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Graduate Plus Loans:

It's a federally guaranteed loan that can be used to cover the full costs of graduate school, including reasonable living costs.

Who can get Graduate PLUS loans?

Anyone who is a U.S. citizen, enrolled in a graduate program at least half time, and has minimally acceptable credit is eligible. Some non-degree programs, such as some teacher certificate courses, do not qualify for PLUS loans. Students must first exhaust Stafford loan eligibility before getting a Grad PLUS loan.

How much can I borrow from the Graduate PLUS program?

Each year, you can borrow the full net, or out-of-pocket, cost of your graduate study. To calculate the maximum PLUS eligibility, take your program's annual cost of attendance-which includes tuition, fees, books, and living costs-and subtract out any financial aid such as tuition waivers, grants, or Stafford loans.

How much do PLUS loans cost?

The federal government charges 7.9 percent in annual interest, plus an up-front fee of 4 percent of the amount borrowed.

How do I get a PLUS loan?

Contact your graduate school and fill out a FAFSA.

Does everyone get approved for a Graduate PLUS?

No. The government rejects applicants who have had significant financial trouble (known as "adverse" credit), such as a recent bankruptcy or bills more than 90 days overdue. You can reapply if you can find a cosigner with good credit.

When do I have to start repaying my Graduate PLUS loan?

Technically, the payments are supposed to start 60 days after the loan is made. But schools are supposed to arrange for payment deferrals from the Department of Education. No payments are required while a student qualifies for an in-school deferment. But the first monthly payment is due 45 days after the student drops below half-time enrollment.

What happens if I lose my job or get into other financial trouble?

You can call the Department of Education and ask to apply for deferral or forbearance, which allows you to skip some payments. But beware: The interest keeps building up, so you'll owe a lot more when you start repaying again.

What are the advantages of a Graduate PLUS loan?

PLUS loans have a fixed interest rate, so your payments won't rise if interest rates rise. They also offer free insurance, so the debt will be canceled if the student dies or becomes disabled. PLUS borrowers can also get their payments deferred if they get into financial trouble. PLUS loan holders are also eligible for

Public Service Loan Forgiveness if they work at a nonprofit, in government, or at another qualifying organization. After 10 years of loan payments, any outstanding debt is forgiven.

What are the downsides of Graduate PLUS loans?

Unlike credit card debt and mortgages, which can be canceled if you file for bankruptcy, education loans of all types-federal and private-must be paid. Most bankruptcy courts will not cancel them unless your situation is extremely dire.