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Federal Direct Student Loan

Most students are eligible for federal Stafford student loans through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. Because Direct Loans come straight from the Department of Education, the student does not need an outside lender. Like all federal aid, Direct Loans require that the student complete the FAFSA. Information from the FAFSA will determine whether the student is eligible for subsidized or unsubsidized loans. Subsidized loans do not accrue interest until loan repayment begins, whereas unsubsidized loans accrue interest from when the loan is disbursed. With all Direct Student Loans, repayment begins six (6) months after the student ceases half-time status.

College of Charleston CDS reports (H5a) the average per-undergraduate-borrower cumulative principal borrowed through federal loan programs (Federal Perkins, Federal Stafford Subsidized and Unsubsidized) was $18,809.  Based on the Federal Standard repayment of 120 months, with an average interest rate of 5%, the monthly payment would be @ $200; for a total amount repaid equal to $23,940.  The Three-year Official Cohort Default Rate for CofC is 6.6.

Borrowing a Direct Student Loan

To begin the process of getting a Direct Student Loan, the student must complete the FAFSA. After the student submits the FAFSA and completes any additional federal requirements, the Office of Financial Aid will automatically award the student the maximum amount of student loans eligible. This award can be seen on MyCharleston. Students that have not borrowed from Direct Loans before must complete Entrance Counseling and a Federal Direct Loan Electronic Master Promissory Note (MPN) before loan money can be disbursed. The results of both will be sent electronically to the College of Charleston, and should be received within 2 weeks of the completion date. Students that have borrowed from Direct Loans do not need to complete these requirements again; the loans will disburse automatically on the disbursement dates.

What’s the difference between Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans?

In short, Direct Subsidized Loans have slightly better terms to help out students with financial need.  Here’s a quick overview of Direct Subsidized Loans:

  • Direct Subsidized Loans are available to undergraduate students with financial need.
  • The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on a Direct Subsidized Loan
    • while you’re in school at least half-time,
    • for the first six months after you leave school (referred to as a grace period), and
    • during a period of deferment (a postponement of loan payments).
  • For more information see What’s the difference between Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans?

Entrance Counseling

The federal government requires a student to participate in loan counseling prior to receiving a Federal Direct Loan. Entrance Counseling will explain various aspects of student loans, such as repayment and interest, and ends with a student quiz.  Entrance Counseling can be completed at After the student completes Entrance Counseling the results will be sent electronically to the College of Charleston and the student's account should be updated in MyCharleston within 5 business days. If it has been longer than 5 business days, the student may wish to print a copy of the rights and responsibility page for personal records and submit a copy to our office.

Exit Counseling

If you received a Federal Direct Stafford Loan at CofC you must complete the Federal Direct Stafford Loan Exit Counseling. During Exit Counseling the student will learn about additional deferment and forbearance and how to get the necessary forms. The exit counseling will also review different repayment plans, direct withdrawal, and a payment date.  If you have questions visit online or call them at 800-433-3243.

If you received a Perkins Loan at CofC, you must complete Perkins loan counseling prior to leaving or graduating from CofC.  Please contact the Treasurer's Office at or 843.953.5572 if you encounter any problems. Simply access the website of ECSI.  Click on "Borrower Link" and login to "My Account". The School code is Q7, then enter your SSN & PIN (note ECSI PIN isn't the same as FAFSA PIN). Next click "Exit Interview" link to begin the exit process. If you do not have your pin call ECSI at (888)549-3274.


Learn about how, when, and to whom you make your federal loan payments.  You are responsible for staying in touch with your loan servicer and making your payments, even if you do not receive a bill. Find out more about repayment of your federal student loans.  The U.S. Department of Education uses several loan servicers to handle the billing and other services on loans for the Federal Direct Loan Program. Learn about loan servicers and how to determine who your loan servicer is.  For other repayment resources see CofC Repayment and Consolidation.

Additional Information