Where Can 5th-Year College Students Get Financial Aid? Can They Get Stafford Loans?

Although most bachelor's degree programs are designed to be completed within a four-year time frame, certain hybrid programs may take longer to complete. For instance, most full engineering degrees require a five-year course of study. Certain international business programs that require intense language immersion may also take five to six years to finish. Students who must attend undergraduate classes for five years or more aren't necessarily unmotivated or academically over-matched.

Of course, students may also attend college for more than four years at a time due to other unavoidable factors. If you're currently weighing your options for your fifth year of college, you're probably doing so for a good reason. For instance, you may be required by your extracurricular responsibilities to shoulder a reduced credit load. Alternatively, you might have a non-school job that takes up a great deal of your time. You might even have parenting or childcare responsibilities that force you to juggle your academic and personal schedules.

Regardless of your reason for requiring a fifth year of college, you'll be able to secure financial aid through a variety of sources. In fact, most traditional sources of financial aid will continue to pay out during your fifth year in school. However, some of these funding sources may dry up after you've completed your 10th semester in college. Many federally-backed loans and grants won't pay out for longer than five consecutive years. If you return to school for a sixth consecutive year, you may find that your financial-aid options have become severely curtailed.

However, you'll be able to receive fresh streams of financial aid after applying to graduate programs. In fact, you might be able to earn a considerable amount of your total graduate tuition and school-supplies costs through traditional sources of financial aid funding.

Some high-demand graduate programs might actually provide you with stipends to fund your living costs during your tenure as a graduate student. Depending upon where you're attending school, these stipends can amount to between $18,000 and $35,000 per year. If you're attending a Ph.D program and assuming significant teaching responsibilities in the process, you may earn even more than this. By definition, stipends don't have to be repaid.

However, most financial aid issuers don't count graduate or Ph.D students as "fifth year" college students. If you're looking to finance the fifth year of your undergraduate education, you can get loans from the federal Stafford and Parent PLUS programs as well as federally-backed private lenders.

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