Federal Direct Student Loan

Eligibility for a Federal Direct Student loan is determined after a student has filed an application for financial aid. including the FAFSA. There are two kinds of federal direct student loans: subsidized and unsubsidized, though subsidized loans are available only to undergraduates.

  • Federal Direct Subsidized Student Loan. The federal government pays the interest on the loan while the student borrower is in school. To qualify for a subsidized loan, a student must demonstrate financial need via the FAFSA, tax returns, other aid application materials, and be enrolled in an undergraduate program.
  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Student Loan. The student pays the interest throughout the life of the loan. Payment can be deferred until six months after a student graduates or leaves school, however making interest-only payments while in school is encouraged. Students do not need to demonstrate need to qualify for an unsubsidized loan.

Loan Step-by-Step

  • File a FAFSA, an online Bennington Application for Financial Aid, and any other required aid application materials. Your resulting financial aid award letter will show your Federal Direct Loan eligibility for subsidized and unsubsidized loans.
  • Online at My Financial Aid, accept (or reduce or decline) the loans shown on your financial aid award.
  • Students who are first-time loan applicants must complete the online federal student loan entrance counseling and a Student Loan Authorization.
  • All students receiving a Federal Direct Student Loan for the first time must complete the promise to repay, which is called the Master Promissory Note (MPN) (Internet Explorer or Firefox browser required).
  • Loan funds will be disbursed near the beginning of the term, after course registration is complete.

Basic Loan Information

  • Interest rate. The interest rates for federal subsidized and unsubsidized student loans first disbursed after July 1, 2013, are fixed as follows:3.86% for undergraduate and post-baccalaureate subsidized student loans disbursed in academic year 2013-2014; 5.41% for graduate unsubsidized student loans disbursed in academic year 2013-2014. There is an automatic interest rate reduction for borrowers who repay via automatic electronic debit.
  • Loan fees: Federal student loans have fees of 1.051% taken from the loan before disbursement. 
  • Disbursement: A full-year loan is disbursed in two installments, half each term. The funds come directly to Bennington College early in each term, after course registration is complete. (See note below regarding schedule for MATSL students.)
  • Interest accrual: Interest begins to accrue on a subsidized student loan after the borrower graduates or leaves school. Interest begins to accrue on an unsubsidized student loan when the loan is first disbursed.
  • Repayment: Repayment begins six months after the borrower graduates or leaves school, though the borrower may choose to begin earlier.
  • Length of repayment: Most student loans are repaid over 10 years, though a number of other options, including direct loan consolidation, are available. More information is available online.
  • Other options: Individuals may qualify for a variety of federal student loan repayment plans and adjustments, including alternative repayment schedules; loan forgiveness for certain types of service; limited deferment for unemployment, enrollment in school, economic hardship, or other specified circumstances; and loan cancellation in the event of death.

Annual Loan Limits

  • Freshmen: $5,500* ($3,500 is the maximum subsidized amount)
  • Sophomores: $6,500* ($4,500 is the maximum subsidized amount)
  • Juniors/seniors: $7,500* ($5,500 is the maximum subsidized amount)
  • Postbaccalaureate students: $5,500 (dependent); $12,500 (independent) ($5,500 is the  maximumsubsidized amount)
  • Graduate students: $20,500 or cost of education, whichever is less, in unsubsidized loan only  Note: low-residency masters programs' loan maximums are less than $20,500

* Independent undergraduates, and dependent undergraduates whose parents have been denied a PLUS loan for reasons of poor credit, can borrow an additional $4,000 (freshmen and sophomores) to $5,000 (juniors and seniors in unsubsidized student loan funds).

Calculate student loan repayment amounts.

Loan Disbursements for MATSL Students

Because the two terms of the MATSL program’s academic year are of very different lengths, it is subject to a special Stafford loan disbursement schedule. Half of the loan is disbursed in July for the summer term. The remaining half is disbursed halfway through the academic year calendar, in February. Bills for the non-resident term, however, are sent in August, before the non-resident term begins.

MATSL students whose summer student loan disbursement will not cover all summer charges and wish to pay the remainder (if more than $500) with the second (February) loan disbursement may contact the Business Office to arrange a payment contract accommodating the loan disbursement schedule.