FEDERAL DIRECT STUDENT LOANS
The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program is available to eligible students enrolled in at least half-time status. Federal Direct Loans are assistance that must be repaid. To apply for Direct Loans, students must first complete the FAFSA.
The William D. Ford Direct Loan Program offers the following types of student loans:
- Subsidized: for students with demonstrated financial need, as determined by federal regulations. The government pays the interest on Direct Subsidized loans until the student begins their scheduled repayment.
- Unsubsidized: is a non-need-based loan. Interest is charged during all periods, even during the time a student is in school and during grace and deferment periods. The student is responsible for all interest that accrues on a Direct Unsubsidized Loan.
The type of loan a student qualifies for is determined by the Financial Aid Office using the results of the student’s FAFSA, cost of attendance, and overall aid package. Federal Direct PLUS Loans are loans available to parents of eligible dependent undergraduate students to assist covering expenses not covered by other financial aid resources. Federal Direct PLUS loans require credit approval. Additional information on Federal Direct Loans is available at studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/loans.
Federal Direct Loans (subsidized, unsubsidized, and PLUS) for most students are disbursed after all scholarships and waivers. Depending on a students’ borrower-based year, loans will come in one disbursement at the beginning of the term or two disbursements during the term, with the second loan disbursement coming at the 50% point of the loan period.
First time freshmen borrowers will not receive a Federal Direct Loan disbursement until 30 days of the term are completed.
Completion of a Master Promissory Note (MPN) and appropriate Loan Counseling are required for Direct Loan disbursements. The MPN is a legal document in which the student promises to repay their loan(s) and any accrued interest and fees to the Department of Education. It also explains the terms and conditions of their loan(s). The entrance counseling helps students to understand their responsibilities regarding student loans. Students can complete an MPN and loan entrance counseling at studentaid.gov. Students will be required to use their FSA ID to log in. If a student does not have an FSA ID, they can create one from the official FSA ID website.
Students can borrow additional Direct Loans as an undergraduate student on a single MPN for up to 10 years. For each loan certified, a student will receive a disclosure statement that gives them specific information including the loan amount, fees, and the expected disbursement dates and amounts.
In the case of loans, students should keep in mind that whatever amount they borrow must be paid back with interest. Students have the right to decline the loan or to request a lower loan amount.
Federal Loan information at USAO is submitted to the National Student Data System (NSLDS) and is accessible by guaranty agencies, lenders, and schools determined to be authorized users of the data system.
The maximum amount a student can borrow each year in Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans depends on their grade level and on whether they are a dependent or an independent student. The following shows the maximum amount of loan a student may borrow each academic year in Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans:
- Dependent students: $5,500 (maximum $3,500 subsidized)
- Independent students and dependent students whose parents are unable to borrow a PLUS loan: $9,500 (maximum $3,500 subsidized)
- Dependent students: $6,500 (maximum $4,500 subsidized)
- Independent students and dependent students whose parents are unable to borrow a PLUS loan: $10,500 (maximum $4,500 subsidized)
3rd and 4th-year undergraduate:
- Dependent students: $7,500 (maximum $5,500 subsidized)
- Independent students and dependent students whose parents are unable to borrow a PLUS loan: $12,500 (maximum $5,500 subsidized)
The loan amount a student is eligible to receive for an academic year is determined by the financial aid office. Loan amounts are based on a student’s overall eligibility and financial aid package and may be less than the maximum annual amounts shown above.
Below are the aggregate (total) limits for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans:
- $31,000 for dependent undergraduate students, excluding those whose parents are unable to borrow a PLUS Loan (no more than $23,000 may be subsidized).
- $57,500 for independent undergraduate students and dependent undergraduates whose parents are unable to borrow a PLUS loan (no more than $23,000 may be subsidized).
These aggregate limits include both Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans and any subsidized and unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans received through the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program.
For more Direct Loan information and guidance regarding student loan repayment options including assistance for consolidation, deferment, forbearance, and loan cancellation for teachers and certain public service occupations; please visit the Federal Student Loans website.
It is important to have a plan for student loan repayment after graduation, dropping below half-time enrollment status, or at the end of a six-month grace period. When a student stops attending USAO, they will also be required to complete online loan exit counseling, even if the student’s plans are to attend a different school or return at a later date.
Students who are delinquent on student loan payments for 90 days or more, are reported as delinquent to the three major credit bureaus by the loan servicer. Students with unresolved delinquencies go into default.
Defaulting on federal student loans causes the entire unpaid balance of the loan(s), and any interest owed, to become immediately due. This has a negative impact on credit scores, removes eligibility for future Title IV funds, tax refunds or federal benefits payments may be withheld, legal and court action from loan servicers is possible, as well as loss of eligibility for deferment or forbearance, etc.
Both pages can assist in planning for future student loan repayments.
FEDERAL DIRECT PLUS LOANS
If a student classifies as a dependent student and their financial aid package does not meet their full cost of attendance, the student’s parents may be able to take out a Federal Direct Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS). PLUS loans are available to provide a parent with additional resources to help pay the educational expenses of an undergraduate student who is enrolled at least half time. Since the parent is the borrower, the responsibility of repaying PLUS loans rests with the parent rather than the student. As the PLUS loan accrues interest at a higher interest rate than the unsubsidized student loan and repayment begins immediately, USAO encourages that student loan eligibility be maximized before applying for a PLUS loan.
When applying for a Direct PLUS Loan, the Department of Education will check the credit history of the applicant to determine approval. If denied, the applicant may choose to obtain an endorser who does not have an adverse credit history to try to gain approval. In some cases, a parent may also be able to obtain the PLUS loan if they provide documentation to show that there are extenuating circumstances related to the adverse credit history. If the PLUS loan is denied, the student may have the option to borrow additional unsubsidized student loan. PLUS loans approved with an endorser or on appeal are also required to complete loan credit counseling.
The maximum PLUS amount is equal to the student’s cost of attendance minus any other financial aid received and will be determined by the financial aid office.
To apply for a Direct PLUS Loan, you must complete a PLUS Application and Master Promissory Note (MPN). This MPN will remain effective for 10 years. A parent can begin the PLUS process at studentaid.gov, using their FSA ID. If your parent does not have an FSA ID, they can create one at the official FSA ID website.
For more information on the Federal PLUS Loan program, visit the PLUS Loans website.
ALTERNATIVE OR PRIVATE LOANS
Alternative, or private, loans are student loans that assist families in meeting the cost of their education that traditional financial aid and their own resources cannot cover. These loans are generally less favorable in their terms and conditions than federal student and/or parent loans and therefore should not be considered until AFTER a student has exhausted all federal loan options. Most of these loans must be certified (processed) by the Financial Aid Office and considered part of the student’s financial aid package.
Alternative, or private, loans are credit-based loans, often require co-signers, are unable to be consolidated with federal student loans, and have no interest rate cap. Students that borrow from both federal and private loans will typically have multiple payments which could make the total monthly payment higher than it would be if the same amount was borrowed from a single source.
Researching and choosing the best lender is crucial when it comes to alternative loans. A student should consider their current financial relationships to see what they may have to offer. If a student must borrow these additional loans, they need to consider all factors and make the best decision for their needs.
To help students make informed decisions about alternative loans we have partnered with Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, INC, and utilize their service, Fast Choice, to provide students with information about student loans. Fast Choice hosts our historical lender list which includes all private lenders that have provided education loans to our students within the last 3 years. This information is updated annually.
We do not recommend or endorse any private lender on this list, nor do we receive compensation for a lender’s inclusion. USAO does not require students to borrow from any lender. Students are free to pick any eligible lender they wish for alternative loans. This includes alternative loan companies not included on our historical lending list.
The federal Truth in Lending Act requires a lender to obtain a self-certification signed by the applicant before disbursing a private education loan. The school is required on request to provide the form or the required information only for students admitted or enrolled at the school. Student borrowers must complete the application (which is provided by the lender as part of the application process) and return it to the lender. To request a self-certification form and/or the information required to complete the form, please contact email@example.com.
RESOURCES AND INFORMATION
Direct Loan Information Website & Repayment Assistance
Federal Loan Servicers:
Are your student loans in default?
Do you need information on your previous lenders and student loan history?
Direct loan consolidation: