A "loan" is a form of financial aid. It is money that you borrow, which must be repaid often with interest. The most common kinds of loans are:

  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans
  • Federal Direct Graduate Plus Loan
  • Alternative Loans

Federal Direct Loan Program

Eligible graduate students can qualify for an annual maximum of $20,500 in unsubsidized loans. To be eligible, you must

  • have a valid FAFSA for the year,

  • be enrolled in a graduate degree program, and

  • be registered for at least 6 graduate credits (not counting prerequisite courses) for each term in which you are requesting a loan.

Do keep in mind, loans and the interest accrued must be repaid. You generally have 6 months after graduating or once your enrollment falls to fewer than 6 graduate credits, before your repayment period begins. There are multiple options for repayment. Please visit Repayment Plans on the Federal Student Aid website to read about them.

Unsubsidized Loan

The Direct Loan Program allows students to borrow money directly from the federal government to help students meet the cost of a graduate education. Students who are matriculated in degree-granting programs and are registered for at least 6 graduate credits per semester are eligible. Students may begin repayment while still attending school by paying the interest, with repayment of the principal deferred until after graduation or termination of attendance. Or, interest may be added to the principal, with repayment of the principal and interest deferred until after graduation or termination of attendance. The aggregate total that may be borrowed from this program is $138,500 including undergraduate loans.


How to Apply

Before you submit your request, remember you

  • must have completed the FAFSA application;
  • must have completed the Entrance Counseling session (selecting Graduate Center as your school) and signed the Master Promissory Note (selecting any CUNY school as the home school) online on
    • make sure to save copies of both to be uploaded along with the loan request
  • must ensure you are admitted to a degree granting program and are or will be registered for a minimum of 6 graduate credits/units

You should also keep in mind that there are limits (see charts below) to how much you can borrow, both annual (that is summer, fall, and spring) as well as aggregate or total limits (how much you can borrow as you pursue your undergraduate or graduate degree).


To complete the request for a federal student loan, please click here

You will need to use your CUNYFirst credentials to log into the application.

****Do not submit a request via CUNYFirst Direct Loan Processing Form.****


Things to consider:

  • When completing the loan request, if you indicate at least 6 credits in summer, 6 credits in fall, and 6 credits in spring, the amount requested would be divided in three, with a third per semester, i.e., if your request is $6,000 for all three terms, $2,000 would be processed per term.
  • There is an origination fee that is applied to each disbursement of the loan prior to the funds disbursing to the school.
  • Allow 4-6 weeks for processing.
  • You must be registered for 6 graduate credits in the semester. Prerequisite courses do not count.
  • Graduate students do not qualify for subsidized loans.


Maximum Annual Limits for Unsubsidized Federal Direct Loans

Grade Level Total Unsubsidized Loan
Graduate/Professional  $20,500



Aggregate Limit
Grade Level

Maximum Lifetime Limit 

(includes Undergraduate level loans)

Graduate/Professional $138,500

Repayment Calculator

Graduate Plus Loan

The Grad PLUS Loan, a federally backed student loan, guaranteed by the U.S. Government, like its undergraduate counterpart, can be used to pay for the total cost of education less any aid a student has already been awarded. Also like the undergraduate version, eligibility for the Graduate PLUS Loan is largely dependent on the borrower's credit rating and history, as opposed to the purely financial need-based Graduate Direct Loan. Both the interest rate and origination fee deducted from the loan amount are higher than those associated with the unsubsidized loan. 

How to Apply

Alternative Loans

These are private lender loans for students who may not be eligible for Federal Direct Student Loans or for students who are eligible and need additional funds to help meet additional educational expenses including tuition and housing. The amount that a student may borrow is limited to the cost of attendance as determined by federal approved standard budgets. Students who are non-matriculated or who are registered for less than 6 credits may also apply. All applicants are subject to credit review or may require a co-signer. Students who do not have eligible citizenship status for federal financial aid may borrow an Alternative Loan if they have a co-signer with eligible citizenship status.

Once you have applied and been preapproved by a lender, please contact the Financial Aid Office at (646) 664-8720 for further instructions.

The choice of a lender is ultimately your decision. Here are some things to consider as you seek possible lenders for alternative loans:

  • Interest rate of the loan
  • Repayment schedule and monthly amounts
  • Length of repayment period
  • Total amount you will repay over the life of the loan
  • Penalties for missing monthly payments
  • Options for loan consolidation