Last Updated on August 28, 2023
Are you a student looking for federal student loans for PhD programs? If so, you’ve come to the right place.
Federal student loans are offered by the government and are one of the most common ways students pay for higher education. They’re more flexible than private loans, and they offer better options for repayment, such as income-based repayment plans. However, before you can apply for these loans, there are important things you need to know about them.
This guide will explain all of these things so that when it comes time to apply, you’ll know exactly what documents are required and how much money you can expect to borrow.
Federal Student Loans For Phd Programs
Getting your PhD is a big endeavor—and not just because of the immense amounts of work involved. You’ll also need to spend additional years in school and tens—or hundreds—of thousands of dollars while doing so.
You need to be smart about how you fund your schooling, especially if you take out PhD student loans, if you hope to earn a PhD and become debt-free within a reasonable number of years.
Use Federal PhD Student Loans First
If you have to borrow using PhD student loans, always max out federal student aid as your first source of funding. Federal student loans tend to be cheaper, provide more repayment flexibility, and come with other borrower perks, such as the potential for loan forgiveness.
The Department of Education offers Direct PLUS Loans to graduate students for the purpose of covering advanced education, and if you’re eligible, you could potentially borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance, less any grants or scholarships you’ve received.
Unlike some federal loans, however, Grad PLUS Loans aren’t available to you if you have an adverse credit history, and you’ll need to undergo a credit check to prove that you don’t.
Best Private PhD Student Loans
After maxing out your federal student loans, you may find you still need more money to pay for your doctoral degree. If that’s the case, you’ll need to look into getting private PhD loans.
Private student loans tend to come with higher interest rates, can be harder to qualify for, and repayment plans are less flexible. However, they can cover shortfalls in funding that otherwise might make getting your PhD impossible.
The following companies are our partners that have been vetted extensively by our Editorial Team.
LendEDU Rating: 5/5View Rates
1.99% – 11.46%
$1,000 – $150,000
5, 8, 10, 15, or 20 years
College Ave is an online lender offering new student loans and student loan refinancing. The company covers a variety of doctorate programs, including those for PhDs. Here’s some more information about the College Ave Medical School Loan:
- Fixed Rates (APR): 4.49% – 11.46%
- Variable Rates (APR): 1.99% – 10.45%
- In-school repayment options: Options include deferment, $25 monthly payments, monthly interest payments, and full payments.
- Grace Period: 36 months
- Cosigner Release: After 24 consecutive on-time payments.
- Unique benefits: You can apply and receive a credit decision within 3 minutes
LendEDU Rating: 4.8/5View Rates
0.94% – 10.99%
$1,000 – 100% of school-certified cost of attendance
5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years
Earnest is a popular online lender offering private student loans as well as the ability to refinance existing student loans. The Earnest Medical School Loan covers PhD programs. See below for more information on Earnest’s PhD loan:
- Fixed Rates (APR): 3.24% – 10.99%
- Variable Rates (APR): 0.94% – 9.89%
- Soft-Credit Check: You can get a quote from Earnest after a soft credit check. The company performs a hard credit check when you submit an application.
- In-school repayment options: Options include deferment, monthly interest payments, $25 monthly payments, and full payments.
- Grace Period: 9 months
- Cosigner Release: Earnest does not offer cosigner release, but you may be able to refinance without a cosigner.
- Unique benefits: You can skip one payment per year.
LendEDU Rating: 4.4/5View Rates
1.89% – 8.24%
$1,000 – $180,000 or $350,000 depending on your degree
5, 10, or 15 years
Citizens Bank is a retail bank offering loans online for many different purposes. Among these are student loans for PhD programs. Here’s more information about the Citizens Bank Health Professional Student Loan:
- Fixed APR: 4.18% – 8.24%
- Variable APR: 1.89% – 7.72%
- Soft Credit Check: You can get a rate quote with a soft credit check. If you apply for multi-year approval, you can take out loans after your first year without a hard credit check.
- In-school Repayment Options: Interest-only payments or full payments
- Grace Period: 6 months
- Cosigner Release: After 36 consecutive on-time payments.
- Unique Benefits: Multi-year approval with one application.
LendEDU Rating: 4/5View Rates
1.13% – 12.60%
$1,000 – 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance
5, 10, or 15 years
LendKey is an online platform that connects borrowers with lenders and credit unions. LendKey has a single student loan product that covers all degrees, whether graduate or undergraduate. Here is some more information about LendKey’s student loans:
- Fixed APR: 3.50% – 12.60%
- Variable APR: 1.13% – 11.23%
- Soft Credit Check: You can get a rate quote with a soft credit check.
- In-school Repayment Options: Options include $25 per month or monthly interest payment.
- Grace Period: 6 months
- Cosigner Release: After 12 – 36 consecutive on-time payments
LendEDU Rating: 4/5View Rates
1.66% – 14.52%
$2,001 – $200,000
7, 10, 12, or 15 years
Ascent is an online student lender. The company offers the Ascent Graduate & Health Student Loan for those pursuing a PhD. See below for more information about the parameters of this loan.
- Fixed Rates (APR): 4.63% – 14.52%
- Variable Rates (APR): 1.62% – 10.98%
- Soft Credit Check: You can qualify and see your rate with a soft credit check.
- In-school Repayment Options: Your options include monthly interest payments, monthly payments of $25, or deferred repayment.
- Grace Period: 36 months
- Unique Benefits: The company offers borrowers 1% cash back upon graduation.
If you apply for financial aid, you may be offered loans as part of your school’s financial aid offer. A loan is money you borrow and must pay back with interest.
If you decide to take out a loan, make sure you understand who is making the loan and the terms and conditions of the loan. Student loans can come from the federal government, from private sources such as a bank or financial institution, or from other organizations. Loans made by the federal government, called federal student loans, usually have more benefits than loans from banks or other private sources. Learn more about the differences between federal and private student loans.
What types of federal student loans are available?
The U.S. Department of Education’s federal student loan program is the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. Under this program, the U.S. Department of Education is your lender. There are four types of Direct Loans available:
Direct Subsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need to help cover the costs of higher education at a college or career school.
Direct Unsubsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, but eligibility is not based on financial need.
Direct PLUS Loans are loans made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. Eligibility is not based on financial need, but a credit check is required. Borrowers who have an adverse credit history must meet additional requirements to qualify.
Direct Consolidation Loans allow you to combine all of your eligible federal student loans into a single loan with a single loan servicer.
How much money can I borrow in federal student loans?
It depends on whether you’re an undergraduate student, a graduate or professional student, or a parent.
- If you are an undergraduate student, the maximum amount you can borrow each year in Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans ranges from $5,500 to $12,500 per year, depending on what year you are in school and your dependency status.
- If you are a graduate or professional student, you can borrow up to $20,500 each year in Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Direct PLUS Loans can also be used for the remainder of your college costs, as determined by your school, not covered by other financial aid.
- If you are a parent of a dependent undergraduate student, you can receive a Direct PLUS Loan for the remainder of your child’s college costs, as determined by his or her school, not covered by other financial aid.
Why should I take out federal student loans?
Federal student loans are an investment in your future. You should not be afraid to take out federal student loans, but you should be smart about it.
Federal student loans offer many benefits compared to other options you may consider when paying for college:
- The interest rate on federal student loans is fixed and usually lower than that on private loans—and much lower than that on a credit card!
- You don’t need a credit check or a cosigner to get most federal student loans.
- You don’t have to begin repaying your federal student loans until after you leave college or drop below half-time.
- If you demonstrate financial need, the government pays the interest on some loan types while you are in school and during some periods after school.
- Federal student loans offer flexible repayment plans and options to postpone your loan payments if you’re having trouble making payments.
- If you work in certain jobs, you may be eligible to have a portion of your federal student loans forgiven if you meet certain conditions.