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  • Writer's pictureNathan Zarcaro

The PA Forward Student Loan Program

Updated: Oct 3, 2023


Oftentimes, student loan borrowers nationwide need to turn to private loans to supplement their federal financing received to go to college. All too often, private loans carry high interest rates, inflexible terms, and extra fees.


Thankfully for Pennsylvanians or those attending college in PA, you may be able to take advantage of the PHEAA's PA Forward Student Loan Program.



What is the PA Forward Student Loan program?


The Pennsylvania Forward Student Loan Program is a program offered by The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). Though it is a private student loan program, it known for offering flexible and advantageous benefits to borrowers, including:


  1. No extraneous fees

  2. Low fixed interest rates

  3. No prepayment penalties


You also can borrow up to 100% of your/your child's cost of attendance, including applicable tuition, fees, room, board, and certain incidentals too.


The PA Forward program has three components to it: Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parent loans.





1. PA Forward undergraduate loan


Offering no extraneous fees, low interest rates (fixed), multiple repayment plans and other perks, the PA Forward Undergraduate program may be a great option for you.


To qualify, you'll need to be:


  • A Pennsylvania resident attending a program approved school (typically any federally-approved institution recognized under Title IV)

  • A resident of DE, MD, NJ, NY, OH, VA, or WV attending a Title IV recognized Pennsylvania school

  • A United States citizen or eligible non-citizen

And as long as you are the age of majority in your state and meet the program's minimum credit requirements, you will not need a loan co-signer. Even so, it may be prudent to apply with one, since it may help you qualify for a lower interest rate, saving you money over the term of your loan(s).


PA Forward does allow for co-signer release if you make 48 full and timely monthly payments.



PA Forward undergrad repayment options


When it comes to repaying borrowed undergraduate loans, you have four main options:



1. Immediate repayment


Those that opt for immediate repayment will save money in interest by beginning to repay their loans immediately. By opting for this option, borrowers will be eligible for the lowest PHEAA rates offered. It will likely be your quickest path out of debt, though your first payment will be due within 60 days of receiving your last disbursement.


The other thing to take note of is that students borrowing money to attend school in a less than half-time capacity will need to opt for the immediate repayment option.



2. Interest Only


Your second option is to pay your accrued interest while you are in school, which will ensure that you graduate with the same principal amount that you borrowed initially. Under this repayment plan, you'll begin making interest only payments within 60 days of your first loan disbursement under the PA Forward Program.



3. Partial Interest


Third, you may opt to make partial interest payments while in school to try to limit the accrual of interest on your student debt. Under the terms of this repayment program, you'll make $25 payments each month. These manageable $25 monthly payments will begin within 60 days after your first loan is disbursed.



4. Full Deferral


Finally, you may opt to fully defer your loans until you graduate, complete, or leave your program if you don't want to worry about your loans while you are a student.


Unfortunately, this approach will likely leave you with the highest payments once you leave school, but for many students, this may be your only option.


 

There is a piece of exciting news too. No matter which repayment plan you choose from, you'll receive a 0.50% reduction in your loan's interest rate if you graduate. This can save you a lot of money!



2. PA Forward graduate loan program


The program also sponsors loans for graduate students. Those looking to pursue the following advanced degrees and certificate programs may be eligible to borrow up to the total cost of attendance, so long as they study full-time. Those studying part-time may borrow up to $5,000.


Eligible programs include:


  • Master's degree

  • Doctoral study

  • Law school

  • Health professions

  • Some certificates


That that graduate will receive the same 0.5% interest rate reduction as with the undergraduate program, while maintaining eligibility for a further 0.25% reduction for making payments via direct debit withdrawal.


Other program eligibility requirements are the same as with the undergrad program, including states of residency, participating schools, and other criteria.


You'll also have the same four repayment options as within undergraduate PA Forward.



3. PA Forward parent loans


The PA Forward Parent Loan is part of the greater PHEAA program, and is designed specifically for parents and guardians of undergraduate college students who are enrolled (or will be enrolled) in one of the following programs:


  • Degree

  • Certificate

  • Diploma


To qualify, parents need to be financing the education of a dependent that will be enrolled at least half-time. Additionally, parents will need to be:


  • Pennsylvania residents with students attending approved schools

  • Residents from DE, MD, NJ, NY, OH, VA, or WV if their dependent is attending an eligible PA school

  • United States citizens or eligible non-citizens


Parents will also need to meet credit requirements.



Repaying PA Forward parent loans


Those that take parent loans under the program essentially have two options for repayment: immediate repayment and interest only (see above for more information).


The program does carry a monthly minimum payment of $50 per month under the a immediate repayment plan, and you are able to select between 5, 10, and 15 year repayment terms.


Do note that making your payments via a direct debit withdrawal from your account could help you qualify for a 0.25% interest rate deduction on your loans.



Applying for PA Forward


Getting started is really easy!


After reading this article, you should already have a good idea as to whether you qualify for the program or not. If so, to proceed, you'll want to apply directly at https://paforward.pheaa.org/ or by calling 1-844-PAFPRWD.


As you begin to fill out your application, you'll need to have a lot of personal and financial information ready, including:


  • Your name and personally identifiable information, such as DOB, SSN, address, and other contact information

  • The school/college you plan on attending

  • Period(s) in which you need loans for

  • Financial information, including your annual income, if applicable

  • Co-signer information, if applicable


Once you've completed and submitted your application, you'll hear directly from PHEAA regarding next steps.



Our thoughts on PA Forward loans


As far as private student loans go, we think that PA Forward are some of the better loans out there. That said, it likely still makes sense for you to make sure you've exhausted your options as it pertains to taking on federal debt before you proceed to take any private loans.


And the reasons for this are simple. The federal debt that you take on carries far more options for student loan forgiveness, and those options shouldn't be taken lightly.


To help you determine whether PA Forward loans are a good idea, we recommend that you follow this list of tips and tricks that we've compiled over the past couple of years:


  • Do you qualify for better interest rates than you would with a traditional private lender? There is no shortage of national lenders, like Credible, Splash Financial, and PNC Bank, to name a few, that you should also explore.


  • Do you need a cosigner? The PA Forward program does accept cosigners, and each lender across the country sets slightly different criteria to assess your eligibility without one. Have a plan for what you'll do if you if this program requires a cosigner, whereas other lenders do not.




Already have private loans? Consider refinancing


Maybe you already have private student loans and don't know what your best options are to repay them. If you do like the flexibility offered through the PHEAA and believe you meet the qualifying criteria mentioned throughout this article, you may be eligible to refinance your existing student debt through PA Forward.


But you are also wondering whether refinancing is worth it at all.


If this sounds like you, one of the best places to start is to check your rate with Splash Financial. As opposed to PHEAA, which is a lender, Splash Financial is a marketplace with participating lenders. So when you check your prospective refinancing rates, doing so with Splash is like checking your rates across many different lenders all at once.


Another advantage to starting with Splash is that it can all be done electronically in less than three minutes. To get started, check your rates by clicking the button below. If you like what you see, you can proceed! But if not, you can continue your rate shopping by turning to lenders like PHEAA, or other marketplaces like LendKey.




Get our student loan calculator


Do you already have PA Forward loans? We built a student loan calculator designed to help you make sure you're on the right path. Because these loans aren't federal by nature, you won't be able to participate in many of the Department of Education's forgiveness programs that we cover in our calculator.


But nevertheless, our calculator can help you determine whether refinancing your PHEAA loans may be able to save you thousands of dollars. Here's how to use it:


  1. Get your copy for free

  2. Answer the required questions about your loans

  3. Navigate to the "Private Refinancing" tab

  4. See if you can save money!



Student loan calculator


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About Nathan Zarcaro

Nathan Zarcaro is the founder of The Student Debt Destroyer and is passionate about personal finance related causes.  A 2018 graduate of Providence College's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Nathan studied Finance, and has worked for industry leaders in both finance and healthcare.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

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