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Student Loan Guide

The University of Washington participates in the major federal student loan programs to give our students the full range of options available for paying for college. We know students would prefer to receive grants and scholarships, but the reality is many of our students must rely on loans as well to help pay for their education. The federal loan programs below offer a secure, government-regulated, reasonably affordable way to invest in yourself and your goal of a higher education.

Student Loans are financial obligations that must be repaid. Pay careful attention to the terms and conditions of any loan you accept to help pay for school. Do not borrow more than you need or can repay comfortably after leaving school. A comparison of various loans may be found on the Student Loan Program Chart.

Most student loans have the following characteristics:

  • They are interest-free while you are in school on at least a half-time basis and during the grace period (six to nine months after leaving school). Interest begins to accrue during the repayment period (Exception: Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford/Ford Loan and Federal Direct GPLUS Loan, on which interest begins to accrue when the loan is disbursed).
  • Repayment on student loans may be deferred temporarily if you return to school half-time or join the Armed Service, Peace Corps, VISTA, comparable volunteer organizations, or become a law enforcement officer. Some loans offer cancellation provisions based on public service or teaching in low-income service areas.
  • You may have up to 10 years to repay the loan, depending on the total amount borrowed or less than 10 years, if by making minimum payments your loan is paid off sooner. The Federal Direct Stafford/Ford Loan and Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford/Ford Loan have other repayment options, which may allow you a more flexible time period for repayment.
  • Title IV federal student loans are reported to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) and will be accessible by federal agencies and institutions determined to be authorized users of the data system to ensure proper administration of the loans. Student borrowers can access their NSLDS account as well to track their federal educational loan records.

Federal Perkins Student Loan, Health Professions Loan, Primary Care Loan, and Nursing Student Loans are awarded to students who demonstrate financial need. Interest is deferred while the student is enrolled in school on at least a half-time basis and during the grace period.

Students who do not qualify for need-based assistance or who do not receive enough subsidized loan to meet their needs may qualify for Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford/Ford Loans. Interest accrues on this loan during the time of enrollment, during the grace period and during periods of repayment or deferment. The borrower can make interest payments while in school or can request that the servicer add the interest to the principal of the loan (this is called "capitalization"). If the borrower does not make an interest payment as scheduled, the interest is automatically capitalized.

Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan (GPLUS) lets graduate and professional students borrow a loan to cover the difference between the school's determination of the cost of attendance and other assistance received. These loans are based on credit and not on need. Students must first apply for a Federal Direct Stafford/Ford Loan before they can be considered for the GPLUS loan. Repayment on the GPLUS begins 60 days after the full amount borrowed for the school year has been disbursed. However, repayment of the principal can be deferred when the student is enrolled at least half-time. Interest is a fixed 7.9% (see Student Loan Program Chart for details on rates and fees). Interest accrues on this loan during the time of enrollment and during periods of repayment or deferment and we recommend you pay the interest-even while you are in school. Loans borrowed through this loan program are borrowed directly from the federal government. The University will coordinate all paperwork for you (see Completing Paperwork for Loans). Repayment arrangements are handled by the Direct Loan Servicer ( a servicer contracted by the federal government).