The annual Open Doors Report published by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in November, 2020 reveals that the number of international students studying at colleges and universities in the USA in the past school year (2019/2020) was 671,616 – an 8% increase from the previous year. The majority of these students come from India, China, South Korea, Canada and Japan.
The growing number of non-US citizens studying in the USA means that there is a rising need for international student financial aid. While paying for a college education is a major financial problem for many U.S. students, financing university studies in the United States is a much more difficult process for international students who are not eligible to receive government- guaranteed student loans (federal loans).
The recent economic crisis has impacted student loan legislation. Private ‘direct to consumer’ student loans to students who are US citizens have become fewer, and this type of student loan is no longer available to international students enrolled in US universities and colleges. International students studying in the US today can only obtain private loans through their schools.
After reviewing all personal and family funds available to the student and any scholarships he / she may have, the school’s financial aid office fixes the maximum amount that any given international student may borrow. School certified loans have the advantage of making it more difficult to borrow too much. They are also less expensive than private direct to consumer loans (lower interest rates). Funds are paid to the school directly (not to the borrower or student) and there are tighter restrictions on how the money can be spent. Obtaining international student loans through school channels is also more time consuming since both the school and the lender must determine whether a student qualifies for a loan and fix the amount of that loan.
To qualify for ANY kind of student loan, an international student must have a co-signer who is a US citizen or a permanent US resident (Green Card holder). The co-signer must have lived in the US for the two years prior to the loan application and should have a good credit history. Given the present credit climate and economic uncertainty, a creditworthy US co-signer is critical to getting an international student loan approved and priced reasonably.
While school certified specialized private education loans are available for international students studying in the USA , students should only apply for these loans once all other options (financial aid from the school, international student scholarships, personal and family funds …) have been exhausted.