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Types of Aid for Graduate Students

Financial aid resources for graduate students fall into three main categories.

The Office of Financial Aid helps administer Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Federal Direct PLUS Loans, and Alternative Student Loans for graduate students.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan

The Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan is a loan available to graduate students who are enrolled in a degree-seeking program and are at least half-time (six credits). Students are required to begin repayment of the loan after graduation (or when the student is no longer enrolled at least half-time). A six-month "grace period" is applied before repayment begins. Additional information on loan payments, as well as the current interest rate for this loan, can be found at

Graduate students may borrow up to the maximum annual amount of $20,500 with an Unsubsidized Loan.

Note: Associate and non-degree graduate students are not eligible for Federal Direct Loans (either Unsubsidized or PLUS), but may be eligible for private/alternative loans that are listed in this section.

Direct PLUS Loan

Graduate and professional degree students are eligible to borrow under the Direct PLUS Loan Program up to their cost of attendance minus other financial assistance received. This includes any other loans or financial assistance awarded by the department of study.

Students must have applied for their maximum annual loan eligibility under the Federal Direct Loan Program before applying for a Direct PLUS Loan.

Students are required to begin repayment of the PLUS Loan after graduation (or when the student is no longer enrolled at least half-time).  A six-month "grace period" is applied before repayment begins. Additional information on loan repayment, as well as the current interest rate for this loan, can be found at

Private/Alternative Loans

A Private/Alternative Loan is a loan that a student can obtain to help finance the student’s cost of attendance. These loans are based on one’s credit history. (A student who has not established credit can apply with a co-borrower and can borrow up to the cost of attendance minus any aid received.) We strongly recommend that students carefully review all the terms of each individual loan, as they can vary greatly. Individual loan providers have their own application, timeline, and repayment terms. Once a loan is approved, the lender will notify our office so that we can certify eligibility for the requested amount. Plan to apply at least 30 days prior to the date the bill is due. To assist with this process, a list of private loans recently used by Lehigh students can be found on our ELMSelect site.

Academic Awards

Teaching assistantships (TAs), research assistantships (RAs), graduate assistantships (GAs), fellowships and scholarships are academic awards made by the University, by individual academic departments, and by the Dean’s Office. Several graduate assistantships unrelated to a particular area of study can be obtained by applying to administrative offices. 

Continuing students who request fellowships, scholarships, RAs, TAs and GAs beginning in the fall semester must file a request with their academic department no later than February 1st. Generally, a special committee formed by departmental faculty makes recommendations for the recipients of these awards based on merit. Students are not required to submit a financial statement. In addition to their stipends, graduate students holding half-time TA appointments generally receive tuition remission. Research assistants receive a stipend for research services and their tuition is commonly paid directly by research projects. Joint appointments as teaching assistant, research assistant and graduate project assistant are permissible, subject to appropriate approvals.

For more information on these opportunities, please visit Funding Your Graduate Education.

Private Scholarships

There are many private (external) scholarships you may apply for that may or may not be need-based, which are determined on various factors, such as academics, career goals, etc. To look for a scholarship that matches your interests and qualifications, you can access free scholarship information online at,, or The Office of Financial Aid maintains a list of current external scholarships

In most instances, there is no charge to apply for scholarships and no guarantee that you will receive a scholarship. In fact, we strongly recommend you avoid scholarships that require payment to apply. Be sure to carefully research the organization and be wary of scholarship scams. Each private scholarship has its own criteria and application process.