How Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities Works

Loans for Students with Disabilities

Loans must eventually be paid back.
Loans must eventually be paid back.
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Many postsecondary educational loans are federally funded, while others are private. Student loans consist of borrowed funds from the government or other lending institution to be used for educational purposes. These funds usually have some type of interest rate, along with a specified repayment plan.

Federal loans usually have lower interest rates and better repayment options than private loans [source: U.S. Department of Education]. Undergraduate federal loans usually range from $3,500-$10,500, while graduate federal loans can reach $20,500 per year [source: U.S. Department of Education]. Many private loan providers recommend exhausting your federal loan options before turning to private student loans [source: Sallie Mae, SunTrust Bank].

To be considered for any federally funded financial aid including loans, all students -- including students with disabilities -- must first fill out the Free Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA is used to decide eligibility and includes questions related to the student's parents, dependency, citizenship and financial status [source: Free Application for Student Aid]. This information, along with a number of different factors, will determine the amount of funds that you're eligible to receive.

One of the main factors that can be different for students with disabilities in this calculation is the cost of attendance. The cost of attendance factors in tuition, cost of books, and room and board, but it can also include costs related to a disability [source: U.S. Department of Education]. The latter can range from an personal note taker to the costs associated with disability documentation, yet these costs shouldn't already be covered by another source of aid. These costs are usually determined on a case-by-case basis and require documentation of the needed services. "The cost of attendance is supposed to be a realistic estimation of what the student's education expenses are, so that's why they can make the adjustment for that situation, because students with disabilities can have additional expenses," says Jennifer Martin, associate director of professional assessment training and regulatory assistance at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) [source: Martin].

Sometimes federal loans, and other forms of financial aid, don't fulfill the full amount of financial support needed to pay for a student's education. Private student loans are another option. Private loans usually come from banks or lenders. They're usually not based on the FAFSA, but instead based on a credit analysis and other criteria [source: Sallie Mae, SunTrust Bank].