Types of Financial Aid


Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan

The Federal Direct Graduate PLUS is a federal loan that a graduate student who is enrolled at least half-time may borrow to help pay educational expenses.  Students-at-Large are not eligible for the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan.

An eligible student may borrow up to the total of the Estimated Cost of Attendance, less all other financial aid received by the student. There is no cumulative limit to the amount of PLUS loans that can be taken out over the course of a graduate student’s career. Filing a FAFSA is required to receive a PLUS loan. When completing a Graduate PLUS loan application, students are given the option of which semester(s) to apply to receive the loan.  Students who select a single semester (such as the Fall semester only) should be aware that when determining the maximum allowable loan amount only the Cost of Attendance applicable to that period of enrollment can be considered.  Additionally, if a student requests a Graduate PLUS loan for the Fall semester but later wishes to have the loan applied to the Spring semester as well it is necessary to complete a new Graduate PLUS loan application for the Spring semester.  When ever possible, if the student will be attending the entire academic year, it is advised to apply for the Graduate PLUS loan for the entire academic year. The interest rate between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016 is 6.84%.  The interest rate for loans received between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017 is 6.31%. The interest rate for loans received between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018 is 7.00%.

For Direct Graduate PLUS loans the origination fee for loans disbursing after October 1, 2014 have an origination fee of 4.292%.  The origination fee for loans disbursing after October 1, 2015 have an origination fee of 4.272%. The origination fee for loans disbursing after October 1, 2016 have an origination fee of 4.276%. The origination fee is deducted from PLUS Loans. For example, a PLUS Loan in the amount of $1000 disbursed after December 1, 2013 will result in a net disbursement of $957.  

After reviewing the information below, if you have any further questions you can contact Direct Loans Borrower Customer Service at 800-557-7394.

How Do I Apply For a Graduate PLUS Loan?

PLUS Loans are directly applied for on the StudentLoans.gov website. A Federal Student ID (FSA ID) is required for the student to apply for the PLUS Loan, as well as to sign a Master Promissory Note. The Direct PLUS Loan request consists of four sections:

  • Personal Information
  • School and Loan Information
  • Review Application
  • Credit Check and Submit

The applicant provides basic demographic information about themself, and submits to a credit check. They also indicate the amount they wish to borrow. A specific amount can be requested, or the borrower can ask for the maximum amount they are eligible to receive. This maximum amount is determined by the school, and as mentioned above is equal to the total of the Estimated Cost of Attendance, less all other financial aid received by the student.

On the School and Loan Information section, applicants are asked to specify a Loan Period. If the student in question plans to enroll for both the Fall and Spring semester, then the full academic-year period (Fall and Spring) must be selected. The Fall-only period should only be selected if the student is set to graduate after the Fall term.  Spring-only period should only be selected for students who will not be attending in the Fall. Summer terms are not available to apply for until beginning of April.

Once the student has been approved, the final step will be to sign a Master Promissory Note, which is available on the same website as the PLUS Application. Please ensure that the Graduate PLUS Master Promissory Note is the one that is completed, as multiple MPNs are available on the site.

Complete a Graduate PLUS Loan Application.


Who is Eligible to Apply?

Eligible Graduate PLUS applicants must be either a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen, and must not be in default or owe a refund to any financial aid program. The student must be enrolled at least half-time which is 4.5 hours in the Fall and Spring, and 3 hours in the Summer. If you are Law Graduate student, half-time enrollment is 6 hours in the Fall and Spring, and 4 hours in the Summer.

The student must submit to a credit check by the United States Department of Education to be eligible for a Federal Graduate PLUS Loan. You authorize the credit check when you sign the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan Request Form. To be approved the student must have a satisfactory credit history. However, income-to-debt ratio is not considered.

What Other Options Do I Have?

If your financial aid does not cover all of your educational or living expenses, PLUS Loans are not necessarily your only option. Private Student Loans from a number of national lenders are available to borrowers with good credit. Information about these alternative loans can be found on our site.

NIU also offers a payment plan, called the Huskie Installment Plan (HIP). This program may prove beneficial to those who plan to pay some or all of their charges for a given semester out-of-pocket. Information about HIP can be found on the Bursar Office website.

How Do Refunds Work?

If the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS disbursement generates a refund after University charges are paid, the refunded amount will go to the student.

What if I Get Denied?

If a Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan Application is denied, it may be possible for the student to use an endorser. Information about this process will be provided from and should be submitted back to Direct Loan Servicing.  Options for when a PLUS is denied are included on the application. The SFAO will proceed based on the choice made on the application. If a change to the originally selected option is necessary, the student should contact the SFAO for more information.

How Does Repayment Work?

Repayment begins within 60 days of the final loan disbursement during the academic year. Principal and interest payments may be deferred if you meet deferment requirements. Your Federal Direct Grad PLUS will be automatically deferred if you're enrolled at least half-time in a degree-seeking program.

To learn more about available deferments and how to apply for deferment status, please contact your loan servicer.  To receive repayment information including available forbearance and deferment options please contact your loan servicer.  Contact information is available at Federal Student Aid.  If you do not who your loan servicer is, please visit the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)