DS ( a youngster) has mentioned something to the effect that firsties and juniors are eligible for some type of loan that can be used to buy a car in the spring semester of those academic years??? Is that the ACE loan or something else?
There are many threads on this. It is not a government program, nor mandatory in any way. It’s an extremely low-interest signature (no collateral) loan. Eligibility to take it starts junior year, in general. Payments don’t start until a few months after graduation, and the term is usually 5 years, with no penalty for early pay-off. The only requirements tend to be having a checking account and Direct Deposit of their mid/cadet pay to the lender.
It was called the Cow Loan for many years, at USMA, and the Car Loan. It used to be structured as an actual car loan for a vehicle, with an extra cash amount added in as a career starter amount, at very low rates. That was before it was common for most mids/cadets to already have their own cars in HS.
There are many schools of thought on this, as you will read as you browse each SA forum - look for USAA loan, NFCU loan, Cow Loan, Career Starter Loan, Career Loan. Some choose to take it, some don’t. It’s meant to pay down higher-cost debt (some with prior college may have student loans, others may have credit card debt), fund an IRA and other investments, set up an emergency fund, help with a good used car and that first apartment, graduation and uniform expenses (Marines pony up serious cash for their first mandatory set of uniforms. There is a reason they always look spiffy.).
Of course, there are a few who do stupid things. Much depends on the mid or cadet’s personal financial situation and their approach to personal financial management.
ROTC, OCS/OTS and direct commissions also have their versions of the loan.
There is no guarantee of the loan each year. For the companies that offer it, at a loss, it’s an investment in starting a career-long or life-long relationship.
At my former employer, I was directly involved with the program. I yield the floor to @hornetguy
who may have fresher insights. I have laid out facts as I knew them neutrally - as I have said, there are various opinions on this.