Loans available to graduate students are provided by various sources, including the federal and state governments and private agencies. Students who are citizens of the United States or persons with permanent resident or refugee status are eligible to apply for loans through the federal government. International students in the United States may be eligible for non-federal student loans from private agencies if the student has a creditworthy co-borrower who is a United States citizen, living in the Unites States.
Federal Stafford Loan Program
The primary purpose of the Federal Stafford Loan Program is to make low-interest loans available to students with financial need to help them meet their educational expenses. Two kinds of loans are available under the Federal Stafford Loan Program-subsidized and unsubsidized. The subsidized Stafford is based on financial need; the annual limit for graduate students is $8,500. The unsubsidized Stafford is based on the cost of education less any other financial aid a student receives up to a maximum of $18,500 annually. Students must first be considered for the subsidized loan before eligibility for the unsubsidized loan may be determined.
The federal government pays the interest on the subsidized loan while the student is in school at least half-time. Students who have nonsubsidized loans are responsible for the interest during in-school periods. The option of paying the interest while in school or having the interest added to the principal balance of the loan is available.
The Higher Education Amendments of 1992 made conforming changes in interest rates and the formulae used to calculate the interest rates for the Stafford Load Program. The changes became effective for loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 1994, for periods of enrollment that either include that date or begin after that date. The new variable rate provisions on subsidized and unsubsidized Federal Stafford loans will apply to all borrowers whether or not the borrower has an outstanding balance under the Federal Stafford Loan Program. The interest rate will be set each June--not to exceed 8.25 percent. Borrowers of Federal Stafford loans issued prior to the enactment of 1992 will continue to pay interest at the same rate indicated in their promissory notes for loans issued before July 1, 1994.
Federal Perkins Loans
The Federal Perkins Loan is a federally supported, low-interest education loan administered by Columbia University. Priority for the Federal Perkins Loan must be given to students with exceptional need. The current fixed interest rate, payable during the repayment period, is 5 percent. Repayment begins nine months after a student ceases to be enrolled at least half-time. The repayment period may extend up to ten years.
Supplemental Loan Programs
Several supplemental loan programs have been established to assist families in paying education expenses if additional funds are needed. Information regarding supplemental loans is sent to students during the summer prior to enrollment. These loans are not based on need and the maximum loan amount can range up to the cost of attendance, including living expenses.