Direct Unsubsidized Loans (sometimes called Unsubsidized Stafford Loans) are low-cost, fixed-rate federal student loans available to both undergraduate and graduate students. Financial need is not required, so even students from wealthier families can borrow Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
Most students who qualify for federal aid are eligible to take out a Direct Unsubsidized Loan.
Your family’s financial circumstances do not matter. Even wealthy families can qualify.
The interest rates on Direct Unsubsidized Loans are fixed and do not change over the life of the loan.
Every year on July 1, interest rates reset for new loans first disbursed on or after July 1.
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) when you enter repayment, increasing the size of the loan.
The current fee (October 1, 2019 - September 30, 2020) on Direct Loans is 1.059%. Fees are deducted from each loan disbursement. You can ask the college financial aid office to increase the loan amount to cover the fees, up to the annual loan limit.
The amount you can borrow from the Direct Loans program is subject to annual and aggregate loan limits:
The following graphic outlines the various loan limits for different types of students, and annual and aggregate limits for subsidized and unsubsidized loans.
If you have unusual family circumstances (such as a parent in prison), contact your school’s financial aid office and ask for a dependency override to get independent student limits.
If your parent is denied for a Parent PLUS Loan, you become eligible for the same loan limits as independent students. Contact your school’s financial aid office for details.
Loan limits are also capped at the college’s annual cost of attendance.
If you are a first-time Direct Loans borrower, you will be required to attend entrance counseling before your loan funds are sent to your school (disbursed). Some schools require in-person counseling, but many offer online counseling. You will learn about the loan terms and requirements during the counseling session.
You will also be required to sign a Master Promissory Note (MPN) before the loans can be disbursed.
The Direct Loan program sends the funds to your school to be credited to your student account. In most cases, the loan will be sent (disbursed) in at least two installments.
Special reminder: There is typically a 30-day delay in disbursing student loans to first-time, first-year borrowers.
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 direct and indirect education expenses, such as textbooks, supplies, and equipment.
Read our blog on financial aid disbursement for more details.
While you are enrolled in school at least half-time, your Direct Loans 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.
The interest on your Direct Unsubsidized Loans will start to accrue (add up) as soon as all of the loan funds are sent to your school. Even though you aren’t making any payments, interest is still adding up.
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.
Direct Unsubsidized Loans are eligible for all of the different repayment plans offered by the U.S. Department of Education.
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