All About Loans

You can get a loan to help pay for your NIU education. This means a provider will give you money, and you'll pay it back with a certain amount added. This additional amount is called interest, and it changes based on who gives you the loan.

Some loans have a lot of repayment options. Some loans can even be canceled, so you don't have to pay them back.

The Federal Student Aid (FSA) website has a lot of information about loans. We'll give you an overview and direct you to the FSA site for more details.

If you have any questions, contact us at 815-753-1395 or

Loan Providers

There are many loan providers, or lenders. You can get a loan from the federal government or from a private lender. Federal loans have many repayment options and may have lower interest rates than private loans.

Learn more about the differences between federal loans and private loans.

Loans from the Federal Government

The federal government offers Direct Loans to students and their parents. You can apply for Direct Loans by filling out the free application for federal student aid (FAFSA).

If you take a Direct Loan from the federal government, a different company will be your loan servicer. You'll send payments to the company, and you can ask them any questions you have about your loan. If you accept a Direct Loan, you will be notified during your first semester at NIU by your loan provider.

Learn who your federal loan servicer is and how to work with them.

Loans from Private Lenders

You can receive a loan from a private lender, like a bank. We can't tell you which lender to use, so you'll have to do some research. When you think about getting a private loan, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the loan's interest rate?
  • What are its repayment requirements?
  • Am I eligible for this loan?

If you take a private loan from a lender like a bank, they're your loan holder. You'll send payments to them when it's time to start paying back your loan.

The Financial Aid and Scholarship Office can provide some additional information about private loans.

What If I Miss a Payment?

If you don't pay the amount you owe by the due date, your loan will be past due, or delinquent. If your loan is delinquent for 90 days, it can hurt your credit. If you continue to not make the payment, your loan may go into default.

Here are some of the negative things that can happen if your loan goes into default:

  • The whole amount you owe will be due immediately.
  • You won't be able to get any more federal student aid.
  • Your credit score can go down, making it hard to get loans in the future.

Read more about missing payments and going into default.

What If I Can't Afford My Payment?

If you can't afford your monthly payment, it's important to act fast so you don't go into default. The following information is about federal loans. If you have a private loan, ask your lender about delaying or lowering your payment.

Get a Deferment or Forbearance

You can ask to temporarily stop making payments on your federal loan. This is called a deferment or forbearance. You must request a deferment or forbearance from your loan servicer and prove that you meet eligibility criteria.

There are many reasons to request a deferment or forbearance. For example, you might not have a job, you might be in the military, or you might have health problems.

Learn more about deferments and forbearances for federal loans.

Change Your Repayment Plan

You can consider changing to an income-driven repayment plan for your federal loan. These plans base the amount of your monthly payment on your income and the size of your family. If you don't qualify for a deferment or forbearance, this might be a good option for you.

Learn more about income-driven repayment plans for federal loans.

Loan Cancellation

In some cases, you won't need to repay your federal loan. If your job is the reason you don't need to make payments, it's called cancellation or forgiveness. It's called discharge if it's not because of your job.

There are many ways to qualify for cancellation, forgiveness or discharge. For example, you might qualify because of where you work (certain schools and government/nonprofit organizations), because you become disabled, or because your school closes.

Learn more about cancelling federal loans.

If you have a private loan, ask your lender if they offer cancellation options.


Need guidance on student loan repayment?

Our trusted partner, Ascendium Education Solutions, can help you transition to repayment.

Student Loan Success Center
8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST

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