"A student's best source of loan information," says Skee Smith of the U.S. Department of Education, "is usually the college financial-aid office." Basically, applications are picked up from the lender (or college), filled out by the student, completed by the college and returned to the lender for processing, total time--from application to money--can take from 4 to 10 weeks.

Loan money still is available for Washington-area residents, according to local lenders, who offered the following information:

Metropolitan area

"Qualified applicants should have no problem getting loan money," says Gail McCarthy, loan manager of the D.C. Banker's Association's Student Loan Fund, a consortium of 11 District lenders who make student loans to Washington-area residents. Call 783-4522.

The District

The Higher Education Loan Program--a private, nonprofit lender of second resort--has funds available for District residents or students attending schools in the District, says HELP-DC executive director David Patterson. Many credit unions and one savings and loan in the District offer guaranteed student loans.

Virginia

The Virginia Education Loan Authority--serving as both a lender and a guarantor--will stop accepting applications on Sept. 10. This deadline has been imposed, says executive director Eugene Cattie, so the agency can process existing applications and re-gear for the Oct. 1 program changes.

"There's still money out there from other lenders," says Jane Chittom, director of the State Education Assistance Authority. "It's common practice among Virgnia lending institutions to reserve these loans for their own customers. So check first with your own bank."

Maryland

Some of the 120 statewide banks, savings and loans and credit unions that offer student loans have "reached their limit of paperwork," says James Leamer of the Maryland Higher Education Loan Corporation. "Most are still willing to accept applications, but students with families whose adjusted gross income is above $30,000 better get cracking."