Applying for aid
As with all federal student aid, you apply for Direct Loans by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Most students use FAFSA on the Web to complete their applications. The information on your FAFSA is transmitted to the schools that you list on the application, and those schools use the information to assess your financial need for student aid.
The award package
Direct Loans are generally awarded as part of a larger "award package," which may contain other types of aid as well, to help you meet the costs of going to college or career school.
The Direct Loan Program offers the following types of loans:
Subsidized: for students with demonstrated financial need, as determined by federal regulations. No interest is charged while a student is in school at least half-time, during the grace period, and during deferment periods.
Unsubsidized: not based on financial need; interest is charged during all periods, even during the time a student is in school and during grace and deferment periods.
PLUS: unsubsidized loans for the parents of dependent students and for graduate/professional students. PLUS loans help pay for education expenses up to the cost of attendance minus all other financial assistance. Interest is charged during all periods.
Consolidation: Eligible federal student loans can be combined into one Direct Consolidation Loan.
Student borrowers are not required to begin making payments until after they drop below half-time attendance. See When you graduate or leave school for more information.
Your school will tell you how much you may borrow and the types of loans your are eligible to receive. The information below will give you an idea of how much you may be eligible to receive.
Note: PLUS loan borrowers cannot have an adverse credit history (a credit check will be done).
Accepting a loan
Your school will notify you of the loan amounts that it is offering, usually in an "award letter" that lists all of your proposed financial aid awards (your award package).
You should evaluate the aid offer carefully. In the case of loans, keep in mind that whatever amount you borrow must be paid back with interest. If your living expenses are not as high as the standard allowance projected by your school, you may not have to borrow as much as the amount in the award letter.
Direct Stafford Loan Limits (Subsidized and Unsubsidized)
$20,500 ($8,500) for each year
3rd- and 4th-year
Except those whose parents are unable to borrow a PLUS loan.
These limits also apply to dependent students whose parents are unable to borrow a PLUS loan.
The numbers in parentheses represent the maximum amount that may be subsidized.
The aggregate amounts for graduate students include loans for undergraduate study.