About Federal Direct Loans

Find out what loans are available and how much you can borrow.

What federal loans are available?

There are three types of federal student loan available for eligible students to help with educational costs.

Direct Subsidized Loans

These are available to undergraduate students with financial need. Find out more about Direct Subsidized Loans.  

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

These are available to undergraduate and graduate students. There is no requirement to demonstrate financial need. Find out more about Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

Direct PLUS Loans

Direct PLUS Loans are federal loans that graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students can use to help pay for college or career school. Find out more about Direct PLUS Loans.

Terms and conditions for all of these federal student loans are listed on the Master Promissory Note (MPN), a legal document in which you promise to repay your loan(s) and any accrued interest and fees to the US Department of Education.

How much can I borrow?

There are limits to the Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans that you may be eligible to receive each academic year (annual loan limits). There are also limits on the total amounts that you may borrow for undergraduate and graduate study (aggregate loan limits). The graduate aggregate limit includes all federal loans received for undergraduate study.

The University will determine the loan type(s) and the loan amount you are eligible to receive each academic year. Direct PLUS Loans (Grad and Parent) may be used as supplemental funding after Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loan maximums are reached. The total amount you may borrow in federal student loans for any academic year is limited to your calculated cost of attendance for the academic year minus other sources of funding.

Read more about the annual and aggregate loan limits

Cost of attendance

The cost of attendance is an estimate of educational expenses and is based on average rather than actual expenses for different categories of students. Universities are only allowed to certify up to ‘reasonable’ costs with the cost of attendance being for education, not for luxuries. 

Here are some examples of the cost of attendance

Allowable costs

The University determines the cost of attendance which is the sum of the allowable costs, for the academic year, shown below:

  • tution fees
  • estimated living costs (including accommodation)
  • student visa fee
  • immigration health surcharge (only included in first year of study)
  • estimated transportation (£2,502 for three return flights between the USA and UK)
  • mid-range laptop (£479, specifications example: Windows 11, DELL Inspiron 15 3511 15.6" Laptop - Intel® Core™ i5, 256 GB SSD, Silver)
  • average loan fees (these will vary depending on length of programme, level of study and year of study)
  • additional programme costs (such as field trip fees and bench fees). 

Exchange rate

From 4 March 2022 the exchange rate of £1 = $1.38 will be used when calculating your cost of attendance for the 2022/23 academic year. This is the period high figure published by XE.com for the period 4 March 2021 to 4 March 2022.

The cost of attendance cannot be altered to reflect any fluctuations in the exchange rate. This includes fluctuations that occur before you start or during your programme of study.

The exchange rate used by the University to disburse your funds will vary for each disbursement as it is set by Convera at the point when funds are drawn down from the U.S. Treasury's Federal Reserve System.

Students with a disability

If you have a disability you are advised to contact the Financial Aid Office (usfinancialaid@sussex.ac.uk), as an allowance for expenses related to your disability may be included in your cost of attendance. These expenses may include special services, personal assistance, transportation, equipment, and supplies that are reasonably incurred and not provided by other agencies.

Students with dependents

If you have dependents you are advised to contact the Financial Aid Office (usfinancialaid@sussex.ac.uk), as an allowance for costs related to dependent care whilst studying may be included in your cost of attendance. The allowance can cover care during periods of class time, study time, fieldwork, internships and commuting. The allowance is based on the number and age of dependents and cannot exceed the reasonable cost in the community for the type of care provided.

Financial assistance

The loan amount that you are eligible to receive is determined by calculating your cost of attendance minus your estimated financial assistance. Estimated financial assistance includes any educational benefits that you will receive because you will be studying at University, such as scholarships, grants, bursaries, studentships and stipends.

If you have applied for or will be receiving any financial assistance you must notify the Financial Aid Office (usfinancialaid@sussex.ac.uk) as the financial assistance may affect the loan amount you are eligible to receive.

Private Education Loans

You may instead choose to take out a private loan through a private education lender. You should, however, in the first instance check out your eligibility for federal Direct Loans, as their terms and conditions may be more favourable than those for private education loans.

Further help

The Federal Student Aid YouTube channel has lots of useful videos you can watch, including help with your Direct Loan application and information about repayments.


The Financial Aid Office are responsible for administering Federal Direct Loans at the University of Sussex. Get in touch by emailing: usfinancialaid@sussex.ac.uk.

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