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 Stafford/Ford Loan Program
  • Graduate Plus Loan
  • Alternative Loans

Federal Direct Stafford/Ford Loan Program

The Budget Control Act of 2011 has eliminated Subsidized Student Loans for graduate students. Eligible graduate students can qualify for an annual maximum of $20,500 in unsubsidized loans.


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.

Loan Limit Table

Effective Date: The increased loan limits are shown below in italics and are effective for any loan certified or originated on or after July 1, 2007:

Annual Loan Limits

Unsubsidized Loan Amount
Graduate and Professional Students $20,500


For information on current interest rates, please visit the Interest Rates and Fees page.

Aggregate Loan Limits

Subsidized / Unsubsidized Aggregate

Effective July 1, 2008

Graduate and Professional Students $65,500 (subsidized) Unchanged at $138,500 (subsidized and unsubsidized)
(maximum 65,500 subsidized)

How to Apply

Please read these instructions carefully. Failure to follow these instructions may cause delays in the processing of your loan request. You must be enrolled at least half-time (6 credits or more) in order to be eligible for a Direct Loan.

In order to secure a direct loan, there are three steps. All of these steps must be completed in order for a loan to be processed successfully.

1.Complete the FAFSA

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the application for federal student assistance.  You can apply before you have been admitted to CUNY starting October 1 prior to the academic year you plan on attending. Apply online by going to FAFSA website. In order to file a FAFSA, you will need to have a FSA ID. If you do not currently have a FSA ID, you can obtain one by visiting the  Create a New FSA ID page.

School code — 004765.

You must file a new FAFSA for each academic year that you would like to be considered for federal aid.

2. Complete entrance counseling (for first-time borrowers)

Those who are first-time borrowers or who borrowed more than five years ago must complete entrance counseling at StudentLoans.gov website.

• Sign on to StudentLoans.gov and click on Student Loan Borrowers, then click on Complete Online Counseling.
• First-time Grad PLUS borrowers must complete graduate entrance counseling, before loan proceeds will be disbursed.
• Read all the loan information page by page.
• Take the quiz (applicants must pass).

3. Sign the Master Promissory Note (MPN)

Once the loan request has been processed, applicants will receive a letter of instruction regarding:

(1) how to sign the Master Promissory Note (MPN) online. See StudentLoans.gov website. Signing online will shorten the time required to get the loan funds to applicants;
(2) the processed loan amounts; and
(3) the anticipated disbursement dates.

If students do not sign their MPN online using their FSA ID, they will receive a paper MPN in the mail. Students must complete the reference section, sign and date the MPN, and send in the MPN for the processing of their loan to be completed. Grad PLUS borrowers are required to sign an additional MPN.

Once the MPN is returned, students will receive Disclosure Notices which will indicate the approved gross loan amount(s), fees, net loan amounts, and anticipated disbursement dates. All loans are disbursed in at least two disbursements.

Students will be notified by email when their checks are available. Checks will be mailed or direct deposited. Direct deposit is highly recommended. (To ensure that mailed checks are received, mailing addresses must be updated in CUNYfirst.) Students can sign up for direct deposit via CUNYfirst. For more information, please visit the Financial Aid and Tuition Refunds page.

Those who have a Master Promissory Note (MPN) on file with the Federal Government are no longer required to complete a new promissory note for each new loan. Notes expire after ten years; when this happens you must sign a new MPN. However, previous borrowers will still receive disclosure notices listing the amounts of their loan(s) and the anticipated disbursement dates.

Graduate Plus Loan

The Grad PLUS Loan, federally backed student loan is 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 history. An origination fee is deducted from the loan amount.

For information on current interest rates, please visit the Interest Rates and Fees page.

Alternative Loans

If your student status is:

  • Non-matriculated
  • International Student
  • Have reached the federal student aggregated limits

You may be eligible for alternative loans.

Once you select a lender, you must complete a Master Promissory Note then contact the Financial Aid Office at 212-817-7460 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

For information on private education loan programs, please visit the Private Education Loan Programs page.

Please know that the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies neither endorses nor recommends any lender.