SAN ANTONIO -

As the cost of getting a college degree has risen sharply, so has demand for student loans.

As borrowing goes, federally-backed loans can be a smart move, according to Greg McBride with Bankrate.com.

"You always want to utilize your federal student loan options before you go into the private market, and that's because federal student loans have some nice advantages," McBride said.

Federal loans typically have lower interest rates and qualify for forbearance if the borrower has financial trouble after graduation.

College student Pam Weston could not afford to pay for college up front, so she and her family decided on a federally-backed loan.

"It took us hours to figure out how much money would be the right amount without taking out too much or too little," she said.

Federal loan options include the Stafford loan, which has no income or credit requirements. Students have to begin paying it back six months after graduation.

A Perkins loan may be available to lower-income students. Repayment begins nine months after graduation.

A Plus loan is another option, taken out by parents or graduate students.

When deciding how much to borrow, McBride said it is important to be sure the loan amount is in line with the salary that degree is likely to generate.

"The right degree at the right price is the best investment you can make," he said.

For a list of recent stories Marilyn Moritz has done, click here.