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There is no one process for getting a higher education loan. Broadly speaking, two categories of loan, public and private, are available. The rules and requirements for each type of loan vary from state to state and nation to nation. Most universities offer programs to help students and prospective students secure financing. When attempting to finance a college education, it is usually best to begin by looking at scholarships, then public or publicly-guaranteed loans, and finally, private loans, if additional money is still needed.
Different nations and states have different policies for managing the costs of university tuition, and these policies impact the ease with which a student can secure a higher education loan. Most institutions in Europe provide very generous financial support for students, although they restrict access to higher education to a greater degree. Loans in these countries are available but typically for smaller amounts, as students need less money for fees and tuition. Most colleges and universities in the United States, on the other hand, rely heavily on tuition as a source of revenue, and much larger loans are more easily available to meet these expenses.
Public and publicly-backed loans are either issued or guaranteed by a state or national government. This type of higher education loan is typically designed to offer the best possible interest rates to students and should usually be the first loans considered when planning to finance a college education. In many cases, a needs test is required of students seeking these loans, and students from wealthy families have difficulty securing such loans.
A higher education loan can generally also be obtained from private lenders. These loans, unlike public loans, are meant to turn a profit. The interest rates charged by private lenders are, therefore, higher. Private lenders who lack a government loan guarantee are also apt to be more risk-averse than governmental lenders and may impose higher interest rates to balance marginal credit or deny loans entirely in the case of bad credit.
The best resource for any student seeking a higher education loan will almost always be their college or university. Schools have a great deal of incentive to ensure that their students can locate sufficient funding to pursue their education and usually have an excellent working knowledge of loan procedures in their state or nation. Students attending school outside of their home state or nation should also consult with the department of their home government that handles higher education, as many governments offer subsidized loans to students who are pursuing degrees abroad or out of state and will be able to offer information appropriate to the student's situation.