Direct Loans

The U.S. Department of Education offers low-interest loans (subsidized and unsubsidized) to eligible students to help cover the cost of college or career school. Check current interest rates, fees, and loan limits.

Loan Types:

Federal Direct Subsidized Stafford 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. Only undergraduate students are eligible for Subsidized Stafford Loans.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans are also available for undergraduate students, and graduate and professional students with need. Students who do not qualify for need-based assistance may qualify for these loans. Unlike the Subsidized Stafford Loan, interest accrues on this unsubsidized loan during the time of enrollment, during the grace period, and during periods or 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.

Eligibility requirements 

  • Enrolled at least half-time (6 credits undergraduate / 3 credits graduate).
  • Making satisfactory academic progress.     

Application process

  • Your initial eligibility application is your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • Check your Banner offer of financial assistance if you were awarded a subsidized or unsubsidized loan.
  • If you are a first-time borrower of subsidized or unsubsidized loans:
    •  Complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN). You can electronically sign a master promissory note at You will only need to sign once for all Direct Loans you borrow at SPU.
    • Complete Entrance Counseling. Complete entrance counseling at During entrance counseling you will learn what a direct loan is, how the process works, your rights and responsibilities as a borrower, how to manage your educational expenses, and learn about other financial resources that may help pay for your education.


  • Repayment begins six months after ceasing at least half-time enrollment in school.
  • On unsubsidized loans, interest begins to accrue at disbursement. Payment of accruing interest is not required until the loan enters repayment. 
  • On subsidized loans, interest accrues according to date of first disbursement. For most subsidized loans, interest accrual begins six months after ceasing at least half-time enrollment in school.
  • The standard repayment term is 10 years.
  • The minimum monthly payment is $50.     

Subsidized loans: 150 percent loan limit 

Due to the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, a new borrower on or after July 1, 2013, cannot receive subsidized loans for more than 150 percent of the published length of the borrower’s educational program (for example, a student who is in a 4-year program can receive subsidized loans for up to 6 years).

The law also notes that a borrower who becomes ineligible for subsidized loans because of the 150 percent limit is ineligible for interest-subsidy benefits on all subsidized loans first disbursed to that borrower on or after July 1, 2013.

Who's a first-time borrower? Generally, one who did not have an outstanding balance of principal or interest on a Direct Loan or on a FFEL Program loan on July 1, 2013.

Please note that, as of July 1, 2021, this loan limit has been repealed for all first-time borrowers on or after July 1, 2021. While this limit will still apply to students who borrowed a Federal Direct Loan or FFEL Program Loan between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2021, students whose first Federal Direct Loan disbursement was on or after July 1, 2021 will no longer be held to this 150% limit.

Need Help?

Student Financial Services is a good starting point for information and resources regarding obtaining financial aid, and for issues or assistance after you successfully obtain a loan. After you obtain a loan, the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) can also provide information and resources about student loan repayment, or can assist with a complaint relating to our student loans or student loan servicer. Please visit or contact the WSAC Student Loan Advocate at for additional information.

Additional help is available with the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group. For more information, please visit Getting Prepared Before Seeking Help.