How to Get Emergency Student Loans (Quickly)

Written by: Kristyn Pilgrim
Updated: 1/21/20

College students worry about all kinds of hardships, like living on microwave food for a whole semester, accidentally missing classes, or not studying enough for exams. However, some hardships  are unpredictable, like an expensive laptop breaking or needing to fly home for a family emergency. These financial hardships might put students in a position where they cannot finish the semester or have to drop out of school to get a job.

Many students come from low-income or disadvantaged families, so if they suffer financial hardship in school, their parents are less likely to be able to help. This increases the risk that students have to leave school to work, either to make up for their own financial struggles or to support their families through money problems.

Most students have to take on debt in the form of student loans to afford higher education and spend the next 10 to 20 years after graduation repaying these loans. When an emergency strikes, it is important for students in need to get emergency student loans fast

What Types of Emergency Student Loans Are Available? 

Many schools now recognize that students can have their education derailed for years if they struggle with money. A car accident, a computer failure, or a family emergency can mean students spend hundreds or thousands of dollars that they cannot pay back.

Instead of accumulating more debt, you may take a leave of absence from school. Once you drop out for a semester or a year, your chances of returning diminish.

Colleges, universities, and professional schools all want students to finish and find successful careers after they graduate. To help students achieve their personal, professional, and academic goals, many colleges have created financial aid for students suffering from sudden financial problems. This includes emergency student loans.

There are three basic types of emergency financial aid offered through many colleges.

  1. Emergency student loans: These are small loans that are often automatically approved to help a student experiencing a school-related financial emergency. For example, if your laptop breaks or you cannot afford to put money on your meal plan, this loan can be approved within three days.

    Emergency student loans have 0% interest and a maximum loan amount of $500. You will need to work with your school’s financial services office to create a repayment plan within 30 days (one month) to 60 days (two months).

    These loans are not available during summer terms for graduate students. They are only available for active undergraduate students during the summer term.
  2. Short-term student loans: Like emergency loans, this short-term loan must be repaid within 30 to 60 days, although graduate repayment schedules may be an exception. The amount of money approved depends on the repayment source, but students can get up to $1,500.

    These loans are not available during summer terms.
  3. Graduate assistant loans: These loans are designed to help graduate students, teaching assistants, associate instructors, and post-graduate researchers. Unlike the previous two types of emergency loans, the maximum repayment period is six months, the end of the academic year, or the student’s graduation, whichever comes first.

    Like the other two types of loans, assistant loans are not available during summer terms. The maximum amount that can be borrowed is $1,500; however, the amount cannot exceed one month of the graduate student’s salary, so it may be less. 

These loans are typically granted within days of your request as long as you qualify. Students who find themselves in financial need can apply for one emergency or short-term loan per quarter. If they have not paid off the previous loan by the next quarter, they may not borrow another emergency student loan until the first one has been paid off.

Other criteria to apply for emergency student loans include the following: 

  • You must be an enrolled undergraduate or graduate student at the school.
  • You must be personally available to sign financial documents in the financial services office.
  • You are not about to graduate or leave at the end of the academic year.
  • You have no previous debts to the university, except for regular student loans.
  • You have not failed to make payments, made late payments, or been sent to collections on prior emergency loans.

If you find you need money due to a financial emergency, talking to financial advisors or counselors at your school can guide you toward the loan or another source of help that works best for your situation. In addition to emergency student loans, you may qualify for grants, completion scholarships, or vouchers to keep you afloat while you stay enrolled. This money can go toward tuition, housing, transportation, books, and other supplies.

Repayment of Emergency Student Loans

Emergency student loans typically have 0% interest, but this is partially because you are expected to repay the loan in a shorter time span than other types of student loans. You must be able to offer some source of repayment, which may include: 

  • Your parents or guardians.
  • Employment or teaching assistant positions.
  • Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.
  • Financial aid, including scholarships or student loans.

As with other types of loans, you will need to decide how you will repay the money. A $500 loan balance may not seem like much when there is no interest involved, but you may need to ask for more money from your regular student loans for the next semester to cover that cost.

Are There Other Types of Emergency Loans?

Banks and other private lending institutions will offer short-term emergency loans to those who qualify, but you should know that these are not student loans, and the interest rate will be much different.

Emergency loans from private lenders can be used for any purpose. While an emergency student loan through your school may not cover car repairs, an emergency loan from a bank will. Similarly, an emergency student loan is unlikely to cover airplane ticket costs if you need to fly home to care for family in an emergency, but a short-term loan with a bank will cover that expense.

Be aware that short-term loans, especially payday loans, title loans, and pawnshop loans will have strict terms and high-interest rates. It can be challenging to get out of the lending cycle if you take out these loans with no way to repay them.

These should be considered a last resort. You should not borrow a significant amount on these loans, and you should have a clear budget to pay them back. 

Financial Services Can Help Students in Need

Students can struggle with all kinds of financial problems that require additional assistance. One study found that recipients of a Dreamkeepers award were most likely to request additional money to help them with student housing and transportation expenses. This was closely followed by “books” and “other,” which includes food for many disadvantaged students.

It is important to speak with your college’s financial services center for help determining the best solution. You may qualify for grants or scholarships rather than loans, for example, which you do not have to worry about repaying.

Regardless, it is crucial that students have access to financial help when they experience emergencies. Emergency student loans are one way for schools to help.