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Clock's Ticking for Student Loan Applicants

The credit crunch is hitting the student loan market. And just because your school approved you for a Stafford Loan doesn't mean you'll find a bank to fund it -- unless you hurry!

That's the message for students headed off to college or back to school in just a few short weeks. Even if you had a loan last year, it's possible that your lender will not be willing to come through with money for the fall semester.

In fact, a new survey by TuitionBids.com -- a Web site that says it will allow lenders to "compete" for your student-loan business -- says that 60% of students needing loans for the fall semester don't have all their money lined up. Half of those surveyed said they may have to change their plans to attend college if the money doesn't come through.

Loan Limits Up, Loan Money Down

The message is loud and clear: Don't wait until your tuition bill is due to check with lenders. Although Congress took steps to create liquidity in the student loan market by making the Treasury a lender of last resort, many banks are still unwilling to add these loans to their portfolio.

With lenders limiting the total amount in their student loan portfolio, many will find it is "first come, first served" for the money that is available.

For this year, Stafford loans limits have been increased to $5,500 for freshmen, up from $3,500. And seniors can borrow as much as $7,500. Subsidized Stafford loans -- on which interest does not start accruing until graduation -- are based on need, as determined by the FAFSA form.

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