Personal Loans for Continuing Education
Your education shouldn’t stop just because you graduated from college. As you begin your career, you may want to invest in additional courses or career training. Continuing to develop your skills will make you more competitive in the workplace.
But unless your employer is willing to cover the cost, you’ll probably have to pay for these opportunities yourself. And if you don’t have the money available, you might be considering applying for a personal loan.
Taking out a personal loan for continuing education could make sense, depending on your circumstances and financial situation. This article will explain the difference between personal loans and student loans for continuing education.
Personal Loans for Continuing Education
A personal loan is a type of loan provided by banks or financial institutions that allows individuals to borrow a specific amount of money for personal use and repay it over a fixed period of time, with interest. When you take out a personal loan, you’ll receive a one-time lump sum payment, typically ranging between $1,000 and $50,000. You’ll begin repaying the loan immediately or after a grace period, and repayments typically last two to five years, but can go up to seven years.
Personal loans can generally be used for any purpose with one major exception — most lenders won’t let you use them to pay for college. Using personal loans for college tuition is a risky strategy due to high interest rates and because you’ll have to start repaying the loan immediately.
However, you may be able to use a personal loan for a short-term class or online course. A personal loan is the best option for a small, one-time expense that you can repay over time.
Personal Loans vs. Student Loans
Personal loans and student loans are types of installment loans, but there are differences between the two. For one thing, personal loans are offered by banks, credit unions, and online lenders.
In comparison, student loans are offered by private lenders and through the U.S. Department of Education. Student loans come with lower interest rates than personal loans, and student loans have longer repayment terms. Plus, you’re not required to start repaying student loans until after you graduate from college.
Pros and Cons of Personal Loans for Continuing Education
Like any type of debt, taking out a personal loan for continuing education comes with advantages and disadvantages. Here’s what you need to know before applying.
- Easier to qualify for: Personal loans are more flexible than other types of loans, and they may be easier to qualify for. Even borrowers with poor credit may qualify for a personal loan.
- Flexibility: Personal loans can be used for a variety of expenses, like online courses and books.
- Fast funding: If you apply for a personal loan with an online lender, the application process is fairly easy. And if you’re approved, you could receive the funds as soon as the same day, depending on the lender.
- Typically have lower interest rates than a credit card: If you don’t have the money to pay for continuing education out-of-pocket, using a personal loan is cheaper than putting it on a credit card. According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate for credit cards (as of Q1 2023) was 20.09%, compared to 11.48% for 24-month personal loans.
- Potential for high interest rates: If you don’t have good credit or a strong financial history, you may get stuck with high interest rates. That means you’ll end up paying a lot in interest over the life of the loan.
- Possible fees: Personal loans often come with hidden fees, like application fees, origination fees, and prepayment penalties. You’ll want to look for a lender with the lowest fees possible.
- Immediate repayments: Personal loans typically have a very short grace period (10 to 15 days), after which you’ll have to start repaying the loan immediately. And if you’re unable to afford the monthly payments, you might damage your credit score.
Personal Loan Options
If you’ve graduated from college and are looking for ways to fund ongoing education, personal loans can help. Here are some of the main options you can consider:
Once you’ve graduated from college, you’re no longer eligible for certain types of federal aid. But depending on your career, there are certain programs you may qualify for.
By filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you can find out if you qualify for funding. If the program you’re planning to attend is accredited and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, you’re more likely to be approved for funding. However, funding is typically given more to new students than those who already have a degree (with some exceptions, such as teaching certificate programs).
Sallie Mae offers the Smart Option Student Loan® for professional training and trade certificate courses. You’ll apply for the loan once and will receive the funds to attend one year of professional training.
The loan doesn’t come with any origination fees or prepayment penalties, and you can choose between fixed-rate and variable interest rates. If you don’t have a great credit history and can apply with a cosigner with good credit, you’ll receive better rates and terms on the loan.
Many online lenders offer personal loans for nontraditional students who are enrolled in a career training program. When you’re considering online lenders, you want to consider the interest rates and repayment terms that the lender is offering. And try to avoid lenders that charge hidden fees.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) lenders are another way you can fund your continuing education costs. P2P lenders are lending platforms that offer personal loans directly from other people (not from financial institutions). These loans can typically be used for any purpose.
Like other types of personal loans, the rates and terms you receive from P2P lenders will be based on your creditworthiness, though P2P interest rates tend to be higher than those with traditional loans. Some P2P lenders also charge origination fees, which tend to be higher than those charged by financial institutions…sometimes as high as 8% of the entire loan amount.
The Bottom Line
Ongoing career education can help you move up the ranks with your current employer or make it easier for you to transition into a new role. If you don’t have the savings to pay for continuing education, personal loans for continuing education may help.
These small loans for students are best for one-time educational expenses. Just make sure to compare your options among multiple lenders so you can find the best rates and terms for your situation.