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Get Your Student Ready For College

There is extensive financial aid available to help fund the cost of your child's college education, but the process of applying for aid can be daunting. The financial aid forms you obtain from the school your child wants to attend will help you through the application process step by step.

The most important forms are the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (the FAFSA) and the Financial Aid Form (FAF), which have very strict deadlines. In addition, some colleges and lenders require that you, rather than your child, fill out the forms. In most cases, a good place to start the search is through your child’s high school guidance counselor or the college(s) your child is thinking of attending. The following information is designed to help you understand and research your financial aid options. 


You may want to begin your search for cash with grants, which cost you nothing and do not have to be repaid. It is important to note that if your child is awarded a grant or scholarship, the college will deduct that amount from the financial aid it would otherwise give your child. 

  • Pell Grants – These constitute the largest of the government programs. Grants generally range between $400 and $3,125. In general, families showing financial need are eligible for grants, although families with higher incomes may also be eligible under special circumstances.
  • Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG) – For families exhibiting the greatest need, the SEOG offers grants ranging from $100 to $4,000 a year. SEOG funds are limited, so it is important to submit an application as early as possible. 
  • State Programs – Most states provide grants based on a combination of merit and financial need. Contact your child’s high school guidance counselor or state office of grants to learn what types of aid may be available and how to apply. 
  • College grants – Most institutions offer several kinds of grants based on need, scholastic achievement and/or talent in a special area. Some colleges give cash grants, while others offer tuition discounts.
  • Private grants – Thousands of grants and scholarship programs are available to students with superior academic records, special interests and other qualifying characteristics. Check with employers and local, state and national organizations with which you or any member of your family may be affiliated. The local library is also an excellent reference.


The federal government is by far the single largest source of financial aid to college students, but there are also state government loans, college- sponsored loans, and commercial lending institutions that offer student loans. Qualifying for funding involves filling out multiple forms and providing a detailed profile of your financial situation to potential lenders. As with all financial aid applications, it is important to fill out the forms completely and submit them as soon as possible. 

Government loans – Perkins Loans are designed for undergraduates and graduate students who have exceptional economic need. Perkins loans are extremely popular because the interest rate is set at 5 percent. Repayment needn’t begin until nine months after the student graduates, leaves school or drops below halftime status. Repayments can be stretched out over ten years, with payments of as little as $30 a month. Loan amounts range from $3000 per year for undergraduates, to $5000 per year for graduate students. 

Stafford Student Loans (formerly Guaranteed Student Loans) are available to virtually all students. Students demonstrating financial need may qualify for subsidized loans, meaning the government will pay the interest on the loans while the student attends school, as well as for a 6-month grace period after graduation. If the loan is unsubsidized (not need-based), interest accrues while your child attends school and repayment must begin immediately after graduation. The typical repayment term is five to ten years. Students can borrow up to $2,625 per year as freshman, $3,500 as sophomores, and $5,500 a year as juniors and seniors. For graduate students the maximum is $8,500 per year. 

(NOTE: An important thing to remember about both the Perkins and Stafford loans is that the students, not the parents, are the borrowers and are therefore responsible for paying back the money.)

Parent Loans to Undergraduate Students (PLUS) and Supplemental Loans for Students (SLS) PLUS loans are made to parents. SLS loans are made to undergraduate and graduate students, allowing borrowing up to $4,000 per year as freshman and sophomores, $5,000 per year as juniors and seniors, and $10,000 per year as graduate students. 

However, combined PLUS loans, SLS loans and other financial aid cannot exceed the student’s cost of attending school. Repayment of these loans must begin within 60 days of receiving the loan proceeds, and the loans can be repaid in five to ten years. Although repayment of SLS loans can be deferred while a student attends school, interest continues to accrue.

(NOTE: Recent legislation will affect student loan programs in several ways. Many loans that formerly were processed through banks and other lending institutions are now granted directly through the Department of Education. In addition, thousands of students will be able to pay off their government loans through work in a National Service Corporation, such as AmeriCorps and the National Health Service Corps.

Those entering this program could pay off as much as $5,000 worth of student loans for every year of service up to $10,000. For the latest information on all of the federal loan programs described here, call 800-4-FED-AID.)

  • State loan programs – Most states offer their own loan programs. The terms, interest rates, repayment schedules and amounts of loans vary widely from state to state. 
  • College loans – Most colleges, seeking to fill the gaps created by federal and state programs, offer their own loan programs. Ask a school’s financial aid officer about specific programs.
  • Commercial loans – Several commercial lenders specialize in college lending. Some of the major players in this market include the following: College Board , The Education Resource Institute (TERI), Nellie Mae, and Sallie Mae.
College Work-Study Program (CWS)

The work-study program permits eligible students to work on campus to help offset educational expenses and reduce loan obligations. Students from higher-income families have a better chance of getting a part-time job under CWS than of getting most kinds of grants.

To learn more about ALEC’s Smart Option Student Loan through Sallie Mae, click here.

Copyright© BALANCE

These days, attaining a college degree can be a valuable tool in launching a career. But paying for that education can be very costly. 

The Smart Option Student Loan® available through ALEC and its educational partner, Sallie Mae, offers financing that can bridge the gap when extra money is needed to pay for college expenses. 

Features of the Smart Option Student Loan:

  • Financing flexibility — including a choice between competitive fixed or variable interest rates 
  • Borrow up to 100% of school-certified education costs 
  • Multiple repayment options – no minimum payment required while in school
  • Possible lower rates and easier qualification for applicants with a creditworthy cosigner 
  • Fast online application takes just 15 minutes 
  • 24/7 online account management 
  • No prepayment penalty 

Smart college financing — in 3 common sense steps.

We want college students to land on their feet when they graduate, not find themselves deluged in debt. That’s why many financial experts recommend Sally Mae’s 1-2-3 Approach to Paying for College. Following these three steps in order can help minimize loan debt after graduating by taking advantage of the most affordable and available funds first. 

# 1 — Use “free” money first. 

Every student should fill out the FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Aid) forms to access need-based grants, as well as research and apply for scholarships. Students and/or parents should consider supplementing any grants and scholarships received with their current income and college savings they’ve accumulated.

# 2 — Explore your options for federal loans. 

Available to both students and parents regardless of need, various federal loans offer low, fixed interest rates along with flexible repayment options.

# 3 — Fill any gap with private student loans. 

After all opportunities for scholarships, grant and federal loans have been carefully explored, private student loans may be an attractive option to cover the remainder of a student’s educational costs. 

We recommend visiting the U.S. Department of Education, which offers valuable advice on preparing for college and learning about different ways to acquire student financial aid. 

Want to know more about college financing?

For more information about the ALEC Smart Option Student Loan or to apply, click here. You can also visit an ALEC Service Center. Or call 800.762.9988. 

Apply Now

At ALEC, we think hard-working college students deserve a great deal of credit — and a great deal on credit. 

Our Student Visa® comes with a competitive, low rate. Plus up to a $1,000 spending limit to help them establish and build their good credit. 

ALEC offers two types of Visa® cards for college students. The first features our lowest APR that can save on interest charges. The other earns points that can be redeemed for cash back awards, as well as travel, merchandise and gift card rewards. 

The Student Select Visa® features: 

  • 1.95% introductory APR for the first twelve months* 
  • Variable APR as low as 12.70% after the introductory period 
  • No annual fee or inactivity fees 
  • No balance transfer fee 
  • EMV microchip for greatly enhanced security when used with chip-enabled terminals and ATMs

The Student Select Rewards Visa® features: 

  • 1.95% introductory APR for the first twelve months*
  • Variable APR as low as 14.70% after the introductory period 
  • 2,500 point bonus if you make $500 in purchases within the first 90 days your account is opened†
  • Earn 1 point for each dollar spent on all purchases 
  • Points can be redeemed for cash back awards, as well as travel, merchandise and gift card rewards
  • Earn extra points at participating local and national merchants through CURewards Mall – either online or in-store
  • No annual fee or inactivity fees 
  • No balance transfer fee 
  • EMV microchip for greatly enhanced security when used with chip-enabled terminals and ATMs

Ready to apply? We make it fast and easy. Apply online, via the ALEC Mobile App, at any ALEC Service Center, or by phone at 800.762.9988.

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* APR = Annual Percentage Rate. 1.95% APR on purchases and balance transfers valid the first 12 months the account is open. Rate then reverts to assigned variable account rate. All credit cards subject to credit approval. Rates subject to credit history, term and other factors. Available to students who are attending an accredited secondary school or who have received an official acceptance letter to one. Students under 21 may require a guarantor. 

† Bonus points will be posted on your first statement after meeting the requirement. If the total posted transactions are not met within 90 days of account opening, no bonus points are awarded. All credit cards must be in good standing at time of posting. Bonus points are not transferrable. CURewards Points to cash back option available on Select Rewards Visa only. Maximum $250 cash award annually. 

The perfect way to keep your automotive dreams on a roll.

Whether you’re somewhat of a fanatic about the vehicle you drive, or someone who simply appreciates a dependable mode of transportation, ALEC has an auto loan that will make you happy. 

Shopping for a vehicle? Our free Auto Buying Service, powered by TrueCar® — our national auto purchasing partner— helps you find the car you want, see what others have paid for it and enjoy guaranteed savings.^

Looking for a great auto loan? Ours comes loaded with these standard features:

  • Competitive rates on cars and trucks, new and used
  • Instant approval notification when you apply online** 
  • Up to a 0.25% discount off our current rates*** 
  • Flexible terms up to 84 months 
  • No prepayment penalty 
  • Up to 115% financing of the value of new and used autos 
  • Easy repayment methods — via online, automatic withdrawal, telephone and mail
  • 24/7 online and phone support

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Get more mileage from your loan.
In addition, ALEC offers special options that help ensure maximum peace of mind — now and well down the road. Our Loan Protection Products provide enhanced coverage from the unexpected — for both your vehicle and your loan. 

  • Credit Life and Disability Protection — two affordable plans designed to ease the financial burden on you and your family in cases of injury, illness or death
  • Guaranteed Asset Protection — the difference between your vehicle’s retail value and the amount you owe is covered if your car is stolen or totaled in an accident 
  • Mechanical Breakdown — extended warranty coverage provides protection for expensive repairs beyond the manufacturer’s warranty period, at just a fraction of what you would pay elsewhere

Ready to set the wheels in motion?

ALEC makes it easy to apply for an auto loan online or via the ALEC Mobile App. Or you can visit an ALEC Service Center. Or call 800.762.9988. 

^Guaranteed Savings represents the amount a TrueCar Certified Dealer guarantees you will save off the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price "MSRP" on any in-stock vehicle that is the same make, model and trim as your preferred vehicle. The Guaranteed Savings based on a vehicle without factory or dealer installed options and includes generally available manufacturer incentives. Guaranteed Savings currently not available in all states. In these instances, a "target price" is presented, which reflects a market-based example of what you can reasonably expect to pay for a vehicle configured with your desired options.

** All loans subject to credit approval.

*** ALEC members will automatically earn a 0.25% APR discount if they are new members applying for a loan within the first 60 days of membership OR if they are a returning ALEC loan member. Existing members that don't meet the above criteria earn the 0.25% APR discount with a $500 monthly direct deposit into an ALEC Checking account and enrollment in E-Statements.