What is a loan?
When you take out a student loan, you’re borrowing money that you’ll need to repay with interest. But just like car loans, mortgages and personal loans, not all student loans are the same. Some have lower interest rates than others. Some allow you to postpone your payments while you’re unemployed, returning to school or serving in the military.
No matter which loans you’re considering, we encourage you to carefully review all fees, terms and conditions. It’s important to understand exactly what you’re committing to and for how long. If you have questions, you can come to us for help.
Federal Direct Loans can only pay for courses that are in a student’s degree program. Therefore, if you decide to take electives or courses that are not geared for your particular degree program, you will need to make arrangements to pay for those courses outside of federal financial aid. Learn more regarding this process on the Plan of Study page.
How to apply for a loan
Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step to apply for loan assistance. The U.S. Department of Education and SFA use your FAFSA application to determine your eligibility for certain types of loans. Learn more about the FAFSA application requirements process and deadlines here.
Federal Direct Loans
If you need to take out a loan to help with the cost of attending SFA, federal loans are a good starting point. The interest rates on federal loans are fixed for one year and tend to be lower than other loan options, and they usually give you flexible repayment options.
You will be required to complete entrance and exit counseling if you receive a Federal Direct Loan. The process is designed to help you understand the federal student loan process. If you’re a transfer student with a loan history, you can arrange for us to receive a notification that you’ve completed entrance counseling.
Three types of Direct Loans are available.
Direct Subsidized Loans
Direct Subsidized Loans are for undergraduates who demonstrate financial need. The U.S. Department of Education pays your interest while you’re in school, for the first six months after you leave school and during deferments (when loan payments are postponed).
If you’re a first-time borrower, you’ll need to comply with the “150 percent rule” to remain eligible for subsidized loans. This rule requires you to stay on track for completing your degree: you can’t exceed more than 150% of the time typically allotted for earning your required credits. If you’re in a 4-year degree program, for example, you’ll need to complete it within 6 years to remain eligible for subsidized loan assistance. Students in a 2-year program need to earn their degree within 3 years.
- Awarded to eligible students on the basis of documented financial need
- These loans do not accrue interest during eligible in-school and grace periods
- In most cases payments are not required as long you are enrolled at least half time
- Student must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress
- Student must not exceed annual or lifetime aggregate loan limits
- Effective July 1, 2012, this loan will no longer be available to graduate students
Direct Unsubsidized Loans
Undergraduate and graduate students attending school at least halftime can receive Direct Unsubsidized Loans. You do not have to demonstrate financial need to be eligible.
While this loan offers the benefit of fixed, low interest rates, interest will begin accruing as soon as you take out the loan. The Department of Education will not help pay for it.
- Not limited to students with documented financial need
- Interest begins to accrue when funds are disbursed
- Student must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress
- Not to exceed annual or lifetime aggregate loan limits
- Repayment of principal and interest may be deferred until the student no longer meets enrollment requirements
Direct PLUS Loans
Direct PLUS Loans are for parents of dependent undergraduates and graduate students who need help paying for education expenses that aren’t covered by other forms of financial aid.
- Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
- Student must be attending at least halftime (6 hours).
- Parent borrower must be the creditworthy parent/stepparent of the student whose information is reported on the FAFSA. (Guardians & grandparents cannot apply.)
- Parent borrower must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. National or Permanent Resident of the U.S.
- Parent borrower cannot be in default on a Federal education loan or owe a repayment of Federal Title IV aid.
- Financial need is not a requirement to obtain a PLUS Loan, but the borrower is responsible for interest that accrues.
Emergency short-term loans
If you need temporary help paying for tuition and fees, you can apply for an emergency short-term loan from the university during the class registration process (please see application instructions below). If you’re approved, the loan will cover your first installment payment for the semester.
If we award you an emergency loan, we’ll apply any financial aid you receive that semester to the remaining balance of your student bill and the rest will be applied to the emergency loan.
Summer short-term loans
SFA provides loans for the full amount of tuition and fees during each of the summer semesters. If your financial aid doesn’t pay the loan in full, you’ll need to repay it within 20 days of the semester’s first day of classes.
Student requirements for short-term loans (any semester)
- You cannot owe a prior balance.
- You must be enrolled at least halftime (6 credit hours during the fall or spring; 3 credit hours for a summer semester).
- Your GPA must be 1.6 if you’re an undergraduate and 3.0 if you’re a graduate student.
- You must provide a demonstrated means of repaying the loan by the due date, other than financial aid. Examples include parent assistance, employment or a credit card.
- You must have a complete installment contract before receiving a short-term loan for a fall or spring semester.
How to apply for a short-term loan (any semester)
- Log in to mySFA.
- Click on Billing.
- Under payment options, select Short Term Loan.
- Select the term you need help with.
- The system will check to see if you are eligible. If you meet all the requirements, you will be instructed to fill out the application. If you do not meet the requirements, you’ll receive a message explaining why and what you need to do.
- Once you’re approved, you’ll receive a confirmation that will indicate you’ve been approved. Short-term loans will post to your bill overnight.
Loan limits and interest rates
Maximum annual loan limits
|Borrower's Academic Level Classification||Dependent Student
Sub & Unsub
Aggregate loan limits
|Borrower's Academic Level Classification||Subsidized||Total (subsidized and unsubsidized)|
|Dependent Undergraduates (excluding those whose parents can’t borrow PLUS)||$23,000||$31,000|
|Independent undergraduates and dependent students (whose parents cannot get PLUS)||$23,000||$57,500|
|Graduate and professional students||$65,500||$138,500|
Current interest rates
|Type of loan||Interest rate|
|Undergraduate direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans||4.53%|
|Graduate direct unsubsidized loans||6.08%|
|Direct PLUS Loan||7.08%|