About Federal Direct Loans

What are Federal Direct Loans?

Federal Direct Loans are education loans from the U.S. government. They are either subsidized or unsubsidized. They can also be made either to a student (Stafford or Grad PLUS loans) or to a parent (Parent PLUS loans).

A subsidized Stafford loan is awarded on the basis of financial need. You won’t be charged any interest before you begin repayment or during authorized periods of deferment because the federal government “subsidizes” the interest during these periods.

Unlike a subsidized Stafford loan, an unsubsidized Stafford loan and a Grad PLUS (for graduate students only) loan is not based on financial need. You’ll be charged interest from the time the loan is disbursed until it is paid in full. If you allow the interest to accumulate while you are in school or during other periods of nonpayment, it will be capitalized – that is, the interest will be added to the principal amount of your loan, and then additional interest will be based on that higher principal amount.

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

Who can get a Federal Direct Loan?

If you’re a student enrolled in an eligible program at least half time, you may receive a Federal Direct Loan. You must meet other general eligibility requirements as well.

How do I get this loan?

You apply using the FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA, just the way you would for other federal student aid. Then you complete a promissory note provided by the school or the U.S. Department of Education. The promissory note is a binding legal document; when you sign it you’re agreeing to repay the loan under certain terms. Read the note carefully and save it.

How much can I borrow?

The maximum amount you can borrow each year in Federal Direct Loans depends on your year in school and on whether you are a dependent student or an independent student.

What is the interest rate on these loans?

For both Undergraduate Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans:

    • 4.53% for loans first disbursed between 7/1/19 - 6/30/20
    • 5.05% for loans first disbursed between 7/1/18 - 6/30/19
    • 4.45% for loans first disbursed between 7/1/17 - 6/30/18

The interest rate for Graduate and Professional PLUS Loans:

    • 6.08% for loans first disbursed between 7/1/19-6/30/20
    • 6.60% for loans first disbursed between 7/1/18 - 6/30/19
    • 6.00% for loans first disbursed between 7/1/17 - 6/30/18

The interest rate for Parent PLUS Loans:

    • 7.08% for loans first disbursed between 7/1/19 - 6/30/20
    • 7.60% for loans first disbursed between 7/1/18 - 6/30/19
    • 7.00% for loans first disbursed between 7/1/17 - 6/30/18

Each loan also carries an origination fee which varies based on the loan type. For loans where the first disbursement is made on or after October 1, 2019 and before October 1, 2020, the loan fees are as follows: 

  • Direct Subsidized Loand and Direct Unsubsidized Loans: 1.059%. 
  • Graduate and Professional PLUS and Parent PLUS Loans: 4.236%. 

When do I pay back these loans?

After you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment, your lender will send you information about repayment and notification of the date it will begin. You have a six-month grace period before you must begin repayment.

During the grace period on a subsidized loan, you don’t have to pay any principal and you won’t be charged interest. In contrast, you will continue to accrue interest on your unsubsidized loan. You have the option to either pay the interest or it will be capitalized at the end of the 6 month grace period.  

Failing to make payments on your loan is likely to have a negative effect on your credit rating.

How do I get more information about Federal Direct Loans

Get more information on Federal Direct Loans by visiting the U.S. Department of Education's Direct Loan site.