters if they remain continuously enrolled in college, and meet certain requirements.
Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship
New Iowa high school graduates or Iowa “adult learners” (age 20 or older) who are interested in pursuing a high-demand career in the state may apply for the Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship.
Scholarship funds are meant to fund the gap between other federal and state scholarships or grant aid, minus the cost of attendance and fees. This is the award amount that the Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship provides.
Students must be working toward a postsecondary certificate, diploma, or associate degree from the scholarship’s list of eligible programs. Since the Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship is meant to supplement remaining financial need after federal- and state-based aid, students are required to fill out a FAFSA to apply. Students must complete ongoing requirements to maintain eligibility, like attending student orientations, participating in academic advising and more.
Iowa National Guard Service Scholarship
Members of the Iowa National Guard who are interested in attending an in-state college or university can apply for the Iowa National Guard Service Scholarship. For the 2020-2021 school year, awards were offered up to 100% of the average tuition rate for Iowa Regent Universities which was $9,274.
To be eligible, students must be an Iowa resident and member of the Iowa Army or Air National Guard. Completion of Guard training and satisfactory performance on duty is also required. Students working toward a certificate or an undergraduate degree are welcome to apply, but must attend an eligible Iowa school and must meet ongoing academic requirements.
Those who already have a bachelor’s degree aren’t eligible for the Iowa National Guard Service Scholarship.
Iowa Tuition Grant
The Iowa Tuition Grant offers a maximum award up to the average Regent tuition and fees rate. It’s available to undergraduate students with Iowa resident status who are attending an eligible Iowa private college or university.
Students attending school full-time can receive awards for up to four years; part-time students might be eligible for adjusted amounts. The total available award varies, based on the state budget.
Iowa Vocational-Technical Tuition Grant
The Iowa Vocational-Technical Tuition Grant awards up to $900 per year to Iowa residents. To be eligible for this grant, students must be enrolled in a career or technical program at an Iowa community college.
Full-time students can receive this award for up to two years toward their program while students studying part-time might receive an adjusted award.
Kibbie Grant (Iowa Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant)
The Kibbie Grant, also called the Iowa Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant, is a need-based grant that’s available to students attending an Iowa community college. In addition to being an Iowa resident, students must be actively enrolled in a minimum of three credit hours in a grant-approved program.
The maximum award is worth half of the average tuition and fees at average Iowa community colleges. This award is available to full-time recipients for up to two years, if they continue meeting grant requirements. Part-time students can also apply, however, awards amounts will be prorated.
Federal student loans in Iowa
If you’ve exhausted your scholarship and grant search, but still need additional funding to cover the cost of school, a federal loan might be the next-best option. Federal student loans offer fixed interest rates, flexible repayment plan options, and might qualify for student loan forgiveness. Iowa students who are interested in applying must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The types of federal student loans available are:
- Direct subsidized. Undergraduate students from low-income households can qualify for subsidized federal loans. With these loans, the government pays the interest while you’re in school and during other periods.
- Direct unsubsidized. For undergraduate, graduate and professional degree students who don’t meet the need-based criteria for subsidized loans, the federal government also offers unsubsidized loans. Anyone can get unsubsidized federal loans, regardless of income or credit history.
- Direct PLUS loans. PLUS loans are another type of unsubsidized loan that’s reserved for graduate or professional degree students, or parents who want to borrow a federal loan for their child’s education.
Regardless of the type of federal student loan, each has its own annual and lifetime borrowing limits. Although federal student loans might not cover all of your college costs, they offer a few valuable benefits compared to private student loans.
Additional federal student loan benefits
Although federal student loan rates adjust between school years, once you take out a federal loan your interest rate is locked in. Another benefit of federal student loans is that they might be eligible for loan forgiveness, if you work at an eligible employer, meet the required years of service, along with other criteria.
When you accept a federal loan, it’s automatically put on a standard 10-year repayment plan. But if you suddenly lose your job and are unable to make your usual monthly payments, you can request an income-based repayment plan so your monthly payments are more manageable.
Private student loans in Iowa
Private student loans are offered by traditional banks, credit unions and online banks. Iowa-based credit unions, like Advantage Credit Union and Community Choice Credit Union, also participate in state-focused student loan programs that specifically serve Iowa students and their families. Each lender has its own underwriting criteria and loan terms.
Unlike federal loans, getting approved for private Iowa student loans depends on your credit history and private loans don’t always offer federal protections, like deferment or forbearance — and none are eligible for student loan forgiveness.
If you’re considering this option, it’s important to compare private student loan details, like repayment terms, interest rates, fees, hardship options and customer satisfaction ratings. You can also start with a federal student loan and refinance to private Iowa student loans, if you’re approved.
Iowa Student Loan
Iowa Student Loan is a nonprofit organization that offers access to competitive private student loans. Due to its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, it uses its tax-exempt Private Activity Bonds as “Qualified Student Loan Bonds” (QSLBs). These QSLBs are then used to fund private student loans for Iowa students.
The nonprofit offers three types of private student loan programs: College Family Loan, No-Cosigner Loan for Graduates and the Partnership Loan.
|Iowa Student Loan Offerings (as of Aug. 24, 2020)|
|College Family Loan||No-Cosigner Loan for Graduates||Partnership Loan|
|Borrower||Parents and family members of a student||Full-time graduate students||Undergraduate and graduate students|
|APRs||Fixed: 4.60%-6.85% APR||Fixed: 5.30%-5.50% APR||Variable: 4.10%-6.03% APR
Fixed: 4.60%-6.85% APR
|Loan amount||Up to the cost of attendance, minus existing Iowa student aid||Up to the cost of attendance, minus existing Iowa student aid||Up to the cost of attendance, minus existing Iowa student aid|
|Loan terms||10-15 years||10-15 years|
|Cosigner||Optional||N/A||Often required; based on applicant’s credit history|
|Minimum credit score||670||670||670|
In-state vs. out-of-state tuition in Iowa
Whether you’re considered an in-state student or an out-of-state student will greatly impact your Iowa school tuition costs.
University of Iowa
- On-campus tuition and fees (in state): $9,830
- On-campus tuition and fees (out of state): $31,793
Des Moines Area Community College
- Tuition and fees (in state): $170 per credit hour
- Tuition and fees (out of state): $340 per credit hour
University of Northern Iowa
- Tuition and fees (in state): $18,098*
- Tuition and fees (out of state): $28,640*
* Excludes College of Business Administration Juniors and Seniors
Iowa State University
- Tuition and fees (in state): $9,320
- Tuition and fees (out of state): $24,508
Before borrowing Iowa student loans, check for school-specific scholarships that your top schools might offer. Every scholarship or grant amount — no matter how small — counts toward making your degree more affordable.
Miranda Marquit contributed to this report.
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