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Clock's Ticking for Student Loan Applicants

Even students who don't think they could qualify based on need may receive approval for unsubsidized Stafford loans, where interest starts accruing immediately but can be deferred until graduation.

The subsidized Stafford loans will carry a fixed rate of 6% when you graduate. Unsubsidized Stafford loans carry a lifetime rate of 6.8%.

Finding Student Loan Money

At SimpleTuition.com you can run a search of participating lenders who are still making student loans and have agreed to work with your college or university -- for both Stafford and private loans. Search for the Stafford loans for which you've been approved first. Then, you can turn to private loans, typically made with a parent co-signing for a student.

I created a search on SimpleTuition.com for $10,000 worth of loans. At least six lenders were offering Stafford loans -- a great place to start looking. On the private loans, lenders' rates ranged from as low as 4.5% to as high as 14%!

The search also shows you the total cost of repaying that loan. Borrowing $10,000 at the loan rate of just over 14% will result in a total repayment cost of more than $41,500, if you stretch it out over 300 monthly payments. That's 25 years.

The rate you'll pay on a private student loan depends on your credit score. In previous years, private loans were made to borrowers with credit scores in the low 600s. But in this credit crunch, you'll need at least a score of 700 to qualify.

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