Student Loans 101: CHESLA

College financial planning is more important than ever.  In a 2016 interview, one parent made the comment that it is “impossible to pay for college without some kind of help”.  This is becoming more and more of a reality for every potential college student.  In fact, finances are becoming the number one reason students attend a particular college.  Because of this immense financial pressure, more and more people are turning to student loans to fill the gap between their college funds and their college needs.  But not all student loans are created equally.

Student loans are not our preferred way to take care of the soaring cost of a college education.  However, we do feel it important to offer some guidance for those who may be searching for college loans.  In particular, we want to highlight Connecticut’s state option for student loans, the Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority (CHESLA)

What is the CHELSA?

CHESLA says its vision is to “serve as Connecticut’s leading resource for students as they plan for their college education.”  They continue by stating that they want to “encourage interest in higher education to help the State meet its workforce needs; and enhance economic development through innovative higher education programs.”  As one person said, “It’s Connecticut money for Connecticut students.”  But their mission is greater than just providing student loans.  In their own words, their desire is to “expand higher educational opportunities and enhance the State’s economic development through higher education.”  This is a great offering to those who live in Connecticut.  If you do not live in CT, it would be worth your while to see if your state offers a state sponsored funding option for your student.

Using CHESLA to Pay for college

You can find CHESLA’s loan details on their official website at www.chelsa.org.  But here are a few of the items that make this such a good offering.

  • No application fees
  • Low, simple interest
  • Payment deferral program
  • Borrow up to 100% of your college need
  • No prepayment fee

If you have done any research on student loans, these features are in line with other offerings.  But, what sets the CHESLA apart is that the interest rate is “4.95% Fixed Annual Rate (non-tiered, simple interest)”.  This is almost 2 percentage points lower than most student loan offerings available.  We think the CHESLA is an option that every one should investigate.  It may not be good for your particular financial needs, but then again, you won’t know until you investigate.

Using CHESLA to Refinance current student loans

Recently the CHESLA also became available as a refinancing option.  Starting June 2016, students could apply for the CHESLA refinancing program.   This program offers many of the best benefits of the original CHELSA program.  Again, this option may not be the best option for your specific financial needs, but it is a good offering for you to investigate.

I must restate, that it is never the best idea to use debt as a way to pay for one’s education.  However, if you must take out student loans, make sure you do a little investigating.  Student loans can have many pitfalls, but for some, they are a viable tool available to secure college funding.  One such pitfall about the CHESLA, that is a little hard to find, is that “interest-only payments are required while in school and the repayment period.”  While this was not listed directly on the CHESLA website, it is mentioned on another website regarding CT’s 529 plan called Connecticut’s Higher Education Trust (CHET).  Before you sign any student loans, make sure you have a solution that fits your specific college needs.