Federal Direct Loans

The Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans are low-interest loans designed to provide students with funds for their college education. These loans must be repaid.

Federal Direct Subsidized Loans are based on financial need. The federal government pays the interest during in-school, grace and deferment periods, for a maximum of six years if you borrowed your first loan in 2013 or later. Once you have exhausted your 6 years of interest subsidy on your Federal Subsidized Loan, interest will be begin accruing on this loan. Click here for more information on this.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are not based on financial need. The federal government does not pay the interest for Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans. The accrued interest is automatically capitalized into the loan principal.

Who is Eligible to Apply?

Full-time and part-time dependent or independent students may apply. The program is limited to U.S. citizens, permanent residents and eligible non-citizens. Students must be enrolled in a degree-granting program or eligible certificate program. Non-degree students and guest students are ineligible for the Federal Direct Loan Programs. Students in a second bachelor’s degree program may borrow at the undergraduate loan limits.

How Do I Apply for Federal Direct Loans?

All students interested in applying for a Federal Direct Loan at George Mason University must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once George Mason University has received your FAFSA and any requested verification documents, you will be notified via email of your financial aid award. First time Federal Loan borrowers will be notified via email to complete a Master Promissory Note and Loan Entrance Counseling session online. Proceeds from your loan will be applied against your university charges. Should your current semester bill be paid from other sources, you will receive a refund in the amount of your loan proceeds less any charges owed.

How Much Can I Borrow as an Undergraduate?

Dependent Students (Except students whose parents cannot borrow a PLUS Loan):

Year in School Base Amount Additional Unsubsidized Amount
Freshman $3,500 $2,000
Sophomore $4,500 $2,000
Junior $5,500 $2,000
Senior $5,500 $2,000

Independent undergraduate students and dependent students whose parents cannot borrow a PLUS Loan:

Year in School Base Amount Additional Unsubsidized Amount
Freshman $3,500 $6,000
Sophomore $4,500 $6,000
Junior $5,500 $7,000
Senior $5,500 $7,000

Dependent undergraduate students (whose parents were not denied a PLUS loan) may borrow an aggregate amount of $31,000, of which $23,000 may be from the subsidized loan.

Independent undergraduate students (and dependent students whose parents were denied a PLUS loan) may borrow an aggregate amount of $57,500, of which $23,000 may be from the subsidized loan.

Graduate and professional students may borrow an aggregate amount of $138,500, of which $65,500 may be from the Subsidized loan. (Beginning in 2012, Subsidized Loans are no longer available for Graduate students).

Undergraduate students graduating in December may have their Direct Loan amounts prorated for the fall semester. Eligibility depends how many credits the student is enrolled for the fall semester. Students enrolled full time receive half of the annual amount they are eligible for, thus the loan amount for a full time student is the same for fall whether or not a student is graduating in December. If you are taking 15 or more credits for the fall semester and are graduating in December, please contact our office and we will determine your eligibility for possibly receiving a higher amount of your Direct Loans in the fall.

The annual maximum loan amount an undergraduate student may borrow must be prorated when the student is enrolled in a program that is shorter than a full academic year, and when the student is enrolled in a program that is one academic year or more in length, but is in a remaining period of study that is shorter than a full academic year.

How Much Can I Borrow as a Graduate Student?

Graduate students can borrow up to $20,500 per academic year in Federal direct loans. The cumulative borrowing limit for all Federal Direct Student loans (both undergraduate and graduate) is $138,500. (Beginning in 2012, Subsidized loans are no longer available for graduate students).

Graduate and professional students who have used all their federal direct loan eligibility for the year are also eligible to apply for the credit-based Grad PLUS loan to cover up to the cost of attendance less any other aid received.

Why Did I Seem to Receive Less Money than I Actually Borrowed?

The federal government charges a loan origination fee. The fee is deducted from the loan before it is disbursed to the school.

How Often Can I Apply to Borrow?

Once you have received the maximum loan limit for your grade level you must wait until the beginning of the next academic year to be eligible for additional loan funds. You must be enrolled at least half-time during the period that the loan is to cover and be making satisfactory academic progress toward your degree as determined by George Mason University. Academic grade levels are determined as follows:

Undergraduate Students

Credit Hours Academic Grade Level
0-29 Freshmen / 01
30-59 Sophomore / 02
60-89 Junior / 03
90-120 Senior / 04
121+ Senior / 05

Graduate Students

Credit Hours Academic Grade Level
0-18 06
19-36 07
38-54 08
55-72 09

What is the Interest Rate for Federal Direct Student Loans?

How Many Hours Must I Be Enrolled to Receive My Loan and Maintain Eligibility to Borrow?

If you apply for a Federal Direct Stafford Loan, you must be enrolled at least half-time. For an undergraduate student, this means a minimum of six credit hours each semester and as a graduate or professional student, you must be enrolled in a minimum of 4.5 credit hours each semester to be eligible to borrow loan funds. Additionally, failure to enroll in the number of credits indicated on your award notification may result in the reduction or cancellation of your loan.

The Definitions for Full-Time and Part-Time are as Follows:

Undergraduate Students

Credit Hours Enrollment Status
12 or more Full-time
9 - 11 Three-quarter time
6 - 8 Half-time
1 - 5 Less than half-time

Graduate Students

Credit Hours Enrollment Status
9 or more Full-time
6 - 8 Three-quarter time
4.5 - 5.5 Half-time
4.4 or less Less than half-time

Less than full-time enrollment in any term or semester requires that budget adjustments be made to tuition, fees, books and supplies.

When Do I Pay Back My Federal Direct Loan?

You begin repaying your loan six months after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment status. The actual length of the repayment period and monthly payment depends on the amount of the loan you owe, the interest rate, and the loan repayment option selected.

Federal Unsubsidized Direct Loan borrowers, if deferring interest, will have their interest capitalized into the loan principal while in school and through the end of the grace period.

If you choose not to pay the interest that accrues during your grace period, the interest will be added to your principal balance.

Can I Get a Deferment on Payment?

Payment may be deferred if the borrower enters into a deferrable situation and requests deferment of payments by submitting the appropriate documentation to the loan lender or servicer. Deferrable situations include but are not limited to:

  • At least half-time study at a postsecondary institution.
  • Study in an approved graduate or postgraduate fellowship supported program.
  • Study in an approved rehabilitation training program for the disabled.
  • Unable to find full-time employment.
  • Economic hardship.
  • For more information about loan deferments, contact the lender or servicer for your loan(s).

How are Federal Funds Disbursed to the Student?

Federal Direct Loan funds are posted to the student’s account within three business days of receipt from the loan servicer. Loan funds are generally disbursed in two parts (e.g. one disbursement in fall and one disbursement in spring for a full-year loan). Before loan funds can disburse, first time Federal loan borrowers must complete a Loan Entrance Counseling session and a Master Promissory Note online at studentloans.gov. Students must be enrolled at least half-time before funds will be disbursed.

What Happens if I Drop Classes or Withdraw After Receiving Loan Funds?

If you pay for your classes with a Federal Direct Loan and during the drop period you reduce the number of credit hours below full-time, any refund due from the reduction in your charges may go to repay your loan. The refund would reduce your loan debt by the refunded amount. You should contact Student Accounts if you think you are due a refund.

If you pay for your classes with a Federal Direct Loan and then withdraw from all of your classes, a Return to Title IV Funds (R2T4) refund calculation will be performed to determine what portion of your financial aid received was actually earned. You may be required to repay to the school all or a part of the aid that you received prior to withdrawing. The Department of Education would be notified that you have dropped below half-time or have left school and your six month grace period for repayment would begin immediately. Please visit the Withdrawing from Courses page for additional information.

Who Will Be My Federal Direct Loan Lender?

Your lender for any Federal Direct Loan is Direct Lending.

What is the Federal Direct Subsidized Loan Limit?

As of July 1, 2013, a first-time Federal Direct Subsidized Loan borrower is no longer eligible for the Subsidized Direct Loan Program and the interest subsidy if he or she exceeds 150% of the published length of the student’s undergraduate degree program. This regulation defines a “first-time borrower” as someone who either has never borrowed a Subsidized Loan or is a student that has paid off all outstanding balances on either a Direct or Federal Family Educational Loan Program.

The U. S. Department of Education wants to encourage students to obtain undergraduate degrees within a reasonable time frame and no longer wants to provide interest rate subsidies for students taking an exceptional amount of time to obtain an undergraduate degree. Students, who change majors, drop classes or retake classes excessively, are most likely to be affected by this federal regulation. Presently, the interpretation of the 150% rule is actual credit hours completed versus credit hours attempted. Please view the following link for additional information: Direct Subsidized Loan Time Limitation