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What to Know About the Parent PLUS Loan Program

November 24, 2018 · 4 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

What to Know About the Parent PLUS Loan Program

Parent PLUS loans can be an important tool when it comes to funding your child’s college degree. When your child has gotten back his or her financial aid offer and counted their Stafford loans and Pell Grants, you might find you fall a little short. After all, the Department of Education’s budget doesn’t always account for skyrocketing college fees. That’s why the Parent PLUS loan program has gained popularity over the last 30 years. In 2017, there were around 3.5 million Parent PLUS borrowers ; the average Parent PLUS package is around $15,880 a year. Stafford loans may not cover the total cost of college; Parent PLUS loans can help fill in the gaps.

So what exactly are Parent PLUS loans? They are simply loans issued by the federal government for graduate students or parents of undergraduates. What makes them different from any other type of federal student loans? Unless you’re applying for them as a grad student, these loans are issued in the parent’s name, not the student’s. Financial responsibility, therefore, lies solely with the parent and any cosigners, not the child.

The nitty-gritty details can be a lot to handle. That’s why we made you this Parent PLUS loans guide—we’ll take you through how to apply, how much you could receive, and how much you could pay in interest.

What are Parent PLUS loans?

Parent PLUS loans (also known as Direct PLUS loans) are federal loans offered to parents of undergraduate students. Graduate students are also eligible for Direct PLUS loans, although in the case of grad students, the students themselves who apply for the loan. The interest rate for Parent PLUS loans is set once a year, and because these are fixed-rate loans, the interest rate doesn’t change throughout the life of the loan.

At the moment, the interest rate for Parent PLUS loans is about 7.6% . There is also a loan fee on all Direct PLUS Loans; as of October 1, 2018 that fee will be nearly 4.25% of the loan amount (which is deducted from each loan disbursement proportionately).

How much can I borrow?

The maximum amount you can borrow for a Parent PLUS loan is simply the cost of attendance (as determined by your child’s school), minus any grants or scholarships (or any other financial aid) your child may have received.

How do I get a PLUS loan?

Before applying for a PLUS loan, you will need to fill out and submit a FAFSA® to see what additional aid your child may qualify for. After that, the financial aid process really depends on the school in question. You may want to call the financial aid office of your child’s school before you apply for a PLUS loan, since different schools require different information. Many colleges will require you to fill out the application online. Note: This application takes about 20 minutes to fill out, and it will include a credit check.

What happens if I get rejected?

If your PLUS loan application is rejected based on what they call “adverse credit history,” you may still have options. You can seek out an endorser—which is someone who qualifies and who will agree to pay the loan back in the event that you are unable to. In addition, if you don’t qualify for a PLUS loan on your own, you will be required to go through PLUS credit counseling .

If there are extenuating circumstances impacting your credit history, you can submit documentation to support your appeal to the Department of Education (they provide a list of extenuating circumstances they will recognize if you’re having trouble getting approved for a Parent PLUS loan.)

If you continue to get rejected, your child may be eligible for other unsubsidized federal loans as a result. Consult with a qualified financial aid advisor for details.

When do I have to start repaying?

As a Parent PLUS loan borrower, you will have to start paying back the loan as soon as the entire amount is disbursed. You can, however, request to defer payment while your child is in school—as long as they are enrolled at least part-time. You can even request a six-month grace period once your child finishes school or drops below part-time enrollment. But remember, interest accrues even while payment is deferred.

What happens if I lose my job?

In the event of unemployment, borrowers can contact the Department of Education to request forbearance on the loan. If you are permitted to enter forbearance, you won’t have to make monthly payments for up to three years. However, interest still accrue during forbearance, so your debt will likely increase by pausing payments.

Pros and Cons of Parent PLUS

Pros of a PLUS loan

Parent PLUS loans are federal loans, which means they enjoy most benefits that come with federal loans. For one thing, interest rates are fixed for the life of the loan, so your interest rate will not change or go up from the time your loan is first disbursed. Under certain circumstances, federal loans may be forgiven, cancelled, or discharged.

Cons of a PLUS loan

If federal loans are taken out in the parents’ name(s), the parents assume total financial responsibility for the loan—they cannot transfer responsibility for paying off the Parent PLUS loan back to their child. As parents near retirement and their child becomes capable of paying back his or her loans, it might make more sense to refinance their Parent PLUS loan and transfer the debt into the child’s name.

Are Parent PLUS loans holding you back? Check out SoFi’s Parent PLUS loan refinancing!


Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website on credit .
The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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