Comparison of Federal and Private Student Loans

At Discover Student Loans, we believe in responsible borrowing and encourage students to maximize grants, scholarships and other free financial aid before taking student loans. The charts below compare federal and private student loans for undergraduate and graduate students, including masters and doctoral candidates.

When you compare your options, you may find private student loans are more competitive than federal student loans. Learn more about evaluating student loans.

Federal
Direct Stafford Loan
Federal
Direct PLUS Loan
Discover
Undergraduate Loan
BorrowerStudentParent of dependent undergraduate student
(may require an endorser)
Student
(may require a cosigner)
LenderGovernmentGovernmentDiscover Bank
Annual Loan Limit
Loan amounts are certified and disbursed through the school
Includes subsidized and unsubsidized loans up to:
Year Dependent Independent
1st $5,500 $9,500
2nd $6,500 $10,500
3rd $7,500 $12,500
4th $7,500 $12,500
(a dependent student whose parent is denied for a PLUS loan may borrow up to the independent student limit)
Up to 100% of your cost of attendance Annual cost of attending a specific school, including tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses. This amount is determined by your school. minus other financial aidUp to 100% of your cost of attendance Annual cost of attending a specific school, including tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses. This amount is determined by your school. minus other financial aid
Interest Rate
4.66% fixed
(for subsidized and unsubsidized loans with a first disbursement between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015)
7.21% fixed
(for loans with a first disbursement between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015)
Fixed Rates
5.99% APR to 11.24% APR

Variable Rates
3.37% APR to 8.87% APR (starting rates currently range from 3-Month LIBOR + 2.99% to 3-Month LIBOR + 8.49%)

View APR examples

The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for a variable rate loan may increase during the life of the loan if the 3-Month LIBOR increases. This may result in higher monthly payments, an increase in the number of scheduled payments or both.
Origination Fees1.073% of loan amount for subsidized and unsubsidized loans with a first disbursement made between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015.4.292% of loan amount for loans with a first disbursement made between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015.Zero
Rewards for Good GradesNoNoYes
0.25% Auto Debit RewardYesYesYes
Payment Deferment while in SchoolNo payments due until 6 months after graduation or enrollment in school less than half-timePayments typically begin within 2 months of final disbursement; you have the option to defer payments until 6 months after student's graduation or enrollment in school less than half-timeNo payments due until 6 months after graduation or enrollment in school less than half-time unless the borrower has elected, during the application process, to make $25 in-school fixed payments
Repayment Plans10 years standard with flexibility to extend up to 25 years and multiple repayment options
(visit direct.ed.gov for details)
10 years standard with flexibility to extend up to 25 years and multiple repayment options
(visit direct.ed.gov for details)
15 years standard repayment
Eligible Academic Programs
Must be enrolled at least half-time
Degree, certificate, study-abroad or certain distance education programs. For more information, contact your school's financial aid office.Degree, certificate, study-abroad or certain distance education programs. For more information, contact your school's financial aid office.4- or 5-year undergraduate degree programs
International Student EligibilityNoNoYes (with eligible cosigner)
FAFSA RequiredYesYes, student must complete FAFSANo
Credit Check RequiredNoYesYes
CosignerNoBorrowers with adverse credit history may be required to apply with an endorser
(visit direct.ed.gov for details)
Depends on your credit evaluation. Applying with a creditworthy cosigner may improve your likelihood for loan approval and may lower your interest rate
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Federal
Direct Stafford Loan
Federal
Direct PLUS Loan
Discover
Health Professions Loan
BorrowerStudentStudent
(may require an endorser)
Student
(may require a cosigner)
LenderGovernmentGovernmentDiscover Bank
Annual Loan Limit
Loan amounts are certified and disbursed through the school
Up to $20,500 (certain health profession programs may be higher; contact your financial aid office for exact amounts)Up to 100% of your cost of attendance Annual cost of attending a specific school, including tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses. This amount is determined by your school. minus other financial aidUp to 100% of your cost of attendance Annual cost of attending a specific school, including tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses. This amount is determined by your school. minus other financial aid
Interest Rate
6.21% fixed
(for unsubsidized loans with a first disbursement between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015)
7.21% fixed
(for loans with a first disbursement between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015)
Fixed Rates
5.99% APR to 9.99% APR

Variable Rates
3.37% APR to 7.62% APR (starting rates currently range from 3-Month LIBOR + 2.99% to 3-Month LIBOR + 7.24%)

View APR examples

The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for a variable rate loan may increase during the life of the loan if the 3-Month LIBOR increases. This may result in higher monthly payments, an increase in the number of scheduled payments or both.
Origination Fees1.073% of loan amount for subsidized and unsubsidized loans with a first disbursement made between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015.4.292% of loan amount for loans with a first disbursement made between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015.Zero
Rewards for Good GradesNoNoYes
0.25% Auto Debit RewardYesYesYes
Payment Deferment while in SchoolNo payments due until 6 months after graduation or enrollment in school less than half-timeNo payments due until 6 months after graduation or enrollment in school less than half-timeNo payments due until 9 months after graduation or enrollment in school less than half-time unless the borrower has elected, during the application process, to make $25 in-school fixed payments
Repayment Plans10 years standard with flexibility to extend up to 25 years and multiple repayment options
(visit direct.ed.gov for details)
10 years standard with flexibility to extend up to 25 years and multiple repayment options
(visit direct.ed.gov for details)
20 years standard repayment
Eligible Academic Programs
Must be enrolled at least half-time
Degree, certificate, study-abroad or certain distance education programs. For more information, contact your school's financial aid office.Degree, certificate, study-abroad or certain distance education programs. For more information, contact your school's financial aid office.Graduate degree programs in Allopathy, Dentistry, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Optometry, Osteopathy, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant, Podiatry or Veterinary Medicine
International Student EligibilityNoNoYes (with eligible cosigner)
FAFSA RequiredYesYesNo
Credit Check RequiredNoYesYes
CosignerNoBorrowers with adverse credit history may be required to apply with an endorser
(visit direct.ed.gov for details)
Depends on your credit evaluation. Applying with a creditworthy cosigner may improve your likelihood for loan approval and may lower your interest rate
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Federal
Direct Stafford Loan
Federal
Direct PLUS Loan
Discover
Law Loan
BorrowerStudentStudent
(may require an endorser)
Student
(may require a cosigner)
LenderGovernmentGovernmentDiscover Bank
Annual Loan Limit
Loan amounts are certified and disbursed through the school
Up to $20,500 (certain health profession programs may be higher; contact your financial aid office for exact amounts)Up to 100% of your cost of attendance Annual cost of attending a specific school, including tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses. This amount is determined by your school. minus other financial aidUp to 100% of your cost of attendance Annual cost of attending a specific school, including tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses. This amount is determined by your school. minus other financial aid
Interest Rate
6.21% fixed
(for unsubsidized loans with a first disbursement between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015)
7.21% fixed
(for loans with a first disbursement between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015)
Fixed Rates
5.99% APR to 9.99% APR

Variable Rates
3.37% APR to 7.62% APR (starting rates currently range from 3-Month LIBOR + 2.99% to 3-Month LIBOR + 7.24%)

View APR examples

The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for a variable rate loan may increase during the life of the loan if the 3-Month LIBOR increases. This may result in higher monthly payments, an increase in the number of scheduled payments or both.
Origination Fees1.073% of loan amount for subsidized and unsubsidized loans with a first disbursement made between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015.4.292% of loan amount for loans with a first disbursement made between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015.Zero
Rewards for Good GradesNoNoYes
0.25% Auto Debit RewardYesYesYes
Payment Deferment while in SchoolNo payments due until 6 months after graduation or enrollment in school less than half-timeNo payments due until 6 months after graduation or enrollment in school less than half-timeNo payments due until 9 months after graduation or enrollment in school less than half-time unless the borrower has elected, during the application process, to make $25 in-school fixed payments
Repayment Plans10 years standard with flexibility to extend up to 25 years and multiple repayment options
(visit direct.ed.gov for details)
10 years standard with flexibility to extend up to 25 years and multiple repayment options
(visit direct.ed.gov for details)
20 years standard repayment
Eligible Academic Programs
Must be enrolled at least half-time
Degree, certificate, study-abroad or certain distance education programs. For more information, contact your school's financial aid office.Degree, certificate, study-abroad or certain distance education programs. For more information, contact your school's financial aid office.Graduate law degree programs
International Student EligibilityNoNoYes (with eligible cosigner)
FAFSA RequiredYesYesNo
Credit Check RequiredNoYesYes
CosignerNoBorrowers with adverse credit history may be required to apply with an endorser
(visit direct.ed.gov for details)
Depends on your credit evaluation. Applying with a creditworthy cosigner may improve your likelihood for loan approval and may lower your interest rate
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Federal
Direct Stafford Loan
Federal
Direct PLUS Loan
Discover
MBA Loan
BorrowerStudentStudent
(may require an endorser)
Student
(may require a cosigner)
LenderGovernmentGovernmentDiscover Bank
Annual Loan Limit
Loan amounts are certified and disbursed through the school
Up to $20,500 (certain health profession programs may be higher; contact your financial aid office for exact amounts)Up to 100% of your cost of attendance Annual cost of attending a specific school, including tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses. This amount is determined by your school. minus other financial aidUp to 100% of your cost of attendance Annual cost of attending a specific school, including tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses. This amount is determined by your school. minus other financial aid
Interest Rate
6.21% fixed
(for unsubsidized loans with a first disbursement between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015)
7.21% fixed
(for loans with a first disbursement between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015)
Fixed Rates
5.99% APR to 9.99% APR

Variable Rates
3.37% APR to 7.62% APR (starting rates currently range from 3-Month LIBOR + 2.99% to 3-Month LIBOR + 7.24%)

View APR examples

The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for a variable rate loan may increase during the life of the loan if the 3-Month LIBOR increases. This may result in higher monthly payments, an increase in the number of scheduled payments or both.
Origination Fees1.073% of loan amount for subsidized and unsubsidized loans with a first disbursement made between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015.4.292% of loan amount for loans with a first disbursement made between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015.Zero
Rewards for Good GradesNoNoYes
0.25% Auto Debit RewardYesYesYes
Payment Deferment while in SchoolNo payments due until 6 months after graduation or enrollment in school less than half-timeNo payments due until 6 months after graduation or enrollment in school less than half-timeNo payments due until 9 months after graduation or enrollment in school less than half-time unless the borrower has elected, during the application process, to make $25 in-school fixed payments
Repayment Plans10 years standard with flexibility to extend up to 25 years and multiple repayment options
(visit direct.ed.gov for details)
10 years standard with flexibility to extend up to 25 years and multiple repayment options
(visit direct.ed.gov for details)
20 years standard repayment
Eligible Academic Programs
Must be enrolled at least half-time
Degree, certificate, study-abroad or certain distance education programs. For more information, contact your school's financial aid office.Degree, certificate, study-abroad or certain distance education programs. For more information, contact your school's financial aid office.Graduate business degree programs
International Student EligibilityNoNoYes (with eligible cosigner)
FAFSA RequiredYesYesNo
Credit Check RequiredNoYesYes
CosignerNoBorrowers with adverse credit history may be required to apply with an endorser
(visit direct.ed.gov for details)
Depends on your credit evaluation. Applying with a creditworthy cosigner may improve your likelihood for loan approval and may lower your interest rate
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Federal
Direct Stafford Loans
Federal
Direct PLUS Loans
Discover
Graduate Loan
BorrowerStudentStudent
(may require an endorser)
Student
(may require a cosigner)
LenderGovernmentGovernmentDiscover Bank
Annual Loan Limit
Loan amounts are certified and disbursed through the school.
Up to $20,500 (certain health profession programs may be higher; contact your financial aid office for exact amounts)Up to 100% of your cost of attendance Annual cost of attending a specific school, including tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses. This amount is determined by your school. minus other financial aidUp to 100% of your cost of attendance Annual cost of attending a specific school, including tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses. This amount is determined by your school. minus other financial aid
Interest Rate
6.21% fixed
(for unsubsidized loans with a first disbursement between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015)
7.21% fixed
(for loans with a first disbursement between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015)
Fixed Rates
5.99% APR to 10.99% APR

Variable Rates
3.37% APR to 8.62% APR (starting rates currently range from 3-Month LIBOR + 2.99% to 3-Month LIBOR + 8.24%)

View APR examples

The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for a variable rate loan may increase during the life of the loan if the 3-Month LIBOR increases. This may result in higher monthly payments, an increase in the number of scheduled payments or both.
Origination Fees1.073% of loan amount for subsidized and unsubsidized loans with a first disbursement made between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015.4.292% of loan amount for loans with a first disbursement made between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015.Zero
Rewards for Good GradesNoNoYes
0.25% Auto Debit RewardYesYesYes
Payment Deferment while in SchoolNo payments due until 6 months after graduation or enrollment in school less than half-timeNo payments due until 6 months after graduation or enrollment in school less than half-timeNo payments due until 9 months after graduation or enrollment in school less than half-time unless the borrower has elected, during the application process, to make $25 in-school fixed payments
Repayment Plans10 years standard with flexibility to extend up to 25 years and multiple repayment options
(visit direct.ed.gov for details)
10 years standard with flexibility to extend up to 25 years and multiple repayment options
(visit direct.ed.gov for details)
20 years standard repayment
Eligible Academic Programs
Must be enrolled at least half-time
Degree, certificate, study-abroad or certain distance education programs. For more information, contact your school's financial aid officeDegree, certificate, study-abroad or certain distance education programs. For more information, contact your school's financial aid office.Graduate degree programs
International Student EligibilityNoNoYes (with eligible cosigner)
FAFSA RequiredYesYesNo
Credit Check RequiredNoYesYes
CosignerNoBorrowers with adverse credit history may be required to apply with an endorser
(visit direct.ed.gov for details)
Depends on your credit evaluation. Applying with a creditworthy cosigner may improve your likelihood for loan approval and may lower your interest rate
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