How Does Federal Student Loan Work
Federal student loans are the most popular form of financing for students. They come in a variety of forms and offer a number of benefits over private alternatives. The most common type is the Stafford loan, which offers a variety of repayment options based on your income level and whether you went to school part- or full-time.
Federal Direct Subsidized Loans
If you’re eligible for a subsidized loan, the government will cover up to half of your interest costs for the duration of your undergraduate education. This means that if you borrow $5,500 and only pay interest on $2,875 over four years of college (or less), then when it comes time to repay those loans at graduation, what used to be a balance of $5,500 will have been reduced by thousands of dollars due to defaulted interest payments by the federal government.
You can get a subsidized loan if:
- You qualify for financial aid through FAFSA or state grants
- You have demonstrated financial need as determined by federal guidelines or state-specific programs such as Minnesota’s Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) program
- You are considered an undergraduate dependent student (unless married with family income above 150% of poverty level)
Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans
Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students. You can get an unsubsidized loan if you are in college, but it’s not necessary—you can also receive a subsidized loan. If you have more than $20,000 in student loans at any point during your repayment period (this is called debt-to-income), you may be eligible for this type of federal student loan program.
Unsubsidized loans have the same interest rates as other federal loans, which differ by school type and cost of living. However, unlike other types of federal aid, interest on these loans accrues from the day that you borrow them; it doesn’t stop accruing until after graduation or drop/add enrollment periods end!
The amount you can borrow depends on the cost of attendance at your child’s school, minus any financial aid your child receives from other sources. If you’re borrowing to pay for more than one student at a time, the amount is capped at $12,500 per year ($50,000 total) with a lifetime limit of $150,000 per borrower. You can take out a PLUS loan to pay for costs not covered by an undergraduate’s financial aid (such as room and board).
Federal PLUS Loans
A PLUS loan, also known as a Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students, is a federal student loan that parents can take out in the name of their child. Unlike the other loans on this page, PLUS loans do not have interest rates determined by an individual’s credit score. Instead, they follow the same interest rate schedule as unsubsidized Stafford loans.
To be eligible for a PLUS loan, you must:
- Have a valid Social Security number (or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number if you’re not eligible to receive a Social Security number)
- Be currently enrolled at least half-time in college at an eligible school
- Not be in default on any federal education loans or owe money on grant funds received from another government agency
You can get federal student loans.
You can get federal student loans if you’re a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible noncitizen. You must also have a high school diploma or GED, be enrolled at least half time in an eligible program at an eligible school, and have a valid social security number (SSN).
*What does this look like in practice? If you borrow $20,000 on January 1st, then by June 30th the loan will be accruing interest at an annual rate of 4%. By December 31st, it will have accrued 2% more interest—so now your total balance stands at $20,400! This is why it’s important that students budget their money carefully while they’re still paying things off. A subsidized student loan is one where your school pays some
Students are typically eligible for federal student loans if they’re U.S. citizens or permanent residents who have completed high school or received their GED, are enrolled at least half time in an eligible program at an accredited school and have a valid SSN* Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application A PLUS loan is not limited to covering the cost of tuition, but can also be used to pay for room and board, books, transportation, and other educational expenses. The amount that you can borrow will depend on your credit score and how much of your child’s college costs are already covered by grants and scholarships..
In the end, federal student loans are the most common type of student loan available. They can be a great resource for students who need additional funding to pay for college or graduate school. The key is knowing how they work and what kind of options you have when applying for one!