Private Loans

Private student loans, also known as alternative education loans, help bridge the gap between the actual cost of your education and the limited amount the government allows you to borrow in its programs.

Some families turn to private education loans when the federal loans don't provide enough money or when they need more flexible repayment options. However, since federal education loans may be less expensive and/or offer better terms than private student loans, you should consider exhausting your eligibility for federal student loans before applying for private student loans.

Many students take out private education loans in order to finance their education. With that, it’s best to get as much information as possible before you begin the process.


Check with your preferred private lender to learn more about your eligibility for educational loans. 

The student budget or Cost of Attendance represents the maximum aid you can be awarded through any combination of scholarships, fellowships, federal and private loans certified through Columbia University for the academic year.

To determine the maximum amount you can borrow in alternative loans, take the student budget and subtract any other financial aid awards, and the balance is the amount you can borrow in an alternative loan.The minimum loan amount is generally $1,000.

PLEASE NOTE: Before applying for private or alternative loans, you should first consider borrowing the full amount for which you are eligible under the Federal Direct Loan program and any institutional loans.

Aggregate Limits

Each lender has its own policy for aggregate loan limits. Please contact them for more information.

Private educational loans are disbursed in a variety of ways. Some lenders send checks that are payable directly to the student borrower, others send checks that are co-payable to the student borrower and Columbia University or transmit funds electronically directly into the student’s University account. If the check is made payable directly to you, the student borrower, please contact your School Financial Aid Office.

If the check is co-payable to you, the student borrower and Columbia University, the check must be endorsed for deposit into your University account.

All private education loan borrowers must complete a Private Education Loan Applicant Self-Certification Form and submit the form to their lender of choice before the private loan can be consummated. 

Before you and your family begin to explore your loan options, please read Columbia University's disclosure concerning private lenders.

The University has selected the Suggested Lenders based on several factors including cost and eligibility, benefits to borrowers, and overall customer service. Students have the right and ability to select the lender of their choice and are not required to use any of the lenders on the suggested lender list. Students are encouraged to shop around to find the lender offering the rates, terms, and service that are right for them.

ELM select is an external web-site that allows students to review the Suggested Lender List(s), compare products, and apply for private loans.

Review's comparison of federal and private education loans to decide which option is best for you.