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Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are provided by the United States federal government. Most student loans today are federal loans. The United States Department of Education (DOE) offers two federal student loan programs: the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program and the Federal Perkins Loan Program.

Direct Loans

Perkins Loans

Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL Loans)

Federal Student Loan Interest Rates

Interest rates vary by type of federal loan. The following table shows applicable interest rates for each type of federal loan:

Lowest Interest Rates

federal student loan interest rates

Highest Interest Rates

Loan Type

Interest Rates

(first disbursed between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018)

Direct Subsidized Loans (Undergraduate)

Fixed at 4.45%

Direct Unsubsidized Loans (Undergraduate)

Fixed at 4.45% 

Perkins Loans

Fixed at 5%

Direct Unsubsidized Loans (Graduate and Professional)

Fixed at 6%

Direct PLUS Loans

(Parents and Graduate or Professional Students)

Fixed at 7%

Some federal student loans also have origination fees, which are paid proportionately from each loan disbursement.

Federal Student Loan Borrower Limits

While your school sets the maximum federal aid amount that you can receive each school year, there are limits on the amount of subsidized and unsubsidized loans you can receive each year and in total throughout your education. To learn about these limits, visit StudentAid.gov.

Applying for Federal Aid

To apply for federal student aid, including grants and loans, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form allows your school to determine your federal aid eligibility. You can access the FAFSA Online.

You should resubmit the FAFSA each school year, as your aid package can change depending on your financial need.

A Student Aid Report (SAR) is generated based on your FAFSA. The SAR includes your expected family contribution, or EFC. The EFC is a measure of your family’s financial circumstance that indicates the amount that your family can reasonably be expected to contribute to your education during that academic year.

Get in-depth information on federal student aid programs, applying for financial aid, and repaying student loans at StudentAid.gov.

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