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Many students find that they need to borrow student loans to help pay for their education. Loans must be repaid so before borrowing, carefully consider how much you will need and the burden your loans will impose after you leave school. The financial aid administrator at your institution can give you more information on the responsibilities you assume when you borrow money. This page will also give you some information about how to apply.

Federal Direct Loan

The Federal Direct Loan program provides low interest, long term loans to eligible students through the U.S. Department of Education. All federal loans require you to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Entrance and Exit Loan Counseling

Students who receive Direct Loans must complete Loan Counseling.

  • Entrance counseling ensures you understand the terms and conditions of your loan and your rights and responsibilities. You will complete entrance counseling prior to the first disbursement of your student loans.
  • Exit Counseling is required when you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. It provides important information to prepare you for repaying your federal student loans.   Click here to view the Direct Loan Exit Counseling Guide.

Click here to learn more or to complete Entrance or Exit Counseling

There are two types of Federal Direct Loans:

  • Subsidized Federal Direct Loan
    A subsidized Federal Direct Loan is offered based on financial need and accrues no interest while the student is enrolled in school at least half-time, during the grace period or during periods of deferment.

  • Unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan
    An unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan is not dependent upon need. Interest accrues from the time the loan is disbursed until final payment. The student has the option to make interest payments while in school and during the grace period.

If you accept federal student loans, you will be required to repay those loans with interest. It is important that you understand how interest is calculated and the fees associated with your loan. Both will impact the amount you will be required to repay. The next section explains more about fees and interest rates.

To apply, complete your FAFSA. If eligible, you will automatically be offered Direct Loans as part of your financial aid package. You can view and accept the loan amount you would like to receive on Self Service Carolina.  

Click here for more information about Direct Loans.

  Dependent Student (whose parents were not denied a PLUS loan) Independent Student  (and dependent students whose parents were denied a PLUS Loan)
1ST Year (Freshman):
0 - 29 credit hours
$5,500 (no more than $3500 subsidized) $9,500 (no more than $3500 subsidized)
2nd Year (Sophomore):
30 - 59 credit hours
$6,500 (no more than $4500 subsidized) $10,500 (no more than $4500 subsidized)
3rd Year+(Junior/Senior):
60+ credit hours
$7,500 (no more than $5500 subsidized) $12,500 (no more than $5500 subsidized)

Federal regulations require that we limit or reduce the amount of a Federal Direct Loan under certain prescribed conditions. These conditions are as follows: (1) you are an undergraduate and you apply for a Stafford Loan and are enrolled less than a full academic year (fall and spring semesters), or (2) you will complete all degree requirements at the end of the semester or term. If both of these conditions occur, the Federal Direct Loan amount may be reduced. We will make this adjustment and send you a revised award letter.

Interest Rates

Interest rates for Direct Loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2023, and before July 1, 2024, are listed as follows:

  • Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans (Undergraduate): 5.50%
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans (Graduate or Professional): 7.05%
  • Direct PLUS Loans (Parents and Graduate or Professional Students): 8.05%

Loan Fees

Most federal student loans have loan fees. These fees are a percentage of the total loan amount.

Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans

  • First disbursement date on or after 10/1/2020 and before 10/1/2023: 1.057 percent

Direct PLUS Loans

  • First disbursement date on or after 10/1/2020 and before 10/1/2023: 4.228 percent

Click here for further information on Direct Loan fees and Interest rates. 

Direct PLUS Loans are available from the U.S. Department of Education to help parents pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid.   Parents can borrow up to the cost of attendance at the school your child will attend minus any other financial aid your child receives. The school determines the cost of attendance. 

Interest is charged on a PLUS Loan from the date of the first disbursement is made until the loan is paid in full. Repayment begins 60 days after the final loan disbursement though parent borrowers may choose to defer payments until six months after the date the student ceases to be enrolled at least half time. 

To receive a Parent PLUS Loan, you must:

  • be the biological or adoptive parent of a dependent undergraduate student enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school;

  • not have an adverse credit history; and, 

  • meet the general eligibility requirements for federal student aid.

A credit check will be performed during the application process. Borrowers with adverse credit history may still receive a parent PLUS loan through one of two options: seek a co-signer or successfully appeal the credit decision. If the borrower is unable to obtain a parent PLUS loan, the student may be eligible for additional unsubsidized loans.

How to Apply

  1. The student must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 
  2. Parent borrowers apply online through the Direct PLUS Loan Application for parents, which includes a credit check. 
  3. If you are approved, sign a Direct PLUS Loan Master Promissory Note (MPN), agreeing to the terms of the loan. 

Click here for more information about Parent PLUS Loans. 

The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the U.S. Department of Education's central database for student aid. NSLDS receives data from schools, guaranty agencies, the Direct Loan program, and other Department of ED programs. NSLDS Student Access provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans and grants so that the recipients of Title IV Aid can access and inquire about their Title IV loans and/or grant data. Click here to visit the NSLDS website

Private educational loans can help bridge the gap between your cost of education and the financial aid offered to you through state or federal programs. If you are considering applying for a private loan, we encourage you to complete your FAFSA application first and then borrow only what you need. Click here for more information about the differences between federal and private loans.

How to Apply

  1. Determine how much you need to borrow.
  2. Research lenders and their loan products to determine which is best for you.
  3. Apply with the lender of your choice. This usually involves an online application and a credit check. You may also need a creditworthy co-signer.
  4. Submit any requested documentation. Follow-up with your lender to be sure they have everything they need.

Historical Lender List

The University of South Carolina and its representatives do not endorse any private lender. The lenders provided here are not recommendations but a list of lenders our students have used in the past three years. It is presented to aid your search. You are not limited to these lenders.  You may choose any lender of your choice.


Most private loan disbursements are made via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) from your lender to the university. These funds will be applied to your university charges. Any remaining funds will be sent to you as a refund after all university fees have been paid in full.


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