The student loan statistics coming out of South Carolina are on par with the rest of the country. The average student loan burden sits at $29,490, with students in South Carolina generally falling in the middle of the pack regarding debt load when compared with their peers across the country. South Carolina currently sits at number 17 out of 50.

However, more students in South Carolina rely on student loans to fund their college education than elsewhere; roughly 60 percent of students in the state carry some form of student debt. Some universities in the state estimate that over 80 percent of their students rely on financial aid to attend.

Are the options for South Carolinian students any different than those from other states? There are always slightly different circumstances between each region, but South Carolina, in particular, has a few programs worth pointing out.

Federal Student Loans

The first step for any student enrolled in post-secondary education is to apply for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There are many programs which can fall under this option, and considering its financial aid often comes in the form of grants, the FAFSA application should always be the first line of defense for new students.

Once the resources through FAFSA are exhausted, federal student loans offer the most long-term protection and best rates across the country. At their core, federal student loans were meant to assist and tend to operate under better lending principles than some private lenders.

Plus, students and graduates holding a federal student loan alike can apply for a number of different relief programs if they find themselves in a financial pickle. Private student loans almost never come with a comparable safety net.

South Carolina Student Loans

South Carolina students are lucky to have a statewide non-profit educational lender with extremely competitive rates. South Carolina Student Loans run a handful of different student loan programs including:

The Palmetto Assistance Loan (PAL)

The PAL student loan focuses on assisting students or parents of students enrolled in a post-secondary program. Students under the age of 24 must have a reliable cosigner on board. Unlike other student loans on the market, financial assistance provided through the PAL program can go towards all associated educational expenses, including tuition, room and board, books, transportation, and a computer. The PAL is a well-established fixed interest rate loan with zero origination fees, no application fees, and a 0.25 percent reduction in interest if the borrower enrolls in an automatic withdrawal.

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The PAL Consolidation Loan

Borrowers who are in the grace period or post-enrollment repayment status with their current student loans are encouraged to apply for a PAL Consolidation Loan. As with other refinancing products on the market, this type of loan consolidates all current loan payments into one monthly sum, often with much better terms than the original loans. Students must be residents of South Carolina or hold eligible loans for in-state schools to apply.

The Career Changers Loan 

South Carolina Student Loans introduced the Career Changers Loan to support individuals seeking financial assistance to make a career change. Applicants must have worked for a minimum of three years and held a Bachelor’s degree for at least three years. They must also be a resident of South Carolina and enrolled in an applicable academic program.

The Program of Alternative Certification for Educators (PACE) Loan

A relatively small student loan program, PACE offers funding for teachers interested in working in South Carolina's public school system but whose program doesn't meet the certification requirements for the more general Teacher’s Loan Program. Applicants must already be employed as a teacher within the public school system, and make a three-year commitment to the program.

The Teachers Loan Program

The funding for the Teachers Loan Program is extremely limited, and applicants should apply as soon as possible to avoid missing out. South Carolina Student Loans developed the teacher specific student loan program to encourage state residents to become teachers. Applicants must be residents of South Carolina, must meet high academic standards, and must have at least declared intent to enroll in an education degree program.

Private Student Loans in South Carolina

Just like in every other state across the country, when all other options are off the table, students and parents can always explore the possibilities of private student loans in South Carolina. As previously mentioned, private student loans can come with less desirable terms and higher interest rates. All other options should be exhausted before turning towards private student loans.