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Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are available through the Federal Perkins Loan Program and the Federal Direct Loan Program.

They allow students and parents/guardians to borrow money at low interest rates directly from the federal government. You should always explore federal loans before private student loans.

  • Federal Perkins Loans
    Federal Perkins Loans are subsidized, low-interest loans (currently 5%) available to undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need. There is no interest charged while a student is in school at least half-time, and there is a 9-month grace period before repayment begins. Not all schools offer Federal Perkins Loans, however, so check with your school’s financial aid office to see if they participate in the program.
  • Direct subsidized loans
    Subsidized loans are for students with demonstrated financial need, as determined by federal regulations. There is no interest charged while an undergraduate student is in school at least half-time and during deferment (a period when loans are postponed).
  • Direct unsubsidized loans
    Unsubsidized federal loans are not based on financial need. Your school determines the amount you can borrow based on your cost of attendance and other financial aid you receive. Interest is charged during all periods and will be capitalized — even when you are in school — and during grace (a specified period following graduation before payments are required) and deferment periods.
  • Direct PLUS Loans
    Direct PLUS Loans are unsubsidized federal loans for the parents of dependent students and for graduate/professional students. PLUS loans can help pay for education expenses up to the cost of attendance minus all other financial assistance. Interest is charged during all periods and will be capitalized.1

How to apply for Federal Direct Loans

Fill out an application! Applying for financial aid, including a federal student loan, is free. All you have to do is complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In addition to federal student loans, the FAFSA also determines your eligibility for other federal student aid like grants and work-study. You must submit the FAFSA to receive federal student aid.

Tips on submitting a FAFSA

Tip 1: Submit your FAFSA on time. Be sure to complete and submit the FAFSA on or as soon as possible after January 1st of the year you expect to start college.

Tip 2: Compile all the paperwork. You’ll need some documents to assist you in filling out the form, such as your or your parent’s/guardian’s most recent income tax return. You will also need:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your parents’ Social Security numbers
  • Your driver’s license number (if you have one)
  • Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen) and
  • Information on personal savings and investment accounts

College Planning CalculatorSM

Many students and their families use an “all of the above” approach to paying for college. Build your overall plan with the College Planning CalculatorSM, a free tool that helps calculate the expected cost of college and how you will successfully pay for it with savings, income, scholarships, grants, and loans.

Start Your Plan


Next steps

Learn more about private student loans

Learn more about the difference between federal and private student loans

Learn more about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Estimate your monthly student loan payment with The Student Loan Repayment Calculator


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1 Interest is charged while you are in school and during the 6-month grace period. Any interest that remains unpaid when you enter full repayment will be added to your loan balance.