What is Federal Student Loan – Easy Explanation

In order to assist students in paying for their higher education, the US government offers federal student loans. The several types of federal student loans that are available, the criteria for applying, the advantages and disadvantages of getting federal student loans, and the repayment alternatives will all be covered in this article.

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Types of Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans come in two varieties: Direct Subsidised Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Undergraduate students who can prove their financial need can apply for Direct Subsidised Loans. The interest on these loans is covered by the federal government while the borrower is enrolled in classes, for the six months following graduation, and during any deferment periods.

Graduate and undergraduate students can apply for Direct Unsubsidized Loans, regardless of their financial situation. In contrast to subsidised loans, interest on unsubsidized loans must be paid by the borrower while enrolled in school as well as during any other times of deferment or forbearance.

Graduate students and parents of undergraduate students may also apply for Direct PLUS Loans, which are in addition to Direct Subsidised and Unsubsidized Loans. In comparison to Direct Subsidised and Unsubsidized Loans, these loans may have a higher interest rate and require a credit check.


You must be a citizen of the United States or an eligible noncitizen, enrolled at least half-time in a degree or certificate programme, and making satisfactory academic progress in order to be eligible for federal student loans. For the purpose of determining your eligibility for financial aid, you must also complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Federal Student Loan Benefits

The low interest rate on federal student loans is one of its key advantages. As of 2021, the interest rate for undergraduate students taking out Direct Subsidised and Unsubsidized Loans is 3.73%, while the interest rate for students taking out Direct PLUS Loans is 6.28%. These interest rates are frequently lower than those on private student loans.

The federal student loans’ adaptable repayment options are an additional advantage. The Standard Repayment Plan, Graduated Repayment Plan, Extended Repayment Plan, and Income-Driven Repayment Plans are just a few of the repayment options available to borrowers. Borrowers with modest incomes benefit most from income-driven repayment plans since they can help lower monthly payments to a manageable amount based on income.

Deferment and forbearance options are also available for federal student loans, enabling borrowers to temporarily suspend their payments in the event of a financial emergency or other qualified conditions.

Federal student loan drawbacks

The borrowing cap is one disadvantage of federal student loans. Graduate students may borrow up to $20,500 year, while undergraduate students may borrow up to $12,500 annually in Direct Subsidised and Unsubsidized Loans. Undergraduate parent borrowers are eligible for loans up to the cost of attendance less any other financial help received. Private student loans might be an option for students who need to borrow more than the federal borrowing cap.

The potential for interest to accumulate on federal student loans is another disadvantage. While the federal government pays the interest on Direct Subsidised Loans while the borrower is enrolled in school, Direct Unsubsidized and PLUS Loans accrue interest over the course of the loan. This implies that over time, borrowers can end up paying more in interest, raising the cost of the loan as a whole.

Repayment Options

The Standard Repayment Plan, the Graduated Repayment Plan, the Extended Repayment Plan, and the Income-Driven Repayment Plans are just a few of the repayment alternatives available for federal student loans. Additionally, borrowers might be qualified for loan discharge or forgiveness programmes like Public Service Loan Forgiveness or Teacher Loan Forgiveness.

For federal student loans, the Standard Repayment Plan is the default repayment option. Borrowers are required to make fixed payments over a ten-year term. Although the monthly payments under this plan could be higher, it typically results in the lowest overall amount of interest paid over the course of the loan.

Beginning with lower monthly payments, the Graduated Repayment Plan gradually raises them every two years over a ten-year term. For debtors who anticipate seeing an increase in their income over time, this plan might be advantageous. However, compared to the Standard Repayment Plan, it might mean paying more in total interest over the course of the loan.


Higher education funding options include federal student loans. Low interest rates, flexible repayment options, and options for deferment and forbearance are all available. However, it’s crucial for borrowers to comprehend the prerequisites, advantages, and disadvantages of borrowing federal student loans as well as their options for repayment.

The total cost of the loan, the borrower’s anticipated salary following graduation, and the employment market for their chosen field are all key considerations when considering whether to take out federal student loans. Additionally, borrowers should think about other funding options like private student loans, grants, and scholarships.

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