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Putting It All Together

Have questions about paying for college? Don't worry - you're not alone. We're here to answer your questions and help you explore your financing options.

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Student Loan Basics

Before jumping into a student loan, make sure you understand all the ways to pay for college and how loans work. Learn about all your options below.

  • Scholarships
    Scholarships are financial rewards based on need or merit that do not need to be paid back in the future. There are many NC scholarships available, and applying to a wide range of scholarship opportunities can help make college more affordable.
  • Grants and Need-Based Scholarships
    Like scholarships, grants are also considered “gift aid” and do not need to be paid back. Sometimes you will see the terms “grants” and “need-based scholarships" used interchangeably. Federal and State education grants are the most common, but some colleges and universities provide their own grant programs. Almost all grants require you to fill out the FAFSA. Don’t miss out on free money!
  • Savings
    Paying for college with pre-existing savings can help you avoid the need to pay interest on borrowed funds. One of the best ways to prepare for college costs is by investing with a 529 savings account.
  • Federal Direct student loans
    Federal Direct student loans are provided by the federal government. These include direct subsidized loans, direct unsubsidized loans, direct PLUS loans. Many borrowers apply for multiple different types of loans to cover the cost of college.  Student borrowers should max out all Federal Direct subsidized loans before considering any other types of loan.
  • Private student loans
    Private student loans are provided by non-government entities. While these loans have varying interest rates, they can help you bridge the funding gap that remains after exhausting other financial aid.

How do Student Loans Work?

Student loans can be confusing, especially if it’s your first time. We’ll do our best to explain key concepts that will make things much simpler.

Interest Rates, Fixed and Variable

Your interest rate represents the annual cost of borrowing money, typically displayed as a percentage rate of your loan balance. Getting a lower interest rate will lower your monthly payment. Locking in with a Fixed Interest Rate ensures that your rate remains the same for the entire life of the loan and you are not surprised with changes that would occur with a Variable Interest Rate loan.  NC Assist Loans always provide a Fixed Interest Rate.


Many student loans come with additional fees that add to the cost of the loan. These fees can include the application fee, origination fee, and prepayment fee. Depending on how the fees are structured, you will likely either pay them up front or gradually repay them over time. NC Assist Loans never charge application, origination, or prepayment fees, saving you real money over time.

Repayment Term

The repayment term represents how long you have to repay your loans. A shorter repayment term increases your monthly payment but also decreases the total amount you pay overall. NC Assist loans have a standard 10 year repayment term.

Deferment & Forbearance

Deferment and Forbearance are two ways that borrowers can pause making payments to their loan. An NC Assist deferment allows student borrowers to pause payments for up to three years while attending school, while forbearance allows borrowers to request three to twelve months of payment postponement. Note that interest still accrues during both deferment and forbearance postponement periods.

When Do I Have to Start Paying Back My Loan?

Borrowers generally have the option to start making payments as soon as the loan is disbursed. The sooner you start paying back your loans, the lower the total cost of your loan will be. 

However, certain student loans will allow student borrowers to defer payments while they are in school, and require you to begin making payments within six months after graduation or when you stop being enrolled at least halftime at an eligible school. 

NC Student Assist borrowers can defer until six months after graduation or reducing enrollment to less than halftime. NC Parent Assist borrowers enter repayment promptly after the loan is disbursed.

How Much Will I Have to Pay Each Month?

Your monthly payment will depend on how much you borrowed and how long you plan to pay back the loan. Use a student loan calculator to see what your future monthly payments might look like.

Student Loan Calculators

How NC Assist Fits Into Your Financial Planning

NC Assist provides a unique opportunity for students who either live in North Carolina or are attending a school there to finance their higher education. This program offers very competitive fixed interest rates, no fees,  and friendly terms for student borrowers and their families.

Learn About NC Assist Loan Options

Compare Loan Programs

Researching your options can be time consuming and stressful. See how NC Assist student loans compare to Federal and other private lenders and make the best choice for you.

Compare Our Rates

Applying Is Easy

Students can apply for an NC Assist loan online, in just a few minutes. Be sure to have your personal financial information ready (including your SSN).

How to Apply

Add a Co-Signer to Enhance Your Application

Many students don't meet the credit requirements to qualify for a loan by themselves. Adding a co-signer, such as a parent or other qualified relative, can help increase your chances of being accepted for a loan.

Co-Signer Information
Qualified Relative A co-signer must be a parent, stepparent, grandparent, sibling, spouse, son or daughter of the student loan applicant.

Understanding Your Obligations

Taking out a loan obligates you to repay the money back within the specified repayment period. Make sure you understand what you are agreeing to before you finalize any loan.

NC Assist Loan Terms & Conditions

Paying Back Your Loan

Once approved and your loan is disbursed, you’ll be able to make online payments through our portal or set up automatic draft payments, giving you convenience and peace of mind.

Manage My Loans

Let’s Talk

Our NC Assist counselors are available to answer all of your questions.

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