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Financial Aid Overview

<<< STEP 3: UNDERSTANDING THE TYPES OF FINANCIAL AID AVAILABLE

The Federal Direct Loan Program

Direct Loans are the U.S. Dept. of Education's major form of self-help aid. Federal Direct Loans are available through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan ("Direct Loan") Program.

Under the Direct Loan Program, your school gets the funds for your loan directly from the U.S. government. Click the following link to see more in-depth information about this program:

Direct Stafford Loans

In addition to the Direct Stafford Loan program, the federal government also offers PLUS Loans for parents of dependent students.

What kinds of Direct Stafford Loans are available?

Direct Stafford Loans are either subsidized or unsubsidized.

A subsidized loan is awarded on the basis of financial need. You will not be charged any interest before you begin repayment or during authorized periods of deferment. The federal government pays your interest during these periods.

On an unsubsidized loan you will be charged interest from the time the loan is disbursed until it is paid in full. If you allow the interest to accumulate, it will be capitalized – that is, the interest will be added to the principal amount of your loan and additional interest will be based upon the higher amount. This will increase the amount you have to repay. If you choose to pay the interest as it accumulates, you'll repay less in the long run.

You can receive a subsidized loan and an unsubsidized loan for the same enrollment period.

Who can get a Direct Stafford loan?

If you're a matriculated student enrolled in an eligible program of study at least half time, you may receive a Direct Stafford Loan provided you meet other general eligibility requirements.

How much can you borrow?

Dependent Annual Loan Limit
Freshman $5,500
($3,500 between subsidized and unsubsidized, plus an additional $2,000 unsubsidized)
Sophomore $6,500
($4,500 between subsidized and unsubsidized, plus an additional $2,000 unsubsidized)
Junior or senior $7,500
($5,500 between subsidized and unsubsidized, plus an additional $2,000 unsubsidized)


Independent Annual Loan Limit
Freshman $9,500
($3,500 between subsidized and unsubsidized, plus an additional $6,000 unsubsidized)
Sophomore $10,500
($4,500 between subsidized and unsubsidized, plus an additional $6,000 unsubsidized)
Junior or senior $12,500
($5,500 between subsidized and unsubsidized, plus an additional $7,000 unsubsidized)
Graduate or professional $20,500 (unsubsidized)


Lifetime Limits
Undergraduate dependent lifetime limit $31,000
(up to $23,000 may be subsidized)
Undergraduate independent lifetime limit $57,500
(between subsidized and unsubsidized)
Graduate or professional lifetime limit $138,500
(up to $65,000 may be subsidized) or $224,000 (for health professions)
For loans disbused on or after July 1, 2008

For periods of study that are less than an academic year, the amounts you can borrow will be less than those just listed. Talk to your financial aid administrator to find out how much you can borrow.

NOTE: Federal Direct Stafford Loans are not made to students enrolled in programs that are less than one-third of an academic year.

NOTE: The amounts given above are the maximum yearly amounts you can borrow in both subsidized and unsubsidized loans. You may receive less than these yearly maximum amounts if you receive other financial aid that is used to cover a portion of your cost of attendance.

NOTE: Your school can refuse to certify your loan application or can certify a loan for an amount less than you would otherwise be eligible for, if the school documents the reason for its action and explains the reason to you in writing.

What is the interest rate charged on these loans?

If you have a loan that was first disbursed on or after July 1, 1994, the interest rate could change each year of repayment depending on changes to the federal treasury bill interest rate, but it will never exceed 8.25 percent. The interest rate is adjusted each year on July 1. You'll be notified of interest rate changes throughout the life of your loan.

If you had loans that were first disbursed before July 1, 1994, the interest rate on these loans may be different. Check with the lender or agency that holds your loan.

If you have subsidized loans, you will not be charged interest while you're enrolled in school at least half time, during a grace period, or during authorized periods of deferment. Interest will begin to accrue – that is, accumulate – when you enter repayment.

If you have unsubsidized loans, you'll be charged interest from the day the loan is disbursed until it is repaid in full, including in-school, grace, and deferment periods. You may choose to pay the interest during these periods, or it can be capitalized.

Is there a charge or fee for these loans?

You'll pay fees of up to 4 percent of the loan. These fees are deducted proportionately from each disbursement of your loan. For a Federal Direct Loan, all of this fee goes to the government to help reduce the cost of the loans. Also, if you don't make your loan payments when they're scheduled, you may be charged collection costs and late fees.

When do you have to pay back these loans?

After you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment, you have six months before you begin repayment. This is called a grace period.

During the grace period on a subsidized loan, you don't have to pay any principal, and no interest will be charged. During the grace period on an unsubsidized loan, you don't have to pay any principal, but interest will be charged. You can either pay the interest or allow it to be capitalized.

After you leave school or drop below half-time enrollment, you'll receive information about repayment and will be notified of the date repayment begins. However, you're responsible for beginning repayment on time, even if you don't receive this information.

Is it ever possible to postpone repayment of my loan?

Yes. Under certain circumstances, you can receive a deferment or forbearance on your loan. A deferment allows you to temporarily postpone payments on your loan. If you have a subsidized loan, you will not be charged interest during the deferment. If your loan is unsubsidized, you will be responsible for the interest on the loan during the deferment. If you don't pay the interest as it accrues, it will be capitalized. See the Loan Deferment Summary for the list of deferments available if your loan was first disbursed on or after July 1, 1993. For information on deferments for loans disbursed prior to that date, Federal Direct Loan borrowers should contact the Direct Loan Servicing Center. You can't receive a deferment if your loan is in default.

If you are temporarily unable to meet your repayment schedule but are not eligible for a deferment, you may receive forbearance for a limited and specified period. During forbearance, your payments are postponed or reduced. Whether your loans are subsidized or unsubsidized, you will be charged interest. If you don't pay the interest as it accrues, it will be capitalized.

For example, you may be granted forbearance if you are...

  • unable to pay due to poor health or other unanticipated personal problems.
  • serving in a medical or dental internship or residency.
  • serving in a position under the National Community Service Trust Act of 1993.
  • obligated to make payments on certain federal student loans that are equal to or greater than 20 percent of your monthly gross income.
Deferments and forbearances are not automatic. If you have a Federal Direct Loan, you must contact the Direct Loan Servicing Center to request either option. You may have to provide documentation to support your request. You must continue making scheduled payments until you receive notification that the deferment or forbearance has been granted.

Can your loan be discharged (canceled)?

Yes, in certain circumstances. A discharge releases you from all or a portion of your obligations to repay the loan. See the Discharge/Cancellation Summary for a complete listing of discharge conditions.

Your loan can't be discharged because you didn't complete the program of study at the school (unless you were unable to complete the program because the school closed), didn't like the school or the program of study, or didn't obtain employment after completing the program of study.

Repayment assistance (not a discharge but another way to satisfy your obligation to repay) may be available if you serve in the military. For more information, contact your recruiting officer.

For more information about discharge or repayment assistance, Direct Stafford Loan borrowers should contact the Direct Loan Servicing Center.

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- Step 1:
  Estimating Your
  Financial Aid
  Eligibility
- Step 2:
  Applying for
  Financial Aid

- Step 3:
  Types of
  Financial Aid

- Step 4:
  The Student Aid
  Report, Award
  Packages and
  Disbursement

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