Home College Loans Federal Student Loans Direct Loans Federal Student Loans for Graduate Students

Federal Student Loans for Graduate and Professional Students

Summary: Students attending graduate school or professional school can take out federal student loans from the Direct Loans program. Direct Unsubsidized Loans, sometimes called Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, offer a fixed interest rate and flexible repayment terms. Financial need is not required to qualify. Students are responsible for paying all of the interest that adds up, until the loan balance is paid off.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans (sometimes called Unsubsidized Stafford Loans) are low-cost, fixed-rate federal student loans available to graduate students, not just undergraduate students. Direct Unsubsidized Loans are the most common — and among the lowest-cost — ways to pay for graduate school and professional school.

*As of July 1, 2012, graduate students can only borrow Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Direct Subsidized Loans are no longer an option.

Key loan benefits for students attending graduate school or professional school:

  • Fixed interest rate of 6.08% (unsubsidized) for the 2019-2020 academic year
  • Borrow up to $20,500 per year ($40,500 for medical professional students)
  • No payments while enrolled in school
  • Eligibility not based on credit

compare student loan interest rates 2019

How to Apply for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan for Graduate School

You need to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) before you can take out federal student loans from the Direct Loans program.

  1. Complete the FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA (for returning students) at FAFSA.ed.gov.
  2. Receive a financial aid award letter by mail or email from your school's financial aid office. This letter will summarize your available financial aid.
  3. Contact your school’s financial aid office to accept the financial aid and student loans.
  4. Sign any associated paperwork such as the Master Promissory Note (MPN).

Graduate School Direct Unsubsidized Loan Eligibility

Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to students attending graduate school and professional school.

Degree programs and common examples:

  • Masters: M.A., M.S.
  • Doctorate: Ph.D., Ed.D.
  • Business: M.B.A.
  • Law: LL.M., J.D., S.J.D.
  • Medical: M.D., D.O.
  • Dental: D.M.D., D.D.S.
  • Nursing: M.S.N., D.N.P.
  • Veterinary medicine: D.V.M.

Loan eligibility and the loan limits are not based on demonstrated financial need.

Find & Compare Private Student Loans for Your School:

Interest Rates and Fees on Direct Unsubsidized Loans for Graduate School

The interest rates on Direct Unsubsidized Loans for graduate and professional students are fixed and do not change over the life of the loan. The interest rate for the 2018-2019 academic year is 6.08%. This is less expensive than the 7.08% interest rate on Grad PLUS Loans.

The interest on a Direct Unsubsidized Loan starts to add up (accrue) from the date the loan is first disbursed. If you don’t pay the interest as it accrues, it will be capitalized (added to the loan balance), increasing the size of the loan.

Fees on Direct Unsubsidized Loans

The current fee (loans first disbursed on Oct. 1, 2019, and before Oct. 1, 2020) on the Direct Unsubsidized Loan for graduate students is 1.059%. This is less expensive than the 4.236% fee on Grad PLUS Loans.

How Fees Affect the Total Loan Cost

Loan fees are basically a form of up-front interest. For example, if your loan has a 10-year repayment term, a 4% fee is the about the same as an increase of about .875% to 1% in the interest rate. If your loan has a 30-year repayment term, a 4% fee is the same as an increase of about .334% to .5% in the interest rate.

Graduate School Loans

Loan Limits: How Much You Can Borrow

Students attending graduate school or professional school can borrow up to $20,500 per year in Direct Unsubsidized Loans. The aggregate (cumulative) loan limit is $138,500, including undergraduate debt (and no more than $65,500 in Direct Subsidized Loans).

Medical school and health professions students may borrow up to $40,500 per year and have an aggregate loan limit of up to $224,000. (Learn more about the borrowing limits for various medical fields of study.)

Direct Unsubsidized Loans for Graduate Students — Borrowing Limits

graduate and professional student annual loan limit

health professional student annual loan limit

aggregate cumulative student loan limits

Students attending graduate school or professional school who have exhausted eligibility for the Direct Unsubsidized Loan can take out a Grad PLUS Loan, another low-cost, fixed-rate federal student loan.

How Loan Funds are Distributed

The U.S. Department of Education sends the Direct Loan funds to your school to be credited to your account. In most cases, the loan will be sent (disbursed) in at least two installments.

Loan funds are credited to your account in this order:

  1. Tuition and fees
  2. Room and board (if you are living in college-owned student housing)
  3. Other school charges (with your permission)

If any loan funds remain in your account, the credit balance will be refunded to you by check, cash, debit card, or electronic funds transfer (EFT) to your bank account. Remember, the refund must be used to pay for your education expenses, such as textbooks, supplies, and equipment.

In-School Deferment and Grace Period

While you are enrolled in school at least half-time, your Direct Loan will be placed into deferment, which means you don’t have to make any payments. In addition, you don’t have to make payments during the 6-month grace period after you graduate or drop below half-time enrollment status. Just remember that interest on your loan will start to accrue (add up) as soon as loan funds are sent to your school. Even though you aren’t making any payments, interest is still adding up.

Repayment

The standard repayment term on Direct Loans is 10 years. However, you can qualify for a longer repayment term if you consolidate the loans or have more than $30,000 in federal student loans with a single lender.

Graduate students who borrow Direct Unsubsidized Loans are generally eligible for all of the different repayment plans offered by the U.S. Department of Education.

Eligible repayment plans:

Comparison of Federal Student Loans for Graduate Students

Direct Unsubsidized Loan

  • 6.08% fixed interest rate
  • 1.059% fee *
  • Demonstrated financial need not required
  • Annual borrowing limit: $20,500 ($40,500 for medical students)
  • You are responsible for paying all interest

Grad PLUS Loan

  • 7.08% fixed interest rate
  • 4.236% fee *
  • Demonstrated financial need not required
  • Annual borrowing limit: Cost of Attendance (COA) minus other financial aid received
  • You are responsible for paying all interest
Sallie Mae student loans offer competitive fixed and variable rates for undergraduates, graduate students and parents. Learn More

Recommendations

  1. File the FAFSA every year to maintain eligibility for student aid.
  2. Take out the maximum amount of Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Perkins Loans (if eligible) before considering a Grad PLUS Loan.
  3. Compare the costs and benefits of Grad PLUS Loans and private student loans. If you have excellent credit or a strong cosigner, you may get a lower interest rate with a private student loan.
  4. If you are denied for a Grad PLUS Loan due to an adverse credit history, find a cosigner (also called an endorser) and reapply.

Get this article in your inbox.

Email This Article
Lender
Benefits

College Ave Student Loans

  • Competitive fixed and variable APRs starting at 2.84%1
  • Multiple repayment options including: full principal and interest, interest-only, deferred, and flat payment
  • Flexible payment terms ranging from 5, 8, 10, and 15 years2
  • Coverage up to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance ($1,000 minimum)3
  • No origination, application and processing fees, no fees for early repayment
  • Apply online in 3 minutes and get an instant credit decision
Learn More »

Get the money you need for school quickly and at a great price.

  • Low rates, free to apply, and no disbursement fees
  • 0.25% interest rate reduction when you make payments by automatic debit1
  • Borrow up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance (minimum $1,000)3
  • The most repayment choices - and help making sense of them
  • No penalty for early repayment

We get it. You want to pay as little interest as possible and have monthly payments you can afford. That's why the College Ave Student Loan Product has low rates and multiple repayment options to help you manage the total cost of the loan.

College Ave Student Loan Full Terms and Information

Sallie Mae Student Loans

  • Variable Rates: 2.87% APR - 10.75% APR (lowest rate shown includes auto debit discount). Fixed rates also available.1
  • Choose from multiple repayment options, including no payments while in school1
  • Get 24/7, online help with our exclusive Study StarterSM benefit, which includes free access to 4 months of Chegg Study® and EasyBib® Plus and 30 minutes of Chegg® Tutors6
Learn More »

Sallie Mae® Smart Option Student Loan® for Undergraduate Students

When grants, scholarships, and federal aid are not enough, choose the Smart Option Student Loan® for Undergraduate Students. You can apply for the money you need for college, and the flexibility you want.

  • Competitive variable rate starting from 2.87% APR to 10.75% APR (Competitive fixed rates also available. Lowest rate shown includes auto debit discount.)1
  • No origination fee and no prepayment penalties2
  • Easy online application accessible on all devices
  • Get a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction while enrolled in and making monthly payments by automatic debit3
  • You can apply for the funds you need to cover all your school-certified expenses for the entire school year including tuition, fees, books, supplies, housing, meals, travel, and even a laptop4
  • Applying with a cosigner may help you get a better rate
  • You may apply to release your cosigner from the loan after you graduate, make 12 on-time principal and interest payments and meet certain credit requirements5
Sallie Mae Student Loan Full Terms and Information

Discover® Student Loans

  • Cover up to 100% of your school-certified college costs including tuition, housing, books and more.1
  • Get a one-time cash reward for good grades.2
  • Variable rates: 2.80% - 11.37%3 (lowest rate shown includes an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments; lowest rates shown are for undergraduate loans)
  • Choose from in-school or deferred repayment options, and there is never a penalty for prepayment.
  • $0 fees for the life of your loan including no application, origination or late fees.
  • Apply now in 15 minutes or less.
Learn More »

Discover® Student Loans

  • Discover Student Loans provides options for Associate or Bachelor's degree programs at eligible colleges and for Masters and Doctoral degree candidates at eligible graduate schools.
  • You can borrow up to 100% of your school-certified costs (including tuition, housing, books and more). Aggregate loan limits apply.
  • Apply today! Choice of great fixed or variable interest rates.
  • Count on $0 fees, including application, origination or late fees.
  • You have the option to make either interest-only or $25 fixed, monthly payments while in school and during the grace period to lower the overall loan cost. However, you can also choose to defer payments, meaning that monthly payments are not required until after the grace period or enrollment drops below half-time.
  • Get a one-time cash reward for each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan when you get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent). Reward redemption period is limited. 2
  • 6-month grace period for undergraduate loans and 9-month grace period for graduate loans.
  • By adding a cosigner, you may improve your likelihood for loan approval and may lower your interest rate.
  • Applying online is quick and easy and our knowledgeable, US-based Student Loan Specialists are ready to help you anytime 24/7. Tools and information at DiscoverStudentLoans.com can help students and parents through each step of the process — from exploring financial aid to repaying student loans.
Discover Student Loan Full Terms and Information

CommonBond Student Loans

  • Competitive fixed & variable rates starting at 3.66%
  • Flexible 5, 10, or 15-year terms
  • Award-winning customer service every step of the way
Learn More »

CommonBond Private Student Loan

Student loans pay for college or graduate school at thousands of schools across the country

Get the help you need to pay for school with CommonBond. We’ve got your back with competitive rates, award-winning service, borrower protections, and multiple repayment options. No hidden fees, no double-digit APRs here. And we offer resources to help you make the right personal finance choices.

We’re on a mission to make student loans more affordable, more transparent, and easier to manage. We provide choices and support every step of the way, and take pride in being a partner on your educational journey. And the best part? With CommonBond, you’ll always receive a competitive rate. No double-digit interest rates here.

Here’s what you get when you choose CommonBond:

  • Flexibility: Since everyone's financial situation is different, we provide flexibility — so you can make the best decision for yourself –
    • Borrow up to 100% of your school's cost of attendance.
    • Loan terms of 5, 10, and 15 years, each available at both fixed and variable rates.
    • Multiple repayment options, from paying as you go while in school (in exchange for a lower rate) to completely postponing payments until you graduate.
  • Service: Our award-winning Care Team is available by phone, email, and live chat to answer any questions you have. Breathe easy — our experts know what you're going through!
  • Simplicity: With our easy online application, you can get approved in minutes. There are no pre-payment penalties and no hassles. No kidding.
  • Resources: We provide expert content, helpful webinars, and easy-to-use tools to help you understand the impact of your choices — so you can make the right decisions.
  • Social Promise: Your loan makes a difference. For every loan we fund we also fund the education of a child in need. We're the first — and only — lender to make that promise.
CommonBond Private Student Loan Full Terms and Information

Stride Funding Income Share Agreements

  • No interest payments!1
  • Payments based on a fixed percentage of future income.
  • Never pay more than you can afford.
Learn More »

Stride Funding Income Share Agreements

Stride Funding offers students flexible ways to pay for their education with Income Share Agreements (ISAs).

  • No interest payments!1
  • Payments based on a fixed percentage of future income.
  • Never pay more than you can afford.
  • Innovative alternative to traditional student loans.
  • Grace period after graduation before payments begin.
  • Pause payments for certain life events.
  • Graduate students or second Bachelor's only (Must have Bachelor's degree).
Stride Funding Income Share Agreement Full Terms and Information
We have changed our Privacy Policy Notice. Your continued use of our website constitutes acceptance of the changes. ×

Find & Compare Private Student Loans for Your School: