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If you’re looking for South Carolina student loans, scholarships or grants, then you’re not alone. The average college student in the state graduates with $30,838 in debt, according to the Institute for College Access & Success. This makes it vital to find affordable loans and, even more importantly, scholarship awards and grants to avoid some of that debt.
Let’s look at three key topics when it comes to paying for a South Carolina college education:
SC student loans: Scholarships, grants and more
There are many, many scholarships and grants offered nationally, and some time spent with a scholarship search tool can turn up a long list of awards you could qualify for.
But it’s also worth focusing in on those programs specific to South Carolina. For a start, check out some of these…
Career Changers Loan
If you decide to change your career trajectory to become a teacher, you might be able to get a Career Changers Loan, borrowing up to $15,000 a year (for a total of $60,000) to become a certified teacher. In order to take advantage of this loan, you need to have had a bachelor’s degree for at least three years, and been employed.
As long as you decide to teach, you can reduce your need to make repayments, getting significant SC teacher loan forgiveness.
For students who rank in the top 30% of their graduating class, score at least 1100 on the SAT or 24 on the ACT, and have a cumulative 3.0 grade point average, it might be possible to get up to $5,000 to help pay for school. This is a merit-based scholarship awarded automatically through eligible public and independent institutions, as long as you don’t already have SC lottery tuition assistance (see below) or some other type of help. For those who meet the requirements, this type of South Carolina financial aid is part of attendance and there’s no need to fill out a separate application.
Lottery Tuition Assistance
To qualify for SC lottery tuition assistance, a student must attend an eligible two-year institution. This is another program that focuses on automatic qualification, although in this case, awards are based on available funds.
Students only need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and if they’re eligible, they can receive up to $1,140 per term without meeting any income or need requirements. You must also be making satisfactory academic progress toward a degree, certificate or diploma.
This program was instituted by the South Carolina state legislature and uses some of the lottery funds to help with higher education. As a result, what you receive is limited by the available funds.
Palmetto Assistance Loan (PAL)
The SC student loan bills itself as a viable alternative to some federal loans that charge origination fees. You can borrow between $2,500 and $150,000 in aggregate, as long as you meet citizenship, residency and credit requirements. This is a nonprofit private education loan from South Carolina, and it can close the gap with federal funding or provide an alternative to Parent PLUS or other loans.
However, it’s important to note that this is a private student loan. Although you might qualify for a lower interest rate, based on your credit, you won’t have the same protections – including income-driven repayment and some types of automatic deferment – that come with federal student loans.
Palmetto Assistance ReFi Loan (PAL ReFi)
In addition to a private education loan, South Carolina also offers the ability to refinance your student loans. This private refinance can consolidate your federal and private loans, and help you move forward with your current plans, whether you hope to get out of debt faster or make your payments more manageable.
As with the Palmetto Assistance Loan, though, you should realize that if you use the Palmetto Assistance ReFi Loan to consolidate your federal student loans, you lose access to some of the benefits involved.
Palmetto Fellows Scholarship
For students with high academic achievement, it’s possible to qualify for the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship. In order to receive this award, you need to score 1200 on the SAT or a 27 on the ACT and have a 3.50 GPA at the end of your sophomore or junior year, or score at least 1400 on the SAT or 32 on the ACT and have a 4.00 GPA at the end of your junior year. Eligible South Carolina high schools students can apply to receive up to $6,700 per year as a freshman and $7,500 per year for other years.
In addition to using this scholarship to go to schools in South Carolina, students can also use this scholarship to attend eligible out-of-state schools as well as in-state schools.
SC Pace Loan
If you’re looking for SC teacher loan forgiveness, this South Carolina student loan program can be a good choice. This program is designed for those enrolled in the Program of Alternative Certification for Educators (PACE), who are teaching full-time in South Carolina public schools. The idea is to help those teaching receive certification through alternative steps.
You can borrow up to $750 per year, with a cap of $5,000. If you teach, you can receive SC student loan forgiveness that can be applied toward the amount borrowed.
SC Teachers Loan
Another South Carolina student loan program aimed at teachers, this program allows you to receive up to $2,500 per year as a freshman and sophomore, and then receive up to $7,500 for other years, including graduate school. The total cap on the amount you can borrow through this program is $27,500.
You can receive SC teacher loan forgiveness if you meet the teaching requirements when you finish your program. For those who end up not teaching, this loan enters repayment at the end of the grace period.
South Carolina Hope Scholarship
If you don’t qualify for the LIFE or Palmetto Fellows scholarship, you might be able to get this type of SC student financial aid. This merit-based scholarship is only available for your freshman year, and you must have graduated high school with at least a B grade average.
Like some of the other South Carolina financial aid programs, you don’t need to fill out a separate application to be considered. Instead, the eligible South Carolina school will determine if you should get this scholarship when it reviews your application and financial aid information. You can get up to $2,800 with this scholarship.
South Carolina National Guard College Assistance Program
For those who are involved with the National Guard, it’s possible to get up to $18,000 in total to help with school. Those who are involved with the South Carolina Army National Guard, it’s possible to get up to $4,500 per year, and those servicing with the South Carolina Air National Guard can receive up to $9,000 per year.
South Carolina Need-Based Grant
South Carolina also offers a need-based grant, based on your family’s financial situation. You must fill out the FAFSA and contact the public school they plan to attend to see if there are additional requirements. These grants are available for up to $2,500 annually.
South Carolina Workforce & Industrial Needs Scholarship
Designed to encourage students to go into careers where there are shortages in South Carolina, this SC student financial aid program can receive up to $600 plus a $300 book allowance. This scholarship is also available to students with dual enrollment, allowing them to get a jumpstart on college.
SC student loans: Federal and private
There’s a good chance that your South Carolina financial aid will include some sort of student loan, even if you qualify for a grant or scholarship. When you have student loans, you need to decide between federal or private options. Both types of loans usually come with SC student loan deferment, so you might not have to start making payments until you finish school.
When applying for federal student loans, you need to fill out the FAFSA. This will qualify you for federal student loans, which don’t have credit requirements to qualify. Anyone who meets the citizenship and residency requirements can receive federal student loans, no questions asked.
Additionally, there are protections like automatic deferment in some cases, as well as the ability to take advantage of income-driven repayment options if your job after graduation doesn’t pay enough for you to afford payments.
On the other hand, private student loans come from different lenders, including banks and credit unions, that have credit criteria. You might need to get a cosigner to qualify. Private student loans may also lack the same protections as federal loans, although you might be able to access a hardship program.
Applying through the Palmetto Assistance Loan with South Carolina can help you manage some of the risks associated with student loans.
In-state vs. out-of-state tuition in South Carolina
In-state and out-of-state tuition can vary a great deal depending on the type of institution, even among public schools, so carefully compare costs and make sure you qualify for in-state tuition if you want to reduce your student loan debt.
University of South Carolina
- Tuition and technology fee (in-state): $12,688
- Tuition and technology fee (out-of-state): $33,928
- Tuition and fees (in-state): $30,400 (freshman), $25,099 (others)
- Tuition and fees (out-of-state): $53,656 (freshman), $48,355 (others)
- Tuition and fees (in-state): $15,558
- Tuition and fees (out-of-state): $38,550
USC Palmetto College (online)
- Tuition and technology and matriculation fees (in-state): $5,430
- Tuition and fees (out-of-state): $10,659
Midlands Technical College
- Tuition and fees (Richland, Lexington and Fairfield Counties): $188 per credit hour
- Tuition and fees (in-state): $235 per credit hour
- Tuition and fees (out-of-state): $564 per credit hour
Besides other types of South Carolina student loan and scholarship programs, you can look at school-specific financial aid. Many colleges and universities offer their programs based on need or merit. Additionally, there might also be scholarships offered through different departments on campus. As you go through school, connect with the student aid office to see what you might qualify for.
You can also take a look at outside organizations that provide grants and scholarships. As you apply for school, start by looking at scholarships and grants, which don’t have to be paid back, then look into federal student loans. After you’ve exhausted those options, you can see what South Carolina student loan help you can get, including looking at private loan options.
In the end, though, the goal should be to reduce the student loans you apply for as much as possible. Check into South Carolina financial aid programs to see if you can reduce your overall college costs and debt.
Ben Luthi contributed to this report.
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