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Colleges typically give you a few weeks or months after the start of the semester to pay your tuition and other fees. However, it’s possible to fall behind and end up with a past-due balance — like if you’re facing a financial emergency or other unexpected circumstances.
If this happens, you might consider using student loans or other financial aid to cover your past-due balance. When federal aid falls short, you may consider taking out a private student loan to help cover your college expenses. Credible makes it easy to compare private student loan rates from multiple lenders.
How to pay off past-due tuition
If your account is past due, you still have options. Here are a few potential ways to get your account back in good standing:
1. Fill out the FAFSA to claim federal loans
If you need to cover college expenses (such as past-due tuition), your first step should be filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your school will use your FAFSA results to determine what federal, state, or institutional aid you’re eligible for.
For example, you might qualify for college grants, scholarships, or federal student loans — which you can use to cover your past-due balance as well as future education costs.
Tip: Make sure to fill out the FAFSA before the deadline passes so you don’t miss out on any of the financial aid that you can get. You can double-check with your school’s financial aid office to see if there are any other deadlines you’ll need to meet.
2. Speak to your financial aid office about emergency loans
Some colleges have emergency student loans available if you’re facing a short-term crisis. If your account is past due and your expected financial aid hasn’t come through yet, talk to your financial aid office.
You might qualify for an emergency loan through the school that will pay off your balance and let you register for classes.
Tip: Make sure to keep in contact with your financial aid office instead of ignoring the problem of a past-due balance. They’re there to help you and might be able to connect you with resources specifically available to students in your situation.
3. Use private student loans
A private student loan could also help you pay off a past-due balance if you’ve exhausted all your federal student aid. Private student loans typically have lower interest rates and longer repayment terms than personal loans, plus higher student loan limits.
Tip: Unlike federal loans that have strict deadlines, private student loans can be applied for at any time. However, keep in mind that even if you’re approved, it could take around three weeks from the time you submit your private loan application until you receive your funds — or up to two to three months if there are any delays. Because of this, it’s a good idea to apply as far in advance as possible to give yourself plenty of time.
If you decide to take out a private student loan, be sure to consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for your situation.
Credible makes this easy — you can compare your prequalified rates from our partner lenders in the table below in two minutes.
What happens when your tuition is past due?
If you don’t pay off your account by the due date, you risk some serious consequences that can affect your status as a student and your finances. These include the following:
You might not be able to register for classes. If you don’t pay the past-due amount immediately, your current registration might be canceled. Plus, the school could prohibit you from registering for other classes.
You can’t receive or view transcripts. Since your account is past due, you won’t be able to receive or view your transcripts. This makes it impossible to apply to other schools or graduate programs.
You might end up with late fees. The school might charge you monthly late fees, which could add hundreds of dollars to your bill.
The school could send your account to collections. If you don’t promptly pay the money you owe, your school could send your account to a collections agency. This could have a negative impact on your credit and damage your credit score, which will make it hard to qualify for other types of credit.
You’ll be ineligible for financial aid. If your account is delinquent, you might become ineligible for current or future financial aid, including scholarships or grants.
International students could lose their visas. To get a student visa as an international student, you have to be enrolled at a qualifying university. If your account is past due, your registration might be canceled, which can affect your enrollment status at the school. This might also affect being able to get a student loan for international students.
Compare student loan rates from Credible’s partners — it only takes a few minutes to see your rates.
When is your balance considered past due?
An unpaid balance will typically become past due once your school’s payment deadline has passed. Keep in mind that individual schools will have their own policies explaining when an account is considered past due, though.
For example, your school might designate your account as having a past-due balance if you have $100 or more in unpaid charges.
Here are a few scenarios where you’ll have a past-due balance on your student account:
You owe money on your student account for any semester prior to the current term.
You’re on a tuition payment plan for the current semester and miss a payment.
You have a balance for the current semester.
If you decide to take out a private student loan to cover a past-due balance, remember to consider as many lenders as you can to find the right loan for your needs.
This is easy with Credible — you can compare your prequalified rates from multiple lenders in two minutes.
About the author: Taylor Medine is a Credible authority on personal finance. Her work has been featured on Bankrate, Experian, The Balance, Business Insider, Credit Karma, and more. She’s also the author of The 60-Minute Money Plan, a self-published intro to budgeting guide for people who hate budgeting. Kat Tretina contributed to the reporting of this article.