Federal student loans, also known as Direct Loans, are funded by the government and may be awarded as part of your financial aid package if you completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). There are several different types of federal student loans:
- Direct Perkins Loans
- Direct Stafford Loans
- Direct PLUS Loans
- Direct Consolidation Loans
Before applying, it's important to understand the basics about each loan type, as well as eligibility and borrowing limits.
Federal Perkins Loans
Federal Perkins Loans are school-based, low-interest education loans available for US citizens and eligible non-citizens enrolled at least half-time in an undergraduate, graduate or professional program. No credit check or cosigner is required. These loans are awarded based on exceptional financial need.
Direct Stafford Loans
Direct Stafford Loans are available to US citizens and eligible non-citizens enrolled at least half-time in an undergraduate or graduate program. No credit check or cosigner is required. Stafford Loans may be subsidized or unsubsidized. Subsidized Stafford Loans are available to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need, and the government pays the interest on these loans while the student is in school. Unsubsidized Stafford Loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students regardless of financial need and the student is responsible for paying the interest but can defer payments while in school.
Direct PLUS Loans for Parents
Direct PLUS Loans are available to parents who are US citizens and eligible non-citizens with dependent students enrolled at least half-time in an undergraduate program. Parents must pass a credit check. These loans let parents borrow up to the full cost of their child's education less any other financial aid.
Direct PLUS Loans for Graduate and Professional Degree Students
Direct PLUS Loans are available to US citizens and eligible non-citizens enrolled at least half-time in a graduate or professional program. Students must pass a credit check and no cosigner is required. These loans let students borrow up to the full cost of education less any other financial aid.
Federal Consolidation Loans
You can combine multiple federal student loans into one loan with the option of an extended repayment period that will reduce your monthly payment. Contact the Direct Loan Origination Center's Consolidation Department at 1-800-557-7392 or loanconsolidation.ed.gov for more information.
Eligibility for Federal Student Loans
- Dependent students are under 24 years old, not married, do not have dependents and are not veterans.
- Independent students are at least 24 years old, are married, have dependents or are veterans.
- Eligible non-citizens include US permanent residents. Click here for more details on federal student loan eligibility.
How Much Students Can Borrow
Annual loan limits depend on your year in school and whether you are a dependent or independent student. Generally as you continue your education, you are able to borrow more. There are, however, specific caps on the amount of subsidized versus unsubsidized loans (more on that difference below) that students can receive as well as a total amount the loans can't exceed.
How to Apply for Federal Student Loans
To determine if you may be eligible for federal student loans, complete the FAFSA®. There is an additional step for PLUS Loans for Parents, so check with your school for their preferred process.
Use the links below to compare the different types of federal and private student loans.