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What is a Federal Stafford Loan?

A Stafford Loan has the following characteristics:

  • Available to any student meeting FAFSA eligibility requirements

  • Subsidized Stafford: If you are an undergraduate student who can demonstrate unmet financial need after Pell grants and other financial aid are factored in, the federal government will pay your interest while you’re in school at least half time, for the six months after you leave school, and during a period of deferment.

  • Unsubsidized Stafford: Available to undergraduate and graduate students regardless of your financial need or family income, interest begins accruing immediately and repayments must begin within 60 days of the borrowing unless you elect to defer repayments (along with capitalized interest) until after graduation.

  • Low variable interest rates on Stafford loans originated before July 1, 2006:


    • 1.75% from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014 for borrowers who are in
      school, in their post-school grace period, or in deferment. Adjusted each
      July 1 based on the 91-day T-bill rate plus 1.7%.

    • 2.35% from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014 for borrowers who are in
      repayment. Adjusted each July 1 based on the 91-day T-bill rate plus 2.3%.

    • Loans originated prior to July 1, 1998 are subject to different rates


  • Fixed interest rate of 6.8% for Unsubsidized Stafford Loans for school years 2006-07 and later, and for Subsidized Stafford Loans for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years.

  • Fixed interest rate of 6.0% for Subsidized Stafford Loans for the school year 2008-09, dropping incrementally in subsequent school years (5.6% for 2009-10, 4.5% for 2010-11, and 3.4% for 2011-13), and increasing to 3.86% in 2013-14.

  • Fixed rate at 4.66% for undergraduate students and 6.21% for graduate students for 2014-15 (subsidized and unsubsidized).

  • Subject to maximum borrowing limits (see below)



Your borrowing limit with a Stafford Loan depends on which year
you are in at college, and whether you are considered a "dependent" student
or "independent" student under criteria established by federal law and the school’s
financial aid office. (If your parents are turned down for a Federal PLUS Loan,
you are automatically considered independent for this purpose).




Stafford Loan maximums
Student Level and Dependency StatusMaximum Stafford (Subsidized and Unsubsidized)Maximum Subsidized
Dependent 1st year$5,500$3,500
Dependent 2nd year$6,500$4,500
Dependent 3rd or later year$7,500$5,500
Independent 1st year$9,500$3,500
Independent 2nd year$10,500$4,500
Independent 3rd or later year$12,500$5,500
Graduate/Professional$20,500N/A
Medical$40,500N/A



Lifetime limits
Student Level and Dependency StatusMaximum Stafford (Subsidized and Unsubsidized)Maximum Subsidized
Dependent undergraduate$31,000$23,000
Independent undergraduate$57,500$23,000
Graduate/Professional$138,500N/A
Medical$224,000N/A

For more information: http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/publications/student_guide/index.html