If you do not qualify for institutional and/or federal need-based aid, or if your award(s) are insufficient to cover the cost of your education, you can pursue additional financial support via federal direct or private loans. All loans require repayment with interest, though interest rates and fees may vary.

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

Federal Direct Loan Details

Federal direct loans fall into two categories: Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and Federal Direct PLUS Loans. See below for summary terms and additional information on interest rates and fees.

A Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan is a non-need-based federal student loan available to eligible graduate or professional students to help pay for the cost of the student's education.

Amount  Graduate students can borrow up to $20,500.
Interest  5.28% interest rate for graduate students (for loans disbursed on or after 7/1/2021 or before 06/30/2022). 6.54% interest rate for graduate students (effective July 1, 2022; rates change each July 1).
Fee For loans where the first disbursement is made on or after October 1, 2020 the loan fee is 1.057%.
Enrollment  Student must maintain at least half-time enrollment status (at least six credits). 
Other Information First-time Direct Loan borrowers must complete an online Direct Loan Master Promissory Note and Entrance Counseling before receiving loan funds. Exit Counseling is required when students graduate or drop below half-time. 

A Federal Direct PLUS Loan is a credit-based loan available to eligible graduate or professional students to help pay for the cost of the student's education. The borrower must not have an adverse credit history.

Amount Up to the full cost of attendance, minus any other financial assistance received by the student.
Interest 6.28% interest rate for graduate students (for loans disbursed on or after 7/1/2021 or before 6/30/2022). 7.54% interest rate for graduate students (effective July 1, 2022; rates change each July 1).
Fees  For loans where the first disbursement is made on or after October 1, 2020 the loan fee is 4.228%.
Enrollment Student must maintain at least half-time enrollment status (at least six credits). 
Other Information First-time Direct Loan borrowers must complete an online Direct Loan Master Promissory Note and Entrance Counseling before receiving loan funds. A credit check is performed during the application process via the Direct Loan Request Form. Exit Counseling is required when students graduate or drop below half-time. 

Please note: As a result of the Presidential Executive Order, Federal Direct Loans will not accrue interest from March 13, 2020 through August 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.

Interest accrues from the day the Direct loan is disbursed until the day it is repaid in full. The federal government is the lender and does not subsidize the interest.

There is a variable -fixed interest rate for Federal Direct Loans. This means that a Direct Loan will have a fixed interest rate for the life of the loan, but that rate will depend on the interest rate offered at the time the loan is disbursed.  The interest rate is set annually each July 1st by the federal government.

Federal Direct Loans also have an origination fee, which is deducted at disbursement. This means the money a student receives will be less than the amount the student actually borrows. The student is responsible for repaying the entire amount borrowed, not just the amount received.

The  amount borrowed through the Direct Loan program cannot exceed the student’s cost of attendance (determined by the school) minus any other financial aid received.

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.

Federal Direct Loan FAQs

The Department of Education holds all Direct Loans. Upon disbursement, loans are assigned to a third-party Federal Direct Loan Servicer who will be responsible for billing.

A loan servicer is the company hired by the Department of Education to manage your loan after disbursement. Loan servicers collect payments, respond to customer service inquiries, and perform other administrative tasks associated with student loans on behalf of a lender. If you have questions about repayment or your options, the servicer is often the best resource.

Make sure that loan servicers always have accurate contact information in order to avoid missing payments because of a lost bill.

You can find the servicer assigned to each of your federal loans by logging in to Federal Student Aid with your FSA ID.

If denied a PLUS loan, you can either obtain an endorser (a co-signer) or document extenuating circumstances to the satisfaction of the U.S. Department of Education. More information can be found on their website.

Your loan will first be applied to your Bursar bill and pay any outstanding charges. If there are excess funds after your bill is paid, they will be refunded to you to assist with living expenses. Interest begins to accrue once your loan is disbursed.

The Department of Education holds all Direct Loans. Upon disbursement, Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are assigned to a third-party servicer, who will be responsible for billing. Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans have a six-month grace period. Borrowers begin repayment in the seventh month upon graduating, dropping below half time (six credits), or withdrawing from school.

All Direct Loan funds are sent to the school. If you have a balance with the Bursar, the balance will be deducted from the loan. The remaining loan proceeds will be direct deposited into your bank account or mailed to you.

Loan checks can be received by:

  1. Direct deposit (sign-up must be completed on CUNYfirst)
  2. A check will be mailed to the address listed in CUNYfirst

We highly recommend that students sign up for direct deposit. If you do not select that option, please ensure that your mailing address in CUNYfirst is correct.

If you previously borrowed a federal student loan, your loans will be placed in-school deferment as long as you are registered for at least half time. 

If you borrowed a private student loan, you may be eligible for a deferment depending on the terms of the loan. You may also be able to request a forbearance. Contact your private loan lender to discuss options.

If you take a leave of absence, we are required to report that you are no longer enrolled half time to your servicer. You will enter your grace period and, should you remain on leave for longer than six months, you will go into repayment. If you return before the six months’ grace period ends, you will be placed back into in-school deferment after you enroll for at least six credits. Students taking a leave of absence will need to compete exit counseling online, even if they plan to return to at least half time the following semester.

When you graduate, your loan servicer will contact you about setting up your repayment plan.

Learn more about loan repayment »

Federal Student Aid contains information about every (undergraduate and graduate) federal student loan you have borrowed, whether paid or unpaid.

The record includes lender(s), servicers, outstanding principal balances, and current loan status. In order to access the website, you must use your FSA (Federal Student Aid) ID.

Alternative/private loans are not reported to or recorded on Federal Student Aid. Contact your alternative loan lender directly for information about those loans. If you are unsure whether you ever took out a private student loan or do not know who your lender was, please request a free copy of your credit report for that information.

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, but offers these recommendations about private loan shopping.

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. 

  • As a general rule, you should only consider obtaining a private education loan if you are not eligible for the Federal Stafford Loan and the Federal Graduate Plus Loan. 
  • The internet makes it easy. All you have to do is type in “private education loan” on any search engine, and a whole slew of lenders will pop up.
  • Check to see if your bank offers private education loans. Having a co-signer who is a longtime bank customer may land you a lower rate on your loan.
  • Be sure to study the fine print of each and every deal. What kinds of interest rates are available?
  • Does the loan charge a disbursement fee or a repayment fee? A disbursement fee is a fee that’s charged once your student loan check is cut. A repayment fee kicks in when it’s time to start paying on your loan.
  • Keep in mind that the terms offered in big, bold letters are probably reserved for people with squeaky-clean credit. There’s no guarantee you’ll qualify for that rock-bottom rate, even with a co-signer.
  • You should also compare costs with the Federal PLUS Loan, as the PLUS loan is usually much less expensive.
  • The fees charged by some lenders can significantly increase the cost of the loan. A loan with a relatively low interest rate but high fees can ultimately cost more than a loan with a somewhat higher interest rate and no fees.
  • Often the interest rates, fees, and loan limits depend on the credit history of the borrower and co-signer, if any, and on loan options chosen by the borrower such as in-school deferment and repayment schedule. Loan term often depends on the total amount of debt.
  • Be wary of comparing loans with different repayment terms according to APR, as a longer loan term reduces the APR despite increasing the total amount of interest paid.
  • Lenders rarely give complete details of the terms of the private student loan until after the student submits an application, in part because this helps prevent comparisons based on cost. For example, many lenders will only advertise the lowest interest rate they charge (for good credit borrowers). Borrowers with bad credit can expect interest rates that are as much as 4%higher, loan fees that are as much as 9% higher, and loan limits that are two-thirds lower than the advertised figures.