PLUS Loans for Graduate and Professional Degree Students

What is the Graduate/Professional PLUS Loan?

Graduate/Professional PLUS Loans are low-interest loans meant to help cover college expenses for graduate and professional degree students. You can borrow up to their cost of attendance minus the amount of any other financial aid you receive.

You do not have to prove financial need, but the loans are unsubsidized -- this means that interest accumulates while you are attending graduate school. You need a positive credit history to qualify.

Repayment begins on the date of the last loan disbursement. and There is a fixed interest rate of 7.9 percent.

Note: Prior to July 1, 2010, some loans were through private lenders under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFELSM) Program. This program has been discontinued.

How do I qualify for the loan?

To qualify for a Graduate/Professional PLUS loan, you must be enrolled at least half time in a graduate or professional program (for example, a program that leads to a master's degree or to a law or medical degree).

You must meet all of the other general eligibility requirements for the Federal Student Aid programs. For example, you must be a United States citizen or eligible non-citizen, and you must not be in default on a federal student loan or owe a refund on a federal education grant. You must also pass a credit check. If you don't pass, you may still be able to receive a loan by documenting any existing extenuating (difficult and unusual) circumstances, or by obtaining an endorser who does not have an adverse credit history. An endorser or co-signer is someone who agrees to repay the loan if you fail to do so.

Can I borrow a Graduate/Professional PLUS Loan to pay for courses required for teacher certification or that are prerequisites for admission into a graduate or professional program?

No. You must be enrolled in a graduate or professional program.

How do I apply?

For a Graduate/Professional PLUS Loan, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You must also complete a Federal PLUS Loan application.

Before receiving your Graduate/Professional PLUS Loan, you must sign a Master Promissory Note (MPN) that you'll get from your school or from the Department of Education. You may be able to complete the application and MPN online -- check with your school's financial aid office. The MPN explains the terms and conditions of your loan and is your legally binding agreement to repay your loan.

Note that you must have applied for your annual loan maximum eligibility under the Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loan Program before applying for a Graduate/Professional PLUS loan.

Can I cancel the loan if I change my mind?

Yes. Before your loan money is disbursed (paid out), you may cancel all or part of the loan by notifying your school of your decision. After your loan money is disbursed, you may cancel all or part of your loan within certain timeframes. For details, refer to the Borrower's Rights and Responsibilities Statement that accompanies your PLUS MPN.

How much can I borrow?

With a Graduate/Professional PLUS Loan, you may borrow up to your full cost of attendance, minus any other financial aid you receive (including other loans, scholarships and certain fellowships).

Your cost of attendance (COA) is the total amount it will cost you to go to school -- usually expressed as a yearly figure. It is determined using rules established by law. The COA includes tuition and fees, on-campus room and board (or a housing and food allowance for off-campus students), and allowances for books, supplies, transportation, loan fees and dependent care, if applicable.

What's the interest rate on Graduate/Professional PLUS Loans?

Direct PLUS Loans have an interest rate of 7.9 percent. This rate is fixed, meaning that it will not change throughout the life of your loan.

Other than interest, is there a charge to get a Graduate/Professional PLUS Loan?

Yes. In addition to interest, you will pay a loan fee of up to four percent of the principal amount of the loan. The U.S. Department of Education charges the loan fee to help reduce the cost of making these low-interest loans. The loan fee is deducted proportionately each time a loan disbursement is made. In other words, because it is a percentage of the principal amount, the fee will get smaller as as you make payments on the principal.

How much will I have to pay back each month?

You will be able to choose from a variety of repayment plans designed to meet your needs. Your monthly payment amount on a PLUS Loan will vary depending on the repayment plan that you choose and how much you borrowed. Your loan servicer will provide you with information on available repayment plans. They can also provide you with estimated monthly payment amounts for different debt levels or for other repayment plans.

When do I pay back the loan?

Your first payment will be due within 60 days after the loan is fully disbursed (paid out). This will generally be while you are still in school.

Is it ever possible to postpone repayment of the loan?

You may postpone repayment while you are enrolled in school at least half-time. If your PLUS loan was first disbursed on or after July 1, 2008, you may suspend repayment for an additional six months. If you are unable to make payments on your Direct PLUS Loan after you leave school and your in-school deferment ends, you may request a forbearance that will allow you to temporarily postpone payments. You will have to explain why you are unable to make payments. To request a forbearance, contact your loan holder servicer.

Is interest charged during deferment or forbearance?

Yes. Interest is charged on a PLUS Loan starting on the date of the first loan disbursement, and it continues to be charged during periods of deferment or forbearance.

If you don't pay the interest as it accumulates, it will be capitalized. This means that the interest will be added to the principal amount of the loan, and additional interest will be based on that higher amount. In other words, the loan will get bigger!

Can a PLUS Loan debt ever be discharged?

Yes, under certain conditions such as bankruptcy, disability and death. A discharge releases you from your obligation to repay the loan.

The following reasons are not sufficient to discharge your PLUS Loan debt:

  • You didn't complete your program of study at your school (unless you couldn't complete the program for a valid reason -- for example, the school closed)
  • You didn't like the school or the program of study
  • You didn't obtain employment after completing the program of study

Can I consolidate my Graduate/Professional PLUS Loans with my other student loans?

Yes, you may consolidate your Direct PLUS Loans with your other eligible student loans after you leave school. Consolidation is the combining of several loans into a single loan to reduce the monthly payment amount and/or increase the repayment period.

Note that the repayment period for a consolidation loan begins as soon as the loan is made. Therefore, if you want to consolidate your PLUS Loans with other student loans that have a grace period, you should wait to do so until shortly before the end of the grace period on the other loans.

How can I get more information?

For more information on Student Financial Assistance Programs, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center:

Internet: Student Aid on the Web

Phone: 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)

TTY: 1-800-730-8913

(Spanish speakers are available)

For more information about repayment of Direct PLUS Loans repayment, contact the Direct Loan Servicing Center:

Internet: https://www.myedaccount.com/

Phone: 1-800-848-0979

TDD: 1-800-848-0983