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Founder, CFP® Joel Ohman

UPDATED: Feb 9, 2021

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Students can receive federal funding for international study programs.

It is important to define the distinction between study abroad programs and regular international study. Study abroad programs are usually between one and two semesters long and they are accredited by the university which initially accepted the student. For example, if a student goes to Harvard University for their undergrad, spends one semester abroad in Italy, and then returns and graduates from Harvard, they completed a study abroad program.

Study abroad programs are usually grouped under normal college financing. The Higher Education ACT (HEA) of 1992 mandated that a student can receive study abroad financial aid if the student is enrolled in a program pre-approved by the home institution. Additionally, the student is eligible to receive “grants, loans, or work assistance without regard to whether the study abroad program is required as a part of the student’s degree.”

International study is different. The International programs are simply where American students receive their undergrad from an international university. In this instance, the application, acceptance, and funding process are handled by the international college or university.

Although many international colleges and universities desire a broad array of students (American students included), they do not automatically receive Federal Student Aid. In order for an international college or university to be considered for federal funding, they must apply on the Federal Student Aid website. A current listing of the international institutions which accept federal aid is available online. If a student qualifies for financial aid, he or she will need to comply with the regulations of all domestic students.

Depending on the school that a student is planning on attending, he or she may be eligible to apply for two options of Federal Student Loans. Many international schools participate in both the Federal Stafford Loan program and the Federal PLUS loan program.

The Federal Stafford Loan is a capped loan that offers a pre-determined amount of money each year. It comes in both subsidized and unsubsidized options to fit both financially stable and unstable students. While this type of loan might have a lower interest rate, it will not be able to provide sufficient funding for most expensive colleges.

The Federal PLUS loan was originally available only to creditworthy parents of students. Starting in mid 2006, the PLUS loans became available to graduate and professional students as well. The loans are made by an institutional lender and can cover the entire cost of an education.

If you do not qualify for federal student loans, there are always private student loans. Private student loans should be applied for only after federal funding is found to be insufficient. Loans financed by private lenders and banking institutions typically offer high and variable interest rates.

International eligibility for private student loans varies by lender. If a student is planning on studying internationally, this should be a main factor in choosing which lender will finance the loan. It is important to read all of the pertinent information before signing any loan agreements.