Loans for computer certification

Question: I am trying to find a loan to take a computer training certification course. Since this is not a degree program, I am not eligible for Federal funding, any tips on finding a loan with a decent interest rate? Mia, Peabody, MA

Answer: I would take a skeptical stance when it comes to borrowing money to pay for a computer certification course. You want to make sure you truly understand the terms of the loan and the cost of borrowing.

First of all (and you've probably done this), it's critical to talk to workers with the computer certification you plan on getting, Find out from them their job, income, and borrowing experiences. Talk to your current employer and maybe some prospective employers, too. Be your own researcher. There are no guarantees, of course, but this way you'll have a really good idea how long it will take to pay down any debts you take on to boost your marketability and career.

Sad to say, when it comes to borrowing there are far too many horror stories out there, most of them involving private loans and private schools. Unscrupulous and sleazy practices that were stopped under a 1992 law championed by former Senator Sam Nunn are now back in play. Industry lobbyists have persuaded friendly lawmakers to weaken the law so much that student loan scandals are back. According to Higher Ed Watch , a very smart blog at the New American Foundation, some private schools are now repackaging their loans as ordinary consumer credit with fewer safeguards and less disclosure than private student loans--and private student loans are a bad enough deal for most people anyway. It's all too easy for schools to mislead borrowers looking to improve their job prospects and future earnings.

This Bloomberg BusinessWeek story is a sobering look at the for-profit education industry. Similarly, this New York Times story gives an idea what the Department of Education wants to do to rein in abuses.

That said, I have a couple of suggestions that hopefully will help you get the degree you want without becoming a victim. First of all, if you're employed see if your employer will fund part to all of your certification training. It's worth a try since you're adding to your skills and they're gaining a more educated employee.

Second, if you're unemployed, there are many state, local, and nonprofit programs that will help pay the training bill. Check them out.

Third, I'd investigate the offerings at your local public community colleges and see what they charge and what payment options they offer.

Fourth, some well-known lenders like Sallie Mae offer private student loans that are worth investigating. Again, make sure you understand the terms.

The bottom line: With research you can make an informed choice. Good luck.

Does anyone else have suggestions? Thanks

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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