Higher education is expensive. Just about anyone who has applied for college lately can attest to that fact. The depressing news is that costs for all forms of higher education will continue to rise, and these costs will affect many individuals as they consider whether or not they can afford to go to school. These increasing costs makes finding the best student loan programs imperative for many would-be students as well as for those who are already enrolled.

A student loan is simply a form of financial aid to help pay for the costs of attending a college or university. This money must be repaid (with interest) which is why it is a loan and not a grant or a scholarship. Grants and scholarships usually do not have to be repaid.

There are three main types of student loans: Private student loans which are also known as alternative student loans; parent loans such as the PLUS student loan programs, and then there are the more traditional and well known student loans such as the Stafford and Perkins loans.

These are the primary types of student loans, but there is one other off-shoot type of loan that is commonly known as a student consolidation loan. This type of loan takes place after a student has received his or her primary loans. The consolidation loan simply bundles all (or some) of the primary loans into one loan with one monthly payment.

One of the most effective ways to find the best student loan programs that fit you needs is to do some online research. There are many agencies that offer student loans. You should know as you do your research that Federal law sets the maximum interest rates and fees that lenders may charge for federally-guaranteed loans. Lenders may, of course, charge lower fees as well. Most of the better lenders offer a variety of student loan discounts and packages to attract student borrowers.

The Federal education loan programs that are available offer lower interest rates and several repayment options. More often than not, they offer more options for the student than most consumer loans, which make them a good way to finance an education. These Federal loans are usually a good place to begin your search for student loan possibilities.

Depending on your circumstances, it is good to keep in mind that you may need more than one loan to cover the costs of attending school. For this reason, it is important to make sure that you get the best student loan terms and interest rates as you begin to sign on to various programs. Most schools have an on-campus financial advisor who can help you narrow down your options. More and more schools are beginning to use online advisors as well, which can make your research easier.

There are many online resources for information on the best student loan programs available. You should set aside a period of time to review those sites and visit the lenders who meet your needs. It is a good idea to avoid signing up with any lender until after you have completed all of your research.