Archive for Graduate PLUS loan

PLUS Loan information

Some SIPA students find that they need additional resources beyond the $20,500 annual limit of an Unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan and other aid they have received.  The loan most SIPA students turn to is the Federal Graduate PLUS Loan.  This loan (which is credit-based) can be borrowed up to the full cost of attendance, including living expenses, minus any other loans and aid; please note that like all aid from the US federal government, it is only available to US citizens and permanent residents.

To start an application: Log in to the Net Partner portal at and go to the Messages tab.  There you will see a section labeled “Unmet Financial Need” that includes instructions for the Grad PLUS loan.  Follow the link to the Graduate PLUS Loan Request and Credit Authorization form.  That will bring you to a Google document that will just take a few minutes to complete and submit.  You will receive an approval response in a few days directly from the US Department of Education.

After receiving the approval, log in to to complete the PLUS Master Promissory Note and Entrance Counseling.

Some private lenders offer similar loans.  While their interest rates may be lower, they also don’t include as many repayment benefits or flexibility, including not qualifying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.  But if you’re only borrowing a small amount, some private loans may fit your needs; click here for some suggestions.


Did you know?

When the US Congress passed The Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013, it created a student loan interest rate tied to the 10-year Treasury note, to be adjusted annually. As you are aware, interest rates have been rising, and the US Department of Education recently announced that rates for academic periods beginning on or after July 1, 2014 will be as follows:

Direct Unsubsidized Student Loans: 6.21%

Graduate PLUS Loans: 7.21%

These rates represent a 0.8% increase over the rates available between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014. If you intend to borrow and are enrolled in a program that includes a summer term, such as the PESP or PEPM programs, or continuing students in the EMPA program, the lower rates still apply so long as you complete all necessary application materials before July 1.

These rates are fixed for the life of the loan, although we are encouraged by recent proposals in the Senate to allow for refinancing of student loans at lower interest rates. Also remember that the government deducts fees from these loans at the time of disbursement; rates set during Sequestration are now at 1.073% for the Unsubsidized Loan and 4.292% for the PLUS loan.

If you have any questions about student loans, please contact the SIPA Financial Aid Office at  or 212-854-6216. We hope you have an enjoyable and productive summer.


interest rates news

Interest rates has been on the minds of many students thinking about taking out a loan…

Congress recently passed a rare bipartisan bill that set interest rates on federal student loans, The Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013.  While most of the discussion and media attention centered on loans for undergraduates, there is good news for SIPA students.  For all loans first disbursed between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, the interest rate for the Unsubsidized Federal Direct Student Loan has been lowered from 6.8% to 5.41%.  For Graduate PLUS loans, the rate has been reduced from 7.9% to 6.41%.  These rates will be fixed for the life of the loan; the rates on any loans borrowed previously were not changed.

Interest rates will be adjusted annually.  As rates are expected to climb in the coming years, loans for 2014/15 beyond could be higher.  The bill signed by President Obama, in fact, sets caps for rates higher than what they have been; 9.5% and 10.5% respectively.

If you have any questions, please contact the SIPA Financial Aid Office at or 212-854-6216.

Financing your education at SIPA – Part 7

Our last post about financing your education focused on student loan repayments options to consider when you’re first thinking about taking out a loan or when you’re weighing your repayment options as you prepare to graduate from SIPA (or any other institution).

One new initiative that we’re excited about at SIPA is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.  Under this program, student borrowers who pursue careers in the non-profit or public service sectors can have their outstanding loan balance forgiven after 120 months of repayment.  This forgiveness program applies to Federal Direct Loans (also known as Stafford Loans), Graduate PLUS loans, and Federal Direct Consolidation Loans.  It is not available for Federal Perkins Loans or any type of private loans.

If a student borrower qualifies for the Income Based Repayment program (available to borrowers with lower incomes during repayment), the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program can save a borrower a considerable amount of money; depending on the amount borrowed, maybe tens of thousands of dollars.  As many SIPA students seek out such employment before, during and after graduation, this is an initiative that we want all SIPA students who borrow to be aware of.  For more information, visit any of these websites:

These 120 monthly payments need not be consecutive; for instance, if you start working in the non-profit sector immediately after graduating, work for a while in the private sector but then return to non-profit, you could still qualify.  However, you do have to make 120 monthly payments while working in the non-profit sector.  Your loan servicer will need verification of employment.  Note: while paying off your loan quickly (in 10 years or less) will save you money by minimizing interest, it will also prevent you from being able to take advantage of Public Service Loan Forgiveness, because if after the 120 monthly payments you have no remaining balance, there will be no outstanding loan amount to be forgiven.  It cannot be applied retroactively to loan amounts already paid off.

Non-profit or public sector employment may include any of the following:

–       A Federal, State, local, or Tribal government organization, agency, or entity;

–       A public child or family service agency;

–       Volunteering full-time in the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps;

–       A non-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code that is exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code;

–       A Tribal college or university; or

–       A private non-profit organization (that is not a labor union or a partisan political organization) that provides at least one of the following public services:

Emergency management

Military service

Public safety or law enforcement

Public interest law services

Early childhood education (including licensed or regulated child care, Head Start, and state-funded pre-kindergarten)

Public service for individuals with disabilities and the elderly

Public health (including nurses, nurse practitioners, nurses in a clinical setting, and full-time professionals engaged in health care practitioner occupations and health care support occupations)

Public education or other school-based services

Public or school library services

This employment must be full-time (an average of at least 30 hours a week) and while in most cases the exact nature of the work does not matter, it cannot include religious instruction or worship, or any kind of proselytizing.  Work for a labor union or partisan political organization also does not count as public service for purposes of this program.

There are circumstances in which your student loans can’t be forgiven but at least you would be able to halt payments temporarily.  This is called either deferment or forbearance, and is applicable for enrolling at least half-time in a degree program, serving in the military (including the National Guard or Reserves), unemployed or experiencing economic hardship, or serving in the Peace Corps.  In some cases, interest may continue to accrue on your loans, which you would ultimately be responsible for, but deferment or forbearance may help a borrower out during times that making loan payments would create a hardship.  For more information, visit these sites:

If you choose to borrow student loans to attend SIPA, online entrance counseling will be provided so you can get more details about your rights and responsibilities as a borrower.  But if you have questions at any time or would like to learn more about borrowing, feel free to contact us at


Funding your education at SIPA – part 4

Student Loans

About 40% of SIPA students use student loans as part of their financing strategy, and there are a number of options available to them.  Most borrow fixed rate loans from the federal government, which offer flexible repayment options.  Most federal loans are not credit-based, but have annual limits to the amount that can be borrowed; the Graduate PLUS loan is the exception to both of these rules.  But other credit-based loans are available from private lenders, some of which may be available to international students so long as they have a US citizen who can co-sign the loan for them.

For students who are US citizens, permanent resident aliens, or political refugees, the federal government makes a number of loan programs available that students can use, if necessary, to fund the full cost of their education, including living expenses.  In order to be considered for any loan from the federal government, a student must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.  There are three different federal loan programs available to graduate students.  They are:

  •  The Unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan (a/k/a Stafford Loan); currently at 6.8% interest, which accumulates during enrollment (hence “unsubsidized”, Congress eliminated the interest subsidy to graduate students starting 7/1/12).  While you are enrolled, you will have the option of paying your interest (less expensive long-term option) or capitalizing the interest (adding it to the principal).  Unsubsidized Direct Loans are available for up to $20,500 per academic year.  Visit for more information.


  •  The Federal Graduate PLUS Loan; currently at 7.9% interest, and like the Unsubsidized Direct Loans, interest will be accumulating during your enrollment.  The Graduate PLUS Loan can cover the full difference between your total cost of attendance (which includes tuition, fees, books) minus other aid or loans received, but unlike other student loans available from the federal government, the Graduate PLUS loan is credit based.  For more information, visit or click here.


  •  The Federal Perkins Loan; offered at 5% interest, which is fully deferred while you are enrolled.  Perkins Loans are only available to a limited number of students, based on financial need.  Annual loan amounts typically range between $2,000 and $6,000; for more information, click here.

There are also loans available from private lenders.  Private loans do not require completion of the FAFSA, and some are available to international students who have a US citizen who can co-sign the loan form them (click here for some loans available to international students).  Most private loans do not have strict annual limits and can be borrowed for the full cost of attendance minus other aid.  At this time, interest rates tend to be lower than those of federal loans, but federal loan interest rates are fixed, and private loans (which are much less regulated) are variable.  Private loans also tend to offer borrowers less flexibility and fewer features during repayment than federal loans.  All students are free to select their own loan products and lenders, but due to repayment flexibility and the certainty of fixed interest rates, most SIPA students have opted to use federal loans.

In a future blog post, we will discuss student loan repayment; there are many repayment options available for federal loans that can make your student loans manageable, even one that could forgive some of your indebtedness.


"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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