Find The Best Insurance
We make it easy to compare and buy insurance.LEARN MORE
The difference between unsubsidized and subsidized loans is who pays the interest.
Direct unsubsidized and subsidized loans are both loans from the federal government
Borrowers of an unsubsidized loan are responsible for paying interest in addition to the principal
Not paying accrued interest means you’ll have larger payments when it’s time to repay the loan
Unsubsidized loans have more lenient eligibility requirements; you might be eligible even if you don’t meet the financial aid requirements for a subsidized loan
An unsubsidized loan is a type of federal student loan where the borrower is responsible for paying the interest.
Higher education is expensive and many students cannot afford to pay for it all on their own. Federal student loans tend to have better terms than private loans, including lower interest rates. Two common types of federal student loans are the direct subsidized loan and direct unsubsidized loan. While the direct subsidized loans are only available for those with a financial need, everyone is eligible for an unsubsidized loan, regardless of financial need.
These federal loans share many similarities — like interest rates, loan fees, and repayment plan options — there is one main difference: the borrower is responsible for paying the interest accumulated on an unsubsidized loan. So with a subsidized student loan, the government helps reduce the cost of attendance by paying the interest during certain periods over the life of the loan.
Unpaid interest accumulates over time and if you put it off too long, you may repay more than what you initially borrowed. But that doesn't necessarily mean unsubsidized loans aren’t helpful. You can always pay the interest before the repayment plan officially begins.
In this article:
The first step in applying for financial aid is filing a FAFSA form, which details your financial circumstances, including income and tax information. It is required by most colleges and universities if you are seeking financial aid.
There are no financial eligibility requirements for an unsubsidized loan, but you’ll still need to fill out the form and meet other qualifications. Borrowers must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, enrolled in an accredited school at least half time, and pursuing a degree or certificate from the school. Additionally you must not be in default on other federal student loans or owe money for a federal grant.
When you borrow money for a federal student loan, the lender is the U.S. Department of Education. Billing and processing however will be outsourced to a third-party loan servicer. As soon as the federal loan funds are disbursed to the college, they begin to accumulate interest. If you don’t pay the interest, it will capitalize— meaning it gets added to the principal loan amount, potentially causing you to repay much more — sometimes thousands of dollars more — over the course of your loan.
The government actually pays this interest for a subsidized loan (more on this below) while you’re in school, but if you have an unsubsidized loan then you’ll have to pay it. While you aren’t required to start making payments until six months after graduation (the grace period), you can. Paying the accrued interest while you’re still in school or during the grace period can help you get a head start on your repayment plan and will prevent having a bigger bill down the road since the unpaid interest isn’t added to your loan balance.
If you are experiencing financial hardship and unable to make your payments, you can get forbearance, which allows you to postpone or reduce payments for a period of time. It may be harder to get forberanace with a private loan.
If you have a subsidized loan, then the government will pay the loan interest under certain conditions, such as when the student is enrolled in school at least half time, during the grace period, and during deferment. Also, direct subsidized loans are based on need; if you don’t meet the financial eligibility requirements you will not be able to borrow this type of loan. Additionally, you must be enrolled in an undergraduate program to qualify for a subsidized loan; graduate and professional students cannot apply.
Other than who pays the interest and the qualifications, unsubsidized and subsidized loans have similar features.
|Feature||Unsubsidized loan||Subsidized loan|
|Interest rate||Same fixed-rate||Same fixed-rate|
|Who pays interest||Borrower always||Government sometimes|
|Qualifications||None||Undergraduate only; based on financial need|
Next we’ll discuss the features of an unsubsidized loan, and how they compare to the subsidized loan.
The terms and figures for federal direct loans, unsubsidized and subsidized, are decided by the government and subject to change. You can always check the Department of Education’s Student Aid website or your school’s financial aid office for more details.
How much you can borrow is ultimately determined by the school. You will never get a federal direct loan greater than the cost of attendance. There are annual loan limits and aggregate loan limits for all federal loans that vary based on what year of school the student is in and whether or not they are independent or dependent.
Generally the loan limits are higher for unsubsidized loans. For example, the unsubsidized loan limit is $5,500 for a dependent student’s first year at an undergraduate college program. The subsidized loan cap is $3,500.
Unsubsidized and subsidized federal student loans have the same fixed interest rates, which are listed as an annual percentage rate (APR). The interest rates for undergraduate loans disbursed from 7/1/2019 to 7/1/2020 are 4.53%. Unsubsidized loan rates for graduate school students for this same time frame are 6.08%.
Learn more about how APR works.
The origination fee for all federal direct loans is:
Life insurance can help you pay off a loved one's debt after they've passed.
If you cosigned a loan with someone, you could be on the hook for the loan balance if the other cosigner dies. But with a life insurance death benefit, you can keep making loan payments.
Subsidized loans have obvious benefits over unsubsidized loans, since the government pays the interest during certain periods of time. But that doesn’t mean unsubsidized loans aren’t worthwhile; they help many students pay for college. Furthermore, many students won’t always have a choice between the two loan types, since direct subsidized loans are only offered to students who demonstrate financial need.
Unsubsidized loans provide a helpful alternative for families who may make too much money but still need help paying for the cost of tuition. If you have an unsubsidized loan, you might consider making a payment on the accrued interest while you’re in school. It will help free up more discretionary income down the road in the years after graduation.
Was this article helpful?
Security you can trust
Yes, we have to include some legalese down here. Read it larger on our legal page. Policygenius Inc. (“Policygenius”) is a licensed independent insurance broker. Policygenius does not underwrite any insurance policy described on this website. The information provided on this site has been developed by Policygenius for general informational and educational purposes. We do our best efforts to ensure that this information is up-to-date and accurate. Any insurance policy premium quotes or ranges displayed are non-binding. The final insurance policy premium for any policy is determined by the underwriting insurance company following application. Savings are estimated by comparing the highest and lowest price for a shopper in a given health class. For example: for a 30-year old non-smoker male in South Carolina with excellent health and a preferred plus health class, comparing quotes for a $500,000, 20-year term life policy, the price difference between the lowest and highest quotes is 60%. For that same shopper in New York, the price difference is 40%. Rates are subject to change and are valid as of 2/17/17.
Copyright Policygenius © 2014-2020