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What Is An Unsubsidized Loan For College

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The Difference between Subsidized and Unsubsidized Student Loans

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What Is An Unsubsidized Loan Definition And Explanation

You have a general idea of what it means to take out a loan, but calling a loan “unsubsidized” makes it sound a bit suspicious. What is an unsubsidized loan, and how are they different from subsidized loans? Are they good options if you’re considering taking on student debt?

Here’s the unsubsidized loan definition: a Direct Unsubsidized loan is one type of financial aid provided by the US federal government, or more specifically, the US Department of Education. You can also receive Direct Subsidized loans as part of your financial aid package.

In this post, I’ll discuss why these loans exist, before talking in more detail about how loans usually work. With this information, you’ll be able to get a full understanding of the details of Direct Unsubsidized loans and whether they may be a good option for you.

What Is A Subsidized Student Loan

There are two main types of federal direct student loans — subsidized and unsubsidized. And the simple version is that subsidized loans are better. While both types of loans charge interest, the government pays the interest on subsidized student loans during certain times, specifically:

  • While you’re enrolled in school on at least a half-time basis.
  • While you’re in the six-month grace period after leaving school.
  • When your loans are on a deferment.

This means that when you graduate and start making loan payments, your loan balance will be the same as the amount of money you initially borrowed. For example, if you obtain a $2,000 subsidized student loan during your freshman year and graduate four years later, that loan’s balance will still be $2,000. Even though you’ve had the borrowed money for four years, you won’t be responsible for a penny of interest for the time you were in college. This is a big benefit of subsidized loans over unsubsidized student loans and any other type of education borrowing.

Subsidized student loans are need-based, meaning that you must have a demonstrated financial need in order to obtain one. Your school determines the amount of subsidized student loans you can take out, and the total cannot exceed your financial need.

Finally, subsidized student loans are only available to undergraduate students — graduate and professional students are ineligible, regardless of their demonstrable financial need.

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Subsidized Vs Unsubsidized Loans

The rising cost of a college degree has more students than ever borrowing to cover their expenses. While some students opt for loans from private lenders, an estimated 43.4 million borrowers have federal student loans, as of 2022.

Federal direct loans may be subsidized or unsubsidized. Both types of loans offer numerous benefits, including flexible repayment options, low-interest rates, the option to consolidate loans, and forbearance and deferment programs. But how do subsidized and unsubsidized loans compare? We focus on the key aspects of each type of loan so you can decide what’s right for you.

Unsubsidized Loan Vs Subsidized Loan

Unsubsidized Loans for College: How to Calculate the Cost

In contrast to unsubsidized loans, subsidized loans allow students to defer paying interest until after they have completed school. They also have more strict requirements.

Unsubsidized Loans
Amount awarded based on school costs and other aid received Amount awarded cannot exceed financial need
Interest must be paid beginning immediately Interest paid by government while you are in school at least half time and for six months after you leave school or during periods of deferment

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What Is The Difference Between A Subsidized And Unsubsidized Student Loan

The key differences between an unsubsidized loan and a subsidized loan are the interest, loan limit and eligibility.

Unsubsidized student loans are more expensive than subsidized loans because interest starts accruing sooner on unsubsidized loans. The borrower is responsible for the interest that accrues on unsubsidized student loans during in-school and grace periods, as well as deferments and forbearances. Borrowers can choose to pay the interest as it accrues or to defer paying the interest until the student loans enter repayment. All federal student loans have a fixed interest rate.

If the borrower does not pay the interest as it accrues, the interest will capitalize and be added to the principal loan balance when the loan enters repayment. This can increase the size of the loan by as much as a tenth to a quarter. It also leads to interest compounding, since interest will be charged on the capitalized interest.

Subsidized loans are awarded based on financial need. Unsubsidized loans are available to all students, regardless of need.

How Do You Pay Back Subsidized Loans

You can pay back your subsidized loan at any time. Most students begin paying their loans back after they graduate, and the loan payment is required six months after graduation, known as the “grace period” when the government continues to pay the interest due on the loans.

When your loan enters the repayment phase, your loan servicer will place you on the Standard Repayment Plan, but you can request a different payment plan at any time. Borrowers can make their loan payments online via their loan servicer’s website in most cases.

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Overview: Key Differences Between Subsidized And Unsubsidized Loans


No need to demonstrate financial need

Amount you can borrow

Up to $3,500 – $5,500, depending on your year in school

Up to $5,500 to $7,500, depending on your year in school

Who can borrow

Undergraduate, graduate and professional students

How interest accrues while youre in college

U.S. Department of Education covers interest payments while in college and during the following grace period

Interest accrues, unless the student pays interest costs while in college and during the following grace period

Unsubsidized Loans For College: How To Calculate The Cost

Unsubsidized Student Loans Are They Worth It?

Posted by Julie Rains | College

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When one of my sons applied to college, I learned that even if Ive saved enough to pay for tuition and related expenses, a college-bound child is still eligible for a federal student loan. Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to students regardless of financial need.

Rather than cash out investments to pay all of our college bills, my child may decide to take a student loan to cover extra expenses associated with attending an out-of-state university. But before accepting the loan, it makes sense to review the costs of borrowing.

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Do You Pay Back Unsubsidized Loans

When you graduate,drop out of school or sign up to study less than part-time, you will have sixmonths of grace before you start paying. During the grace period ,your loan administrator will provide you with all the necessary information andnotify you when you must make your first payment. Then, from that moment, youwill have to make a monthly payment.

Remember to make yourpayments, otherwise, you get penalty fees and more interest added on.

Dont forget to talkwith your loan provider about the different payment options that are availableto you. You can choose options that will give you 10 to 25 years to pay for theunsubsidized Stafford loan.

If you cannot meet anyof the payments of your unsubsidized loan, you should immediately contact yourloan provider. They can help you figure out a solution. For example, they may offerto change your payment plan, to request an indulgence or to request a deferral.

Private Student Loan Limits

Since private student loans are offered by many different lenders, there is no general limit to how much you can borrow. Banks, credit unions and online lenders all have their own criteria. This means youll need to compare lenders, interest rates and repayment terms before applying for a private student loan.

Your private student loan limit is based on your creditworthiness and sometimes your chosen degree. Many lenders will approve you for your entire cost of attendance, while others have a lifetime loan amount you can borrow, similar to federal student loan limits.

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Who’s Eligible For Direct Unsubsidized Loans

If you’re looking for aid to bridge the gap between what you have and what you need to pay for college, unsubsidized loans are good options if you meet all the eligibility requirements.

Eligibility requirements are not as strict for Direct Unsubsidized loans as they are for Direct Subsidized loans. They’re open to both undergraduate and graduate students, and you don’t need to demonstrate financial need to be eligible.

You do, however, need to meet all federal financial aid requirements. The following charts list these requirements.

You must do all of the following:

Have a high school diploma, GED, or approved homeschool education

Be enrolled or accepted to enroll in an eligible degree/certificate program

  • You can check with your school/programs financial aid office if you want to confirm eligibility

Be registered with Selective Service, if you are male and between 18-25 years old

Need Money For College

Difference Between Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans

What is a subsidized loan?

A subsidized loan is a type of . With a subsidized direct loan, the bank, or the government is paying the interest for you while youre in school , during your post-graduation grace period, and if you need a loan deferment.

Youre effectively getting your responsibility to pay that interest back waived with a subsidized loan during those time periods. Once you start repayment, the government stops paying on that interest, and your repayment amount includes the original amount of the loan, and the interest, accruing from that moment.

What is an unsubsidized loan?

Another type of federal loan is an unsubsidized loan. With a federal unsubsidized loan, you are responsible for the interest from the moment the loan money is disbursed into your account. Theres no help on the interest youre responsible for the whole amount.

When you start paying back your unsubsidized loans, youre paying on the original amount and the interest that accrued since the unsubsidized student loan was paid to you. This can, of course, add up to thousands of dollars more to repay over the life of the loan.

So why would anyone ever take out an unsubsidized loan?

The FAFSA is key

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How Do You Qualify For An Unsubsidized Stafford Loan

To be eligible toreceive an unsubsidized Stafford loan, you must meet the following conditions:

  • Must be enrolled at a school participating in the Direct Loan Program.
  • You must be enrolled in a program that offers a degree or certificate awarded by the school.
  • Undergraduate or graduate student.
  • Dependent student which parents cant obtain PLUS loans.
  • You have no financial need to show.

How To Apply For A Federal Student Loan

If youve run the numbers and determined that you need to borrow money for college, the process of applying for a federal loan is fairly simple:

  • Make sure youre eligible. Youll need to be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or eligible noncitizen, have a high school diploma or GED certificate and plan to be enrolled at least half time in school.
  • Fill out the FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is how your school determines what financial aid you qualify for. Youll need your Social Security number or Alien Registration Number, federal income tax returns, pay stubs or other records of how you earn money, as well as bank statements and records of investment accounts. If youre applying as a dependent, your parents will need to supply this information as well.
  • Wait for your award letter. Most schools that accept you for admission will send you a financial aid award letter listing your total cost of attendance, the award money youve been given and what federal aid programs you qualify for based on your FAFSA information. From here, you can choose to accept federal student loans in addition to any grant or work-study awards. If you dont receive an award letter but you need to take out an unsubsidized loan, reach out to your financial aid office.
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    Unsubsidized Vs Subsidized Loans

    If you have a subsidized loan, then the government will pay the loan interest under certain conditions, such as when the student is enrolled in school at least half time, during the grace period, and during deferment. Also, direct subsidized loans are based on need if you dont meet the financial eligibility requirements you will not be able to borrow this type of loan. Additionally, you must be enrolled in an undergraduate program to qualify for a subsidized loan graduate and professional students cannot apply.

    Other than who pays the interest and the qualifications, unsubsidized and subsidized loans have similar features.

    None Undergraduate only based on financial need

    Next well discuss the features of an unsubsidized loan, and how they compare to the subsidized loan.

    What Happens If You Hit Federal Loan Limits

    7 Things You Need to Know About Unsubsidized Student Loans

    If your cost of attendance exceeds what you can borrow in federal student loans, you may not have enough cash on hand to cover the extra costs. If youre worried about not having enough money to pay for school, you have a few options, including:

    Working part-time. Find a job that lets you work non-traditional hours so you can pay for school. You can look on- or off-campus, depending on your living situation and transportation options. Consider a side-hustlelike delivering groceries, tutoring or freelancingto cover your extra schooling costs.

    Requesting payment assistance. Many schools require payment in full, whether that comes from your lender or you. If you cant pay your outstanding bill, talk to your schools financial aid office about a payment plan, like making monthly payments instead of one lump-sum payment. Also inquire about emergency grants or interest-free loans, which vary by school but might be available based on your need.

    Switching schools. Cost of attendance varies by each school. Since every institution has different service fees, you might pay more at a private or big-name school compared to community colleges, which tend to have fewer fees. If you can, consider attending local colleges for the first couple years and then transferring to your school of choice to complete your bachelors degree.

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    Keep An Eye On Your Credit

    Student loans make a lasting impact on your credit, and the ramifications can be positive or negative depending on your actions. As you enter school, it’s smart to monitor your creditâwhich you can do for free with Experianâto get a sense of where it stands and how your student loans affect your credit. Making every payment on time will help your credit grow and improve.

    Should You Accept Unsubsidized Loans

    If you are a studentwho does not meet the conditions to be eligible as a creditor of a subsidizedloan, you must accept the unsubsidized loan. You can accept the unsubsidized loanbut would need to meet any of these characteristics:

    • If you are not eligible for subsidized loans, but you are still enrolled in your current program.
    • If you are not eligible for subsidized loans, you did not graduate from your previous program, but you are enrolled in an undergraduate program that has the same duration or less than your previous career .
    • A professional or you are a graduate student.
    • You do not have a specific financial need.
    • Being an independent student or a dependent university student whose parents cannot obtain direct PLUS loans.

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    Eligibility: Subsidized Federal Student Loans

    Eligibility requirements for subsidized federal student loans include:

    • You’re a U.S. citizen.
    • You demonstrate financial need.
    • You’ve applied or enrolled as an undergraduate student. Grad students are not eligible for subsidized loans.
    • You’re enrolled or plan to enroll at least half-time at a school that participates in the federal student loan program.

    What Are The Interest Rates And Fees For An Unsubsidized Loan

    Student Loan Terminology

    For undergraduate students, the interest rate on unsubsidized loans will be 4.99% for the 2022-2023 school year. But for graduate students, the interest rate increases to 6.54%.

    All students must pay a 1.057% loan fee each time they take out a new unsubsidized student loan. The loan fee is deducted from your loan disbursement, which means that your total amount borrowed will be higher than the actual money you received during school.

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    How To Apply For A Student Loan

    Your first step in getting a loan is to fill out the FAFSA. The FAFSA will reveal how much money you are eligible to borrow in federal loans. You may also receive a loan from a private lender such as a bank. More on private loans here, but keep in mind that private loans almost always have a higher interest rate than federal loans, meaning youll likely pay more over the life of the loan.

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