What Is A Direct Unsubsidized Loan? All You Need To Know

direct unsubsidized loan

Because of the escalating cost of college education, more students than ever are borrowing to finance their bills. While some students choose private loans, as of 2023, an estimated 43 million borrowers hold federal student loans.
Direct federal loans might be subsidized or unsubsidized. Both forms of loans have significant advantages, such as flexible repayment options, low-interest rates, the ability to consolidate loans, and forbearance and deferment programs. However, how do a direct subsidized and unsubsidized loan and the interest differ? We focus on the most important characteristics of each loan type so you can decide which is best for you.

What is a Direct Unsubsidized Loan?

Direct Unsubsidized Loans (also known as Unsubsidized Stafford Loans) are federal student loans with set interest rates that are accessible to both undergraduate and graduate students. Because the financial need is not required, even students from wealthy households can qualify for Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

Key Benefits

  • For the academic year 2022-2023, undergraduate students will pay a fixed interest rate of 4.99%.
  • Graduate and professional students will pay a fixed interest rate of 6.54% for the academic year 2022-2023.
  • There will be no payments while you are in school.
  • Eligibility is not determined by demonstrable financial need or creditworthiness.
  • There are other repayment options available, including income-based repayment plans.

How to Apply for an Unsubsidized Direct Loan

  • At StudentAid.gov, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) or Renewal FAFSA (for returning students).
  • Your financial aid award letter will be mailed or emailed to you from your school’s financial aid office. This letter will describe your available financial help, including Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans (if applicable).
  • To accept financial aid, including student loans, contact your financial aid office.
  • Sign any supporting documentation, such as the Master Promissory Note (MPN).

Direct Unsubsidized Loan Eligibility

The majority of students who qualify for federal aid are eligible for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan.

It makes no difference what your family’s financial situation is. Even wealthy families may be eligible.


  • citizen, national, or qualified non-citizen of the United States
  • Have a high school diploma or its equivalent (e.g., GED)
  • Enrolled in an accredited degree or certificate program at least half-time
  • There are no existing federal student loans in default.
  • Meet the general requirements for federal student aid.

Not necessary:

  • Credit Investigation
  • Cosigner
  • Application for a separate loan

Direct Unsubsidized Loan Interest Rates

Direct Unsubsidized Loan interest rates are fixed and do not change over the term of the loan.

Every year on July 1, interest rates for new loans disbursed on or after that day are reset.

Private Student Loan Interest Rates

  • Variable rates begin at: 2.49% APR
  • Fixed rates begin at: 3.75% APR

The lowest APRs shown for Private Student Loans are offered to the most creditworthy candidates for undergraduate loans, and include a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments. Rates of interest as of September 15, 2022.

Federal Student Loan Interest Rates

For loans made from July 1, 2022, until June 30, 2023

PLUS Loans7.54%

The interest on a Direct Unsubsidized Loan begins to accumulate (accrue) on the date the loan is disbursed for the first time. If you do not pay the interest as it accrues, it will be capitalized (added to the loan total) when you begin repayment, so increasing the loan size.

Direct Unsubsidized Loan Fees

The current charge for Direct Loans (October 1, 2022 – September 30, 2023) is 1.057%. Each loan payout is subject to fees. You can request that the loan amount be increased to meet the fees, up to the yearly loan maximum, from the college financial aid office.

Direct Loan Caps: How Much Can You Borrow?

The Direct Loans program has yearly and aggregate loan limits that apply to the amount you can borrow:

  • Annual borrowing limitations define how much you can borrow each academic year.
  • Aggregate limitations (also known as cumulative limits) define how much money you can borrow through the loan program.

As an undergraduate student on financial aid. How can I increase my loan limits?

#1. Override Dependency

If your family situation is uncommon (for example, a parent in prison), contact your school’s financial aid office and request a dependency override to obtain independent student limits.

#2. Denial of Parent PLUS Loan

If your parent’s Parent PLUS Loan application is declined, you will be eligible for the same loan limits as independent students. For more information, contact your school’s financial aid office.

Loan limitations are likewise restricted at the annual cost of attendance at the college.

The following expenses are included in the cost of attendance:

  • Fees and tuition
  • Board and lodging
  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Equipment
  • Transportation
  • Personal miscellaneous costs

How Much Money Can You Get?

The Federal Direct Loan Program has annual maximum borrowing limitations for subsidized and unsubsidized loans. There is also a total borrowing limit.

#1. Undergraduate Students

If they are still financially reliant on their parents, first-year undergraduate students can borrow a total of $5,500 in subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Only $3,500 of the amount is eligible for subsidized loans. For their first year of undergraduate education, independent students and dependent students whose parents do not qualify for Direct PLUS loans can borrow up to $9,500. Subsidized loans are likewise restricted to a maximum of $3,500.

With each subsequent year of enrollment, the loan limit rises. For dependent students, the overall aggregate subsidized loan ceiling is $31,000. The aggregate ceiling for independent students is doubled to $57,500, with the same $23,000 cap on subsidized loans.

Be cautious of predatory lenders. Large corporations have been detected unlawfully granting loans to people who are unlikely to repay them and suggesting federal loan forbearance over better relief choices.

#2. Students in Graduate School

Graduate and professional students have a total borrowing maximum of $138,500 in direct loans, $65,500 of which can be subsidized. Graduate and professional students, on the other hand, have only been eligible for unsubsidized loans since 2012.

#3. First-Time Borrowers

For those who fall into this group between July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2021, the number of academic years for which you can get direct subsidized loans is limited. The maximum eligible period is 150% of the program’s declared length. In other words, if you enroll in a four-year degree program, the maximum amount of time you can receive direct subsidized loans is six years. Direct unsubsidized loans are not subject to such a cap.

If the first distribution of your Direct Subsidized loan occurred on or after July 1, 2021, there is no time limit on how long you can receive it.

Interest on Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans

Federal loans provide some of the lowest interest rates available, especially when contrasted to commercial lenders, who may charge borrowers a double-digit annual percentage rate (APR):

Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans for undergraduate students have a 3.73% APR for loans granted on or after July 1, 2021, but before the July 1, 2022, school year.

Unsubsidized loans for graduate and professional students have an APR of 5.28%. And, unlike certain private student loans, those rates are set, which means they do not alter over the loan’s term.

There’s one more thing to mention regarding the interest. While the federal government pays the interest on direct subsidized loans for the first six months after you graduate and during deferment periods, you must pay the interest if you defer an unsubsidized loan or put either type of loan into forbearance.

Income-driven repayment programs may result in reduced monthly payments, but you may still be making them in 25 years.

Repaying Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans

When it comes time to start repaying your loans, you’ll have numerous alternatives. Unless you request an alternative option from your lender, you will be automatically enrolled in the Standard Repayment Plan. This plan allows you to make equal monthly payments for up to ten years.

#1. Gradual Repayment Plan

In comparison, the Graduated Repayment Plan begins with lesser installments and gradually increases them. This plan also offers a period of up to ten years, but the payment structure makes it more expensive than the Standard option. There are also many income-driven repayment programs available for students who require monthly payment flexibility.

#2. Income Based Repayment

Income-based repayment requires you to pay 10% to 15% of your monthly discretionary income and allows you to spread repayment over 20 or 25 years. Income-driven plans have the advantage of lowering your monthly cost. However, the longer you take to repay the loans, the more interest you will pay in total. Furthermore, if your plan allows you to have a portion of your loan debt forgiven, you may have to report that as taxable income.

The benefit is that student loan interest is tax deductible. As of 2021, you can deduct up to $2,500 in interest paid on a qualified student loan without having to itemize.

Deductions lessen your taxable income for the year, thus lowering your tax bill or increasing the size of your refund. If you paid $600 or more in student loan interest throughout the year, your loan servicer would send you Form 1098-E to use for tax purposes.

What Is the Difference Between Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Direct Loans?

The federal government provides both sorts of loans, which must be repaid with interest. However, the government will pay a portion of the interest on subsidized loans.

Are Unsubsidized Loans a Bad Thing?

Unsubsidized loans have numerous advantages. They are available for both undergraduate and graduate studies, and students do not need to demonstrate financial need to be eligible. Remember that interest begins to accrue as soon as you take out the loan, but you don’t have to pay it back until after you graduate, and there are no credit checks when you apply, unlike private loans.

Are subsidized loans preferable to unsubsidized loans?

If you qualify, subsidized loans provide numerous advantages. While these loans are not always better than unsubsidized loans, they do provide borrowers with a lower interest rate than unsubsidized loans. The government pays the interest on them while the student is in school and for the six months following graduation. Subsidized loans, on the other hand, are only available to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need.


Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans can both be used to assist pay for college. Remember that either sort of loan must eventually be repaid, and with interest. So consider how much you’ll need to borrow and which repayment option will work best for your budget.

Direct Unsubsidized Loan FAQs

Which is better a direct subsidized or unsubsidized loan?

When comparing subsidized and unsubsidized loans, subsidized loans come out on top. If you qualify, you’ll pay less in interest charges and save money over the life of your loan with a subsidized loan. However, not everyone will be eligible for a subsidized loan.

How long do you have to pay off unsubsidized loans?

You will be able to select a repayment plan that matches your requirements. Depending on the repayment plan you select, the amount you pay and the time it takes to repay your loans will differ. Loan payback durations range from 10 to 25 years. Examine the Student Loan Repayment section of the Federal Student Aid website.

What is the best loan for college?

Your best option is a subsidized loan. The federal government pays the interest on these loans while you are in college.


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