Understanding Direct Loans

DIRECT LOANS

For the 2007-2008 academic year, 65.6 percent of al undergraduates received some form of financial aid. Of the 65.6 percent, nearly 40 percent received student loans. Although students may receive grants, which do not have to be paid back, they might not be enough to cover tuition costs, books, housing, and day-to-day living expenses. Student loan programs, such as the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, can help fill the gap.

Direct Loans are low-interest loans for students and parents. Direct Subsidized Loans for undergraduates with a first disbursement date between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011 have an interest rate of 4.5 percent. For graduate students Direct Subsidized Loans (no interest payments until after the grace period ends) have an interest rate of 6.8 percent and Direct Unsubsidized Loans (interest must be paid while enrolled) for all students have an interest rate of 6.8 percent. Direct Plus Loans have an interest rate of 7.9 percent.

Although the U.S. Department of Education is the Direct Loan Lender, the loan servicer is usually a private entity that is responsible for collecting, monitoring, and reporting loan payments. One such entity is American Education Services (AES) which was established by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) to guarantee and service student loans for millions of borrowers across the U.S.

Direct Loans have loan limits and the limit depends on the year of study and whether the student is a graduate, undergraduate, dependent or independent. Direct Loan limits are as follows:

Dependent Student
1st-year undergraduate: $5,500 (maximum $3,500 subsidized)
2nd-year undergraduate: $6,500 (maximum $4,500 subsidized)
3rd- and 4th-year undergraduate: $7,500 (maximum $5,500 subsidized)

Independent Student
1st-year undergraduate: $9,500 (maximum $3,500 subsidized)
2nd-year undergraduate: $10,500 (maximum $4,500 subsidized)
3rd- and 4th-year undergraduate: $12,500 (maximum $5,500 subsidized)

Graduate Student
$20,500 (maximum $8,500 subsidized)
*All graduate and professional students are considered independent

To apply for a Direct Loan, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To complete your application, use FAFSA on the Web. Once your application has been processed, you will receive an award package that contains information about which grants and loans you will receive and the amounts. Direct Loans are awarded as part of this package. Direct Loans are not based on credit or employment history, so unless you are independently wealthy, you are almost guaranteed approval.

For more information about the Direct Loan Program, please visit the official Department of Education Federal Student Aid website at www.direct.ed.gov.

  

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