Loans are a form of financial aid that you must pay back at interest rates that are typically lower than consumer rates. The size of the loan you seek and commit to should be determined only after all available gift-aid or scholarships has been applied for.

Student loans, unlike grants and work-study, are borrowed money that must be repaid, with interest, just like a car loan and mortgages. Loans are legal obligations, so before you take out a student loan, think about the amount you will have to repay over the years. The repayment interest rate is determined according to the federal Prime Lending rate in effect for the academic year encompassing the loan period.

CUNY participates in the Direct Loan Program where students borrow directly from the federal government. The Direct Loan program allows full-time and part-time students to borrow money directly from the federal government. Interest accrues while the student attends school. This interest may be paid or added to the loan. You should be aware that once you begin receiving federal assistance, you must maintain good academic standing and must make satisfactory academic progress toward the completion of your degree in order to continue receiving aid.

There are two types of Federal Direct Student Loans that SPH students might be eligible for: The Unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan and The Federal Graduate Plus Loan.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan

The Direct Stafford Loan program allows full-time and part-time students to borrow money directly from the federal government. The loans must be paid back beginning six months after graduation or dropping below half-time enrollment. Interest accrues while the student attends school. This interest may be paid or added to the loan.

  • Graduate student can borrow up to $20,500 in an Unsubsidized loan.
  • Because SPH is a graduate school in Public Health, SPH students are eligible for an additional $12500 in Unsubsidized Loans for an Academic year covering 9 months.  An additional $16,667 in unsubsidized loans for an Academic year covering 12 months.

Graduate PLUS Loans

PLUS loans are federal loans that graduate or professional degree students can use to help pay education expenses. PLUS loan if they need additional funds not provided by the maximum amount of the unsubsidized loan. To receive a Graduate PLUS Loan, you must be a graduate or professional degree student enrolled at least half-time (six credits) at an eligible school in a program leading to a degree.

There are no set annual or aggregate limits. You may borrow up to your full cost of attendance, minus any other financial aid you receive (including Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, scholarships, and certain fellowships).

With PLUS loans:

  • The U.S. Department of Education is the lender.
  • The borrower must not have an adverse credit history.
  • The maximum Graduate PLUS loan amount is the student’s cost of attendance (determined by the school) minus any other financial aid/scholarships received.
  • You must be enrolled at least half-time in a graduate or professional program

Eligibility Requirements for Federal Loans

  • Be a student enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an eligible program at an eligible institution
  • Register for at least six credit hours of study
  • Student must maintain good academic standing and make satisfactory academic progress toward the completion of their degree
  • Be a U.S. citizen or national, or an eligible non-citizen
  • Have a valid, correct Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Be registered with Selective Service (for males between the ages of 18-25)
  • Not be in default of a Federal loan or owe an overpayment on a federal grant or Federal Perkins Loan
  • Not have borrowed in excess of the annual or aggregate loan limits
  • Not be convicted of possessing or selling illegal drugs while receiving financial aid*

***First-time Direct Loan borrowers must complete an online Direct Loan Master Promissory Note and Entrance Counseling before receiving loan funds.

Loans Available program:

Why get a Federal Student Loan:

Accepting or declining a William D. Ford Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan for graduate & doctoral students

Graduate and Doctoral students will be awarded an unsubsidized loan automatically on CUNYfirst, students can accept or decline their Direct Unsubsidized and Graduate plus loan directly on CUNYfirst.

STEP 1: Login to CUNYfirst at

STEP 2: Select HR/Campus Solutions from the left menu

STEP 3: Navigate to Self Service followed by Student Center

STEP 4: In the Finances section, click the Accept/Decline Awards

STEP 5: On the Select Aid Year to View page, you may see listings for multiple aid years and multiple colleges. Click the link for the college and aid year you wish to view.

  1. Click the “Accept or Decline Awards” link located on the Finances section of your Student Center.
  2. Click on the aid year you wish to view (click ‘2017’ for the Fall 2016-Spring 2017 aid year; click ‘2018’ for the Fall 2017-Spring 2018 aid year).

You will be offered the maximum eligible amount for the year.

Note: This is a Fall/Spring loan and the total dollar amount of the loan will be disbursed in two equal disbursements, half in the fall and half in the spring.

Check the appropriate box to either accept (reduce) or decline your loan.

*Please note that you must meet all eligibility requirements to receive loan funds:

  • Valid FAFSA,
  • CUNYfirst “to do list” items on must be completed,
  • Complete Entrance Counseling and completed Master Promissory Note (if required)
  • Be a matriculated student,
  • Enrolled for at least six credits in your career/program plan.

Graduate/doctoral students requesting a summer loan

Students need to complete a paper application for Summer 2020. The application is available under the forms section on the SPH financial aid website or available in the Office of Financial Aid. Students who request a summer loan will have a portion of their loan amount reduced from what was initially packaged on CUNYfirst. For example, if your loan was packaged for $20,500 for fall 2020 and spring 2021 your loan will be divided into three equal disbursements, which will include a disbursement for summer 2020, fall 2020 and spring 2021.

Reducing or increasing your loan

You must complete the Loan Adjustment request form if you wish to reduce, cancel or increase your loan.

Private Loans (Alternative Loans)

Private Education Loans are offered through private lenders and are meant to provide additional educational funding only after a student has exhausted all other sources of funding such as federal and state aid. These loans are not guaranteed by the federal government and may carry high interest rates and origination fees. All the loans require a credit check and most will require a cosigner if the borrower has little or negative credit history. CUNY/ SPH does not recommend any specific lender/programs. Contact the lender of your choice for details about their program and application process.

Students should only consider obtaining a private education loan if they are not eligible for the Federal Loan and the Federal Graduate Plus Loan.

Before receiving a private education loan you need to print and fill out the Private Education Loan Self-Certification Form (please do not complete Section 2) and submit it to SPH Office of Financial Aid.

Loan Refunds

All student refunds are handled by the University Controllers Office and local inquires can be addressed with the Bursar. Refunds will be made available to students on the Friday following their disbursement date. That means you will see your eligible refund in CUNYfirst a few days before it will actually be posted to bank account or mailed as a paper check. The Office of Financial Aid strongly we recommend that you sign up for an electronic method of disbursement such as direct deposit. It is more secure and efficient .Financial aid payment information and dates is available on your CUNYfirst account under the finance tab.

Withdrawals and the Return of Federal Financial Aid

Federal student aid is awarded with the expectation that you will attend school for the entire semester you receive payment for. To qualify for any federal financial aid payments, you must complete the college’s registration and bill payment process and begin attending your classes. The college will verify whether or not you have actually begun attendance. [Note: if you receive a financial aid payment for a class or classes you have never attended, you must return that payment immediately to the college.]

The federal government requires that you “earn” your financial aid awards by attending and completing your classes. If you withdraw from all classes before finishing the term, the school must determine the portion of your federal aid you earned and can therefore receive.

If you receive (or the college receives on your behalf) more aid than you earned, the unearned funds must be returned to the Department of Education. If, on the other hand, you receive (or the college receives on your behalf) less aid than the amount you earned, you could receive these additional funds.

The portion of your federal aid you may receive is determined by comparing the total number of calendar days in the semester to the actual number of days you attended before you withdrew.

For example, if you complete 30% of the semester, you earn 30% of the assistance you were originally scheduled to receive. 70% of your scheduled awards remain unearned and must be returned to the federal government.

Once you have completed more than 60% of the semester, you have “earned” and are entitled to receive 100% (all) of your assistance. [Note: Most federal financial aid is disbursed earlier than the 100% earned date.]

If you have received your financial aid payments but then withdraw from the college (either officially or unofficially) before completing 60% of the semester, you will have to repay the unearned portion of your awards. The date marking the point where you have earned 100% of your assistance in each semester is posted below:

After you have withdrawn, either officially or unofficially, the college will perform the necessary calculations and notify you if you must return any of the aid you already received.

Exit Counseling

Exit counseling provides important information to prepare you to repay your federal student loan(s).

If you have received a subsidized, unsubsidized or PLUS loan under the Direct Loan Program or the FFEL Program, you must complete exit counseling each time you:

–   Drop below half-time enrollment
–   Graduate
–   Leave school

Exit Loan Counseling is completed online at:  The entire counseling process must be completed in a single session. Most people complete counseling in 20-30 minutes.

To complete Exit Counseling you will need:

– A verified FSA ID

– Details on your income, financial aid, and living expenses

– Names, addresses, e-mail addresses and phone numbers of two references, preferably at least one next of kin (close relative).

For a complete and detailed history of a student’s loan debt, as well as federal grants received, a student can use their FSA ID to log in to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS).

Loan Repayment

Your loan servicer handles the billing & services of your federal student loan. The loan servicer will work with you on a repayment plan and loan consolidation and will assist you with other tasks related to your federal student loan. Log into to find contact information on your loan servicer.

Your loan servicer handles all billing regarding your student loan, so you’ll need to make payments directly to your servicer. Each servicer has its own payment process and can work with you if you need help making payments.

There are several repayment plans available, providing the flexibility you need. Here are some things you should know:

  • You’ll be asked to choose a plan. If you don’t choose one, you will be placed on the Standard Repayment Plan, which will have your loans paid off in 10 years.
  • You can switch to a different plan at any time to suit your needs and goals.
  • Your monthly payment can be based on how much you make.
  • See income-driven repayment plans.

If you’re having trouble making payments, don’t ignore your loans. There are several options that can help keep your loans in good standing, even if your finances are tight.

3 Ways You Can Keep on Track with Loan Payments

  1. Change your payment due date. Do you get paid after your student loan payment is due each month? If so, contact your loan servicer and ask whether you’d be able to switch the date your student loan payment is due.
  2. Change your repayment plan. What you ultimately pay depends on the plan you choose and when you borrowed. If you need lower monthly payments, consider an income-driven repayment plan that’ll base your monthly payment amount on how much you make.
  3. Consolidate your loans. If you have multiple student loans, simplify the repayment process with a Direct Consolidation Loan—allowing you to combine all your federal student loans into one loan for one monthly payment.

If the options above don’t work for you and you simply can’t make any payments right now, you might be eligible to postpone your payments through a deferment or forbearance. However, depending on the type of loan you have, interest may still accrue (accumulate) on your loan during the time you’re not making payments.

Keep Track of Your Loans

You can access information regarding your borrowing history at:

The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the Department of Education’s central database for student aid. NSLDS receives data from schools, guaranty agencies, the

Direct Loan program, and other ED programs. NSLDS Student Access provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans and grants so that recipients of Title IV Aid can access and inquire about their Title IV loans & grant data.

General information about loans

  • You are responsible for notifying your Direct Loan Servicer when you leave school or are no longer enrolled at least half-time, and whenever your address changes.
  • Before receiving either a Federal Direct Loan or a Federal Perkins Loan you must complete an Entrance Counseling which will provide you with information regarding your rights and responsibilities as a borrower.
  • If you receive a Federal Direct Loan and you drop below half-time status, you must contact your college Financial Aid Office to arrange for an Exit Interview.
  • You may prepay all or any part of the unpaid balance on your loans at any time without penalty. This will decrease the amount of interest that you pay over the life of the loan.
  • If you are unable to make your loan payments, contact your Direct Loan Servicer to inquire about alternate arrangements for repayment.
  • If you make your payments on time, your credit record will reflect this. Late payments and defaults on your student loan are reported to all national credit bureaus. You will be considered in default and may have charges assessed if you fail to (1) make installment payments when due; (2) submit deferment/cancellation forms in a timely manner; or (3) comply with other terms of the promissory note.
  • Defaulted student loans could prevent you from being approved for educational and commercial loans in addition to other types of financial aid in the future.