Federal and Private Loans and Aid

You can finance your graduate education with assistance from the federal government or private lenders.

There are three ways to receive aid from the federal government:

1. Need-based federal aid: Awarded directly through the Office of Fellowships and Financial Aid in accordance with requirements established by federal law. Applicants must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online, utilizing the federal school code for The Graduate Center (004765). The priority deadline for filing the FAFSA is April 30th. 
2. Federal Work-Study: Earn funding through a part-time job. Students who submit their FAFSA by the priority deadline for federal aid (April 30) are considered for Federal Work-Study positions if they check yes to the Federal Work-Study question.
3. The Direct Loan Program: Borrow directly from the federal government. Just like any other loan, these loans must be repaid with interest.
NEW: As a result of Presidential Executive Order, Direct Loans will not accrue interest from March 13, 2020 through January 31, 2022. Borrowers in "repayment status" are not required to make payments during this time, though any payments made will be applied towards the principal balance.

*Undocumented Students: Please note that federal and state funding are not available to students who are not qualified aliens.

You can also apply for private loans from external lenders, if federal aid is not available to you or insufficient for your needs.

How to Apply for Federal Aid

Visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website to apply for aid, complete counseling or Master Promissory Notes, view your outstanding federal loan balance, estimate what your payments will look like in repayment, and for general information on the federal aid process.

When applying for federal aid, please follow the steps below:

1. Collect Documents
2. Get a FSA ID
3. Complete the FAFSA
4. Receive a Student Aid Report
5. Complete Entrance Counseling (for first-time borrowers)
6. Verify Your Data (only if requested by the federal government)
7. The Master Promissory Note (MPN) (for first-time borrowers)
8. Accept Your Award (not applicable to the federal direct student loan program)

Federal Loans

There are two types of Federal Direct Student Loans: Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans.

Before considering a loan, you may wish to look into CUNY's tuition payment plans.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans
Federal Direct PLUS Loans

Private Loans

Alternative loans (private education loans) are offered through private lenders and are meant to provide additional educational funding only after a student and their family has exhausted all other sources of funding such as federal and state aid.

These loans are not guaranteed by the federal government and may carry high interest rates and origination fees. All private loans require a credit check and most will require a cosigner if the borrower has little or negative credit history.

CUNY does not recommend any specific lender/programs. Contact the lender of your choice for details about their program and application process.

Before receiving a private education loan, you must print and fill out the Private Education Loan Self-Certification Form (please do not complete Section 2) and submit it to the Office of Fellowships and Financial Aid. 

Guidelines for Private Loan Shopping


Repayment on your loans will begin after you graduate, drop below half-time status, withdraw, or plan not to return to the GC next semester. Depending on the type of loan, the grace period for repayment will differ. As you begin to navigate loan repayment, you may find the following online tools and resources to be helpful.

Important Note for September Graduates: For federal aid purposes, your last day of half-time enrollment is the last day of the preceding spring term. This means that you will begin your grace period the day after the spring semester ends.

Unsure about the loan repayment process or wondering when you need to begin making loan payments? Watch this video from Federal Student Aid on what to expect when your federal student loan enters repayment:


The federal government uses a process called verification to help determine the accuracy of the financial information on your FAFSA. Being selected for verification does not necessarily mean that you made an error in filling out your FAFSA, but you will need to provide appropriate documentation to verify your information in order to receive financial aid that you have been awarded.

If your application needs to be verified, you will have comments on your Student Aid Report (SAR) indicating what actions you need to take to complete the verification process. Your electronic record will also indicate that verification must be completed before any federal student aid payments are made.

Required documentation will include IRS Tax Return Transcript(s) and a completed Verification Worksheet.
To order a Tax Return Transcript, you can do one of the following:

  • Go to www.irs.gov, click "Order a Tax Return" or "Account Transcript", and follow the steps
  • Call the IRS at 1-800-908-9946
  • Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool that is part of the online FAFSA (See "Complete the FAFSA" above for more.)