What Is A Stafford Loan?

What is a Stafford loan? How do Stafford loans work? Read on to find out.

Federal Stafford loans, now and then called Direct Loans, (and divided into subsidized and unsubsidized loans, or even sub and unsub) are a typical way to help pay for college education. As indicated by the Department of Education, over 33 million borrowers in the United States have (at least one, or more) of these loans.

The Stafford Loan is a federal student loan given by the U.S. Department of Education to help qualified students pay for their college. You may see this loan also being alluded to as a Federal Stafford Loan, a Direct Student Loan, or a Direct Stafford Loan. The good news is that they all mean exactly the same thing. Notwithstanding, there are two kinds of Stafford Loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. Let us discuss each one in detail.

If you want to know more about what is a Stafford loan, then you have come to the right place. We have gathered all relevant information to help you understand everything that you need to know. So, what are you waiting for? Without much further ado, let us dive right in!

What is a Stafford loan?

Also known as Direct loans, a Stafford loan is a kind of federal, fixed-rate student loan that is accessible to college and university undergraduate and graduate students who are going to school at least half-time. Furthermore, these loans are given out under the William D. Portage Federal Direct Loan Program. These loans are expected to enhance existing individual and family assets accessible for advanced education costs, including grants, scholarships, and work-study. In addition to this, federal direct loans can be utilized to pay for the educational expenses, including tuition costs, food and lodging, books, and other costs.

Stafford Loans are federal loans made by the government authority, which means that you’re getting directly from the U.S. Branch of Education. That is who you’ll reimburse when the time is right. Today, 92% of all student loans are made by the federal government. The public authority likewise utilizes a few “student loan servicers” to deal with the client support and collections of its loans. Private student loans have distinctive financing costs and reimbursement terms. However, this can be another approach to help bridge any gaps in financing after you seek grants, awards, and federal monetary aid. In case you’re trying to understand more about Stafford Loans, it’s very important to know something – there are two unique sorts of Stafford Loans:

  • Subsidized Stafford Loan (available only to undergraduates)
  • Unsubsidized Stafford Loan (available to undergraduates and graduate students)

To further comprehend the world of Stafford Loans, it’s best if we start with a basic knowledge of the key terms:

Subsidized loan: Offered to students who exhibit monetary need. Premium starts to build after the half-yearly grace period and all through the reimbursement period. The federal government is answerable for paying the interest while you’re in school or during times of deferment when you’re not needed to make installments, for example, during an economic hardship deferment.

Unsubsidized loan: Offered to undergraduate students and graduate students. These loans don’t expect borrowers to show monetary need. Premium builds while the student is enrolled in the college/university, and students are answerable for paying it.

Grace period: A set time allotment (typically a half year) after a student leaves school in which they are not expected to make installments on their student loans.

Origination fee: An expense, controlled by the U.S. Department of Education, that is deducted from loans from the sum acquired.

Annual loan amount: A cutoff on the measure of subsidized and unsubsidized loans a student may acquire at whatever year, set by the U.S. Branch of Education.

Cumulative loan amount: The total measure of subsidized and unsubsidized loans a student may get in the course of their life.

How does a Stafford loan work?

Federally backed student loans can be either subsidized Stafford loans or direct subsidized loans, which implies the federal government pays the interest during specific periods. In addition to subsidized loans, there can also be unsubsidized Stafford loans or direct unsubsidized loans. Federal student loans were called Stafford loans under a past program run by the Federal Family Education Loan Program. Successfully, on July 1, 2010, all new federal student loans began coming directly from the U.S. Division of Education under the William D. Portage Federal Direct Loan Program (Federal Direct Loans). Both Stafford loans and direct loans allude to similar loans.

Direct subsidized loans are simply accessible to students with proof that they need some sort of monetary help, though both undergrad and graduate students can take out direct unsubsidized loans and financial need isn’t a factor. Contingent upon their conditions, students may get bigger sums, however, the most extreme sums that might be subsidized are $3,500 each year for freshmen, $4,500 each year for sophomores, $5,500 each year for juniors, and $5,500 each year for senior or fifth-year students. The student’s dependency status additionally influences the amount they can acquire.

Students should initially be enrolled into a school or college that is certified to acknowledge federal loans and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) preceding applying for the advance. To utilize any federal credit to pay for your schooling, you should be taking a crack at a program offered by an accredited college or university. Financing costs on Stafford loans are typically lower than those on private loans, there is no credit check for most federal student loans, and reimbursement doesn’t start until after a student leaves school or dips under half-time.

In the event that you meet all requirements for a subsidized Stafford Loan, the federal government makes your premium installments while you’re in school, which can save you a huge number of dollars. There are most extreme cutoff points for subsidized loans that are lower than the cutoff on unsubsidized loans. Along these lines, while it’s incredible that the federal authority is assisting you with the interest installments, the sum you’re qualified to get in loans may not be sufficient to completely support your education.

On the off chance that you can’t show proof for monetary need, you will probably be offered an unsubsidized Stafford Loan. Despite the fact that this credit is essential for the federal government’s loan program, they don’t help you out with the interest. At the end of the day, you will be answerable for the interest installments while in school. In any case, you do have a decision about how you need to make those installments — you can either make the interest installments while in school or put them off until you leave. Simply, you must realize that avoiding the interest-only payments will add a huge number of dollars to the general measure of the credit. You should begin making installments on your Stafford Loan almost half a year after you graduate or after you leave school or dip under half-time enlistment.

Difference between a subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loan

For college students, there are two principal alternatives: subsidized and unsubsidized loans. In any case, you should be able to understand the difference between the two? Contingent upon which loan you fit the bill for, you could save some cash throughout the span of your reimbursement period.

Subsidized Stafford Loans

Subsidized loans are simply accessible to college students with monetary requirements. The U.S. Department of Education covers the premium that builds on the loans while you’re in school in any event half-time, during your grace period after graduation, and during times of deferment. Since the public authority is paying a portion of your loan charges, subsidized loans are more affordable than unsubsidized direct loans.

Unsubsidized Stafford Loans

Unsubsidized Stafford loans are accessible to all undergrad and graduate students, paying little heed to monetary need. While you don’t need to make installments while you’re in school, the premium will begin building quickly, and you’re liable for paying all interest charges.

What is the Stafford loan interest rate?

The critical distinction between the two kinds of Federal Stafford Loans, besides qualification and advance cutoff points, is the way interest is taken care of.

  • Interest on a subsidized Stafford credit is paid by the federal authority while students are in college/university or while loans are in postponement.
  • Interest on an unsubsidized Stafford credit is paid by the student and any neglected interest is added to the loan balance.

Students who take out loans for the 2020-2021 school year will get a 2.75% interest rate. Graduate students will get a 5.30% interest rate. These are fixed Stafford credit financing costs that will not change for the existence of the advance.

On the off chance that you acquire $5,000 in a subsidized Stafford Loan, you’ll actually get less than that. To more precise, you will get $4,946.55. The initial expense, for this situation, $53.45, emerges from your assets. This is significant since, in such a case that you apply for $5,000 and need precisely $5,000, you’ll be surprised when you’re falling somewhat short. It very well may be keen to request somewhat more (once more, gauge $150 for each 10,000 acquired). This isn’t generally the correct call because acquiring more affects your reimbursement. More cash acquired = more premium accumulated and higher installments. Therefore, you must question yourself as to whether you can even afford it or not?

Loan fees on federal Stafford loans

Loan charges are deducted from the loan disbursements. Borrowers may decide to have the credit expenses added to the loan balance. The credit expenses are about 1.0%, the equivalent for undergrad and graduate students. Loan charges are changed every October 1, in view of the federal financial plan. Expenses are charged dependent on the payment date. The latest charges are shown underneath:

October 1, 2019 – September 30, 2020: 1.059%

October 1, 2020 – September 30, 2021: 1.057%

Loan limits on federal Stafford loans

The Federal Stafford Loan has yearly and total credit limits. The cutoff points on financed credits are lower than the general Federal Stafford Loan limits. Borrowers may get any sums that they don’t get as sponsored Federal Stafford Loans as unsubsidized credits, up to as far as possible. Advance cutoff points likewise contrast dependent on the borrower’s year in school and on the understudy’s reliance status. The yearly credit limits for sponsored Federal Stafford advances are something very similar for reliant and autonomous understudies.

Grade Level               Subsidized Stafford Annual Loan Limits

Freshman                    $3,500

Sophomore                 $4,500

Junior                          $5,500

Senior                          $5,500

Graduate Student       None

The yearly loan cutoff points for the unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan are diverse for independent and dependent students. The yearly loan limits are $4,000 or $5,000 higher for students who are independent.

Unsubsidized Stafford Annual       Dependent Students            Independent Students

Loan Limits By Grade Level

Freshman                                            $5,500                                     $9,500

Sophomore                                         $6,500                                     $10,500

Junior                                                  $7,500                                     $12,500

Senior                                                  $7,500                                     $12,500

Graduate Student                               N/A                                          $20,500

How much can you get from a Stafford Loan?

The Stafford Loan has limits on the measure of subsidized and unsubsidized credits you can get in a scholarly year. The loan sum limit additionally changes relying upon the time of school you are in. For instance, in the event that you are a first-year undergrad student, you might be qualified to acquire up to $5,500, however, just $3,500 of that might be in financed advances. Notwithstanding scholastic year advance cutoff points, there is likewise a total advance cutoff for financed and unsubsidized Stafford Loans. As far as possible is the sum you’re permitted to acquire during your undergrad or graduate scholarly profession. For subordinate students, the aggregate amount is $31,000 — without any more than $23,000 in sponsored credits.

Who is eligible for a Stafford loan?

As a rule, these loans are among the simplest to acquire in light of the fact that, not at all like private student loans, the federal authority doesn’t survey your credit or capacity to reimburse them (which, for youngsters who are simply entering the universe of monetary dynamic, can be something positive). The opposite side of this coin, however, is that the federal authority has no information or knowledge into whether you’ll have the option to effectively deal with these loans – so try to get capably, taking just what you need to take care of your school costs.

Qualification for the subsidized Federal Stafford Loan depends on monetary need, while qualification for the unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan doesn’t rely upon financial need. Indeed, even affluent students can meet all requirements for unsubsidized loans. The student should likewise fulfill other general qualification prerequisites for government student aid, including citizenship status, enlistment in a qualified degree or authentication program, keeping up good scholarly advancement, and not being in default on a federal student loan or award excessive charge.

Since Stafford Loans are government loans, they have unexpected qualifications in comparison to private student loans (managed through a private moneylender, similar to a bank or credit association). Qualification for a Federal Stafford Loan doesn’t rely upon the borrower’s FICO ratings, record as a consumer, work or pay. There is no credit check. There are no cosigners on Federal Stafford Loans. Most understudies who meet all requirements for help are qualified for Stafford Loans. To be qualified, a borrower is needed to:

  • Be a U.S. citizen, national, or eligible non-citizen
  • Be enrolled at least half-time in an eligible degree or certificate-granting program
  • Have received a high school diploma or equivalent (like the GED)
  • Not in default on any existing federal student loans
  • Meet general eligibility requirements for federal student aid
  • File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and sign a Master Promissory Note (MPN) at Studentaid.gov.

For both subsidized and unsubsidized loans (and other monetary guides), the borrower’s school decides the sum that can be acquired dependent on the expense of participation and other monetary guides a student gets. In the event that you’ve depleted the entirety of your government monetary guide alternatives you actually need more cash to pay for school, you might need to consider applying for private student loans.

Disbursement of federal Stafford loans

The assets from a Federal Stafford Loan are sent directly from the national government to the school. The school monetary assistance office applies the advance assets to educational costs and charges, in addition to food and lodging if the student is living in school lodging. Any excess loan balance is typically “discounted” to the student within 14 days. Be that as it may, government guidelines require a 30-day delay for first-time, first-year borrowers at certain schools. The school may likewise be needed to part the student loan cash into two distributions. Universities with low accomplice default rates may get a waiver of the 30-day deferral and two-dispensing necessities.

How to apply for Stafford loans?

To begin with, on the off chance that you need or figure you may need, a government loan, you need to present the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The enrollment period opens up consistently on October 1. This is the absolute most significant thing you can do to meet all requirements for a portion of the $150 billion offered in monetary assistance, including grants, awards, work-study, and government loans.

On the off chance that you qualify or are qualified explicitly for a Stafford Loan, you’ll see it recorded (either subsidized or unsubsidized) on your monetary help offer letter (the monetary guide grant bundle that comes from a school after you document the FAFSA). You’ll need to present a Master Promissory Note (MPN) and complete entrance counseling to apply for the credit. A large portion of the counseling is on the web, however, a few schools require first-time borrowers to finish the entrance counseling face to face.

What happens after you’re approved for the loan?

Assets from your subsidized or unsubsidized credit will be dispensed to your school’s monetary aid office to be utilized for educational cost and charges, food and lodging, and other relevant expenses, similar to innovation or gear identified with your program of study. In case you’re a first-year undergrad student and this is the first occasion when you’ve acquired a Stafford Loan, you may need to stand by 30 days after your enlistment period starts before your first payment. Your school’s monetary guide office can prompt you on whether this is the standard strategy there.

After the credit is received, the loan servicer will contact you. On the off chance that there are extra assets, the balance will be discounted to you with a money order, cash, check card, or electronic funds transfer (EFT). Your discount must be utilized to pay for education costs, regardless of whether direct or indirect, similar to reading material and supplies. Then again, and maybe most suggested, you could give any unused cashback, bringing down your aggregate sum acquired (and your regularly scheduled installments once you leave school).

Benefits and protections for Stafford loan borrowers

Federal student loans make up the greater part of student loans today (the government holds roughly 92.9% of student loans), and there are explicit advantages and securities apportioned to a borrower, including an assortment of reimbursement plans. The standard reimbursement period for Stafford Loans is 10 years. However, you can get a more drawn-out reimbursement term if you have more than $30,000 in government student loans. Installments are expected after you graduate, leave school, or change your enlistment status to not exactly half-time. Other famous reimbursement plans, proposed to help you in case you can’t stay aware of your regularly scheduled installments, include:

Income-based reimbursement: Monthly credit installments depend on a level of the borrower’s salary, with the leftover debt excused following a particular number of years in reimbursement. The installment depends on 15% of optional pay, characterized as the sum by which adjusted gross income (AGI) surpasses 150% of the neediness line. The destitution line depends on the borrower’s family size and the condition of their home.

The math: Income-based reimbursement = 15% (AGI – 150% x Poverty Line)/12

The simpler method to take a gander at it: For some borrowers who qualify, the installment will be under 10% of their month-to-month salary.

Graduated repayment: Graduated reimbursement begins with regularly scheduled installments that are scarcely higher than interest-just reimbursement plans. The month-to-month sum you owe builds like clockwork. The base regularly scheduled installment is $25.

After the borrower leaves school, they can join at least two government loans into a solitary Direct Consolidation Loan with a solitary regularly scheduled installment.

Moreover, if a borrower is battling to make installments because of fortuitous difficulty, similar to the departure of a task, they may fit the bill for credit delay or restraint for a specific measure of time. This implies they can incidentally quit making government student advance installments or diminish the sum they pay, however, there are downsides. In the event that your advance is unsubsidized, the premium will keep on accruing at its normal rate and be added to the complete advance sum.

Stafford loan benefits

In the event that you need cash to pay for school, government Stafford loans are a decent spot to begin. In addition to the fact that they have lower financing costs than most private student loans, yet they have different advantages that can make dealing with your debt simpler.

Income-Driven Repayment Plans: Direct Stafford Loans are the lone government loans qualified for income-driven reimbursement (IDR) plans. On the off chance that you take a crack at an IDR plan, your credit servicer sets your month-to-month advance installment at a level of your optional pay and broadens your reimbursement term. Contingent upon your pay and family size, you could fit the bill for a much lower regularly scheduled installment than you right now have.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness: In the event that you have administrative direct loans and work for a non-benefit association or government organization, you may meet all requirements for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). With PSLF, you can fit the bill for credit release subsequent to working for a qualified manager for a very long time while making 120 regularly scheduled installments. Just Stafford advance borrowers are qualified for PSLF.

Forbearance and Deferment: With direct loans, you may briefly delay your installments — without getting delinquent or entering student credit default — in case you’re qualified for government forbearance or deferment. Contingent upon your circumstance, you might have the option to stop installments for as long as a year at a time, giving you an opportunity to recuperate from monetary issues or health-related crises.

Stafford loan drawbacks

One downside that accompanies both subsidized and unsubsidized loans of any sort is that you are assuming obligation. At the point when you assume debt, you should acknowledge the dangers that accompany that choice. One of those dangers can be defaulting on the loan. On account of an administrative advance, the public authority could decorate your wages—up to 15% of your pay—or take your annual expense discount as an installment. With government student loans, there is no rule of constraint, and they are by and large non-dischargeable in chapter 11.

The drawbacks of an unsubsidized credit are that you are answerable for paying the interest on the advance beginning the principal day you get the advance. On the off chance that you can’t make the installments on the advance, that interest is added to the aggregate sum, and any interest that goes neglected will gradually work over the long run.

The disadvantages of a subsidized credit are that you are restricted to the sum that you can take out. The rules decide the measure of cash that you can get contingent upon your school and what year you are in. Most students are restricted to $3,500 in subsidized student loans for their first year of school, $4,500 for their subsequent year, and $5,500 for their third and fourth years as indicated by the Department of Education. On the off chance that you are taken a crack at a 4-year degree program, the greatest period that you can get subsidized loans is six years. On the off chance that you are joined up with a two-year partner degree program, the greatest period is three years.


Now that you have read this article, you know all about what is a Stafford loan. Make sure to do proper research and fulfill all requirements before you decide to get one.

John Otero

John Otero

John Otero is an industry practitioner with more than 15 years of experience in the insurance industry. He has held various senior management roles both in the insurance companies and insurance brokers during this span of time. He began his insurance career in 2004 as an office assistant at an agency in her hometown of Duluth, MN. He got licensed as a producer while working at that agency and progressed to serve as an office manager. Working in the agency is how he fell in love with the industry. He saw firsthand the good that insurance consumers experienced by having the proper protection. John has diverse experience in corporate & consumer insurance services, across a range of vocations. His specialties include Major Corporate risk management and insurance programs, and Financial Lines He has been instrumental in making his firm as one of the leading organizations in the country in generating sustainable rapid growth of the company while maintaining service excellence to clients.