Planning for your graduate degree? Way to go. You’re taking the next step to further your career goals and putting a financial plan in place to make it happen.
Let’s get started.
Just like when you were an undergraduate, you’ll need to submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and Financial Aid Authorization (FAA) each year of graduate studies. Submit your FAFSA by March 1.
As you may already know, government grants are not an option for graduate study. Once you complete the academic requirements of your bachelor's degree, eligibility ends for grants such as the Federal Pell Grant and PA State Grant, regardless of financial need or further enrollment in undergraduate or graduate courses.
The good news is that, unlike most colleges, the graduate tuition rate at Penn College is the same as the undergraduate. Plus, you can apply for loans to cover your educational costs.
Fortunately, graduate students — even those who have reached their undergraduate Federal Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan aggregate lifetime limit — have educational loan options. Here are your options:
This program is more or less the same federal loan program that many undergraduates borrow from, with three big differences:
- The loan is fully unsubsidized. Graduate students are not eligible for any part of the loan to be subsidized.
- The annual and lifetime borrowing limits are considerably higher than for undergrads.
- The interest rate is typically higher for graduate students.
Master Promissory Note (MPN)
If you borrowed through the Federal Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan program the year before you begin a Penn College graduate program, the good news is that you won’t need to complete a new MPN, as long as your most recent loan disbursement is within 12 months of your first Penn College graduate Unsubsidized Loan disbursement.
If your last Federal Direct Loan disbursement was more than 12 months ago, then you'll need to complete a new MPN to borrow through the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan program.
Direct Loan Entrance Counseling
If you never borrowed through the Federal Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan program, you will also need to complete Direct Loan Entrance Counseling.
What are the borrowing limits?
- Up to $20,500 per award year*
- $138,500 lifetime – this includes what you borrowed through the Direct Loan program as an undergraduate
*We will credit your eBill with your maximum Direct Unsubsidized Loan eligibility. Minimize your loan debt whenever possible. If you don’t need the maximum amount, contact the Financial Aid Team via email to cancel any or all of your loan funds. Please include your full name, Penn College ID number, loan type and the total amount you want cancelled.
This federal graduate loan program, commonly called a ‘Grad PLUS Loan’, is similar to the Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan for undergraduates, except students — rather than parents — are the borrowers
The Grad PLUS loan interest rate is typically higher than the Direct Unsubsidized Loan. The Financial Aid team recommends you only consider this loan if you can’t borrow all you need through the Direct Unsubsidized Loan program. Compare interest rates.
The U.S. Department of Education conducts a credit check as part of the loan application process. Grad PLUS borrowers who have what the government calls “an adverse credit history” still may be able to gain approval, either by getting an endorser (cosigner) or appealing a denial.
Applying for the Loan
If you need this loan, apply at studentaid.gov. You’ll see a demo that you may want to view first. If approved, you will also need to complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN) for your Direct PLUS Loan.
Just like Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan borrowers, Grad PLUS borrowers don’t need to start repaying their loan until they graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment.
Learn more about Grad PLUS loans including fees, interest rate, and what constitutes adverse credit history.
Like the Grad PLUS option, these non-federal educational loans are available for students who can't borrow all they need through the Direct Unsubsidized Loan program. Not all private alternative loan lenders offer graduate degree loans, but many do.
If you need to submit a loan application(s) to help pay for your graduate courses, apply:
May, June or early July
If your first graduate courses begin in Fall Semester.
If your first graduate courses begin in May.
Answers to three FAFSA questions vary depending on which graduate program you're enrolled in and where you are in your journey. Select your program below for details.
Because the Physician Assistant (PA) Studies program is a combined Bachelor and Master of Science (B.S./M.S.) Degree, completing the FAFSA in preparation for the final fall semester can be tricky. That's because the Penn College financial aid award year begins in the summer semester, but the final year of the PA program — the only year at the graduate level — starts in the fall semester.
Which questions require careful consideration?
This FAFSA question can be a confusing one:
“At the beginning of the 20xx-xx school year, will you be working on a master's or doctorate program (such as an M.A., MBA, M.D., J.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., graduate certificate, etc.)?”
The answer to this question should be NO if you will still be in the undergraduate component of the PA program during the coming summer semester, even though you will begin your graduate coursework the following fall semester.
If you're heading into your final full year and answer YES to this question, you will not be eligible for government aid during the coming summer semester because you are not yet in graduate courses. Don’t worry about fall. The Financial Aid Team will change the answer on your FAFSA in preparation for the coming fall semester, when you begin your first semester of graduate coursework.
There are two other FAFSA questions for which PA students starting graduate coursework in the fall semester should not choose the graduate or professional answers, for the same reason as above:
“What will your college grade level be when you begin the 20xx-xx school year?"
“What college degree or certificate will you be working on when you begin the 20xx-xx school year?”
What about the final summer semester of the Physician Assistant Studies program?
This very last summer semester is at the graduate level. Because the Penn College financial aid award year starts with summer semester, you need to complete a final FAFSA for it. And those three FAFSA questions above are answered as you would expect: Enrollment in a graduate or professional program.
The tips below apply if you don't plan to take undergraduate courses during the summer semester before you start your master's. If you do plan to take courses over the summer, reach out to the Financial Aid team before completing your FAFSA.
The Master of Science (M.S.) in Nursing Education program is a traditional graduate level program, so you can answer YES to the following question on the FAFSA:
"At the beginning of the 20xx-xx school year, will you be working on a master's or doctorate program (such as an M.A., MBA, M.D., J.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., graduate certificate, etc.)?"
Select the Graduate or Professional answers to these two other FAFSA questions:
"What will your college grade level be when you begin the 20xx-xx school year?"
"What college degree or certificate will you be working on when you begin the 20xx-xx school year?"
Graduate Student Support
Have more questions about graduate aid? We're here to help.