Private loans are offered by financial institutions based on your credit score. These loans tend to have higher interest rates than government loans. We encourage U.S. students to pursue all options for federal student aid before considering a private loan. Private loans are available for international students if you have a credit-worthy co-borrower who is a U.S. resident or eligible noncitizen.

Tips for minimizing your need to borrow

Parent loans for U.S. families

The federal Parent PLUS Loan is a non need-based, federally guaranteed education loan for families of all income levels. The PLUS Loan is processed and managed by Mount Holyoke College. Loans are “variable-fixed,” meaning borrowers receive a new rate with each new loan, but then that rate would be fixed for the life of the loan.

PLUS Loans are available to parents of dependent undergraduate students enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program. A current-academic-year FAFSA must be completed for any student whose parent wishes to apply for the PLUS Loan. Before borrowing a PLUS Loan, you may want to determine if the Federal Direct Student Loan has been maximized for the academic year.

To apply for a parent PLUS Loan:

  1. Enter the borrower’s personal information on the website. PLUS Loans are available to parents of dependent undergraduate students enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program. A current-academic-year FAFSA must be completed for any student whose parent wishes to apply for the PLUS Loan.
  2. Enter the student’s information. Borrowers have the option to select who (borrower or student) should receive a credit balance if applicable. The Federal Direct PLUS Loan can be requested for the cost of education minus financial aid. Per federal regulations, if a parent’s credit is denied on a PLUS Loan, the student is then eligible for an additional Unsubsidized Federal Direct Student Loan.
  3. Review the application.
  4. Credit Check and submit application. When you apply for a Direct PLUS Loan, the department will check your credit history. If you are found to have an adverse credit history, you may still borrow a PLUS Loan if you add an endorser who does not have an adverse credit history to your application. An endorser is someone who agrees to repay the Direct PLUS Loan if you do not repay the loan. The endorser may not be the student for whom a parent obtains a Direct PLUS Loan. In some cases, you may also be able to obtain a Direct PLUS Loan if you are able to document extenuating circumstances related to your adverse credit history.

How is a loan disbursed (paid out)?

Loan proceeds are disbursed in two equal installments, one per semester. Parents are encouraged to apply for a full year loan as credit decisions are good for only 180 days; applying for a second loan in the spring semester may require a second credit decision.

When do parents begin repaying the loan?

There is no grace period for Direct PLUS Loans. The repayment period for each Direct PLUS Loan you receive begins 60 days after the last disbursement of the loan. You can defer repayment of Direct PLUS Loans while the student for whom you obtained the loan is enrolled at least half-time, and for an additional 6 months after the student graduates or drops below half-time enrollment. You must separately request each deferment period:

  • Full-year loans begin repayment in March.
  • Fall-only loans begin repayment in October.
  • Spring-only loans begin repayment in March.

Generally, you'll have from 10 to 25 years to repay your loan, depending on the repayment plan that you choose. You can pay your PLUS loan using the standard, extended, or graduated repayment plan. Read more about these repayment plans.

The Direct Loan Servicing Center will notify you of the date your first payment is due. If you do not choose a repayment plan, you will be placed on the Standard Repayment Plan, with fixed monthly payments for up to 10 years. You can change repayment plans at any time by going to the Direct Loan Servicing Center's website and logging in to your account.

Trouble making payments?

If you’re having trouble making payments on your loans, contact the Direct Loan Servicing Center as soon as possible. The Direct Loan Servicing Center staff will work with you to determine your best option.

Options include:

  • Changing repayment plans.
  • Deferment, if you meet certain requirements. A deferment allows you to temporarily stop making payments on your loan.
  • Forbearance, if you don't meet the eligibility requirements for a deferment but are temporarily unable to make your loan payments. A forbearance allows you to temporarily stop making payments on your loan, temporarily make smaller payments or extend the time for making payments. Read more about deferments and forbearance.

Additional details are available on the Department of Education website.

Contact Information

For questions about credit appeals, PLUS Loan issues, and/or endorser processing, please contact

Direct Loans Origination Center

The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority

MEFA is a not-for-profit, self-financing state authority, not reliant on state or federal appropriation, that serves students and families in Massachusetts and out-of-state students pursuing higher education in Massachusetts.

The MEFA loan is a non need based family education loan funded by the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA). The fixed rate undergraduate MEFA loan allows students and their families to borrow up to the full cost of education less financial aid at Massachusetts colleges and universities. Residents of all states are eligible to apply.

MEFA offers a number of payment options including immediate, deferred and interest only repayment as well as a student deferred loan option.

The parent borrower or any credit-worthy applicant can research and complete a MEFA application online or by phone at 800-449-MEFA.

There is no pre or accelerated payment penalty. Student loan interest may be tax-deductible. Deferred loans result in an increased cost of borrowing. The maximum certifiable amount is the cost of education minus any financial aid.

Other state programs

Students should review options available with their state's higher education assistance programs. Many states offer aid programs (e.g., grant and loan) to students attending institutions out of state.

Private loans

We advise you to maximize all other low-interest student loans you’re eligible for before seeking other private loan options.

Private loan tips

  • If your parent has been denied a PLUS Loan you have two options: You can take an additional unsubsidized student loan or obtain an endorser for the PLUS Loan (another relative who can pass the credit check and promise to repay if your parent cannot).
  • Focus on discounts that are impossible to lose.
  • When applying for a private loan, use a co-signer with a higher credit score to get the lowest rate possible.
  • Multiple applications within 30 days will only result in 1 hard inquiry. Apply to several lenders to find the most competitive rates in this 30-day window.
  • Consider a lender who has a low rate yet a narrow spread between the lowest and highest rates.
  • Compare private student loans on ELMSelect.

Things to consider when researching private loans

  • Interest rate fixed or variable (based on SOFR).
  • Co-borrower required or recommended (may mean a lower rate or reduced fees).
  • Origination fees (front-end benefits).
  • Repayment benefits and costs (automatic or earned).
  • Repayment timing and cost of deferral.
  • Servicer (will the borrower retain the servicer and all repayment benefits for the life of the loan?).
  • Limit on options for grad school and/or nonprofit career.

Find a private loan

View this list of private loan programs that Mount Holyoke students have borrowed from recently. The list is not exhaustive or exclusive and exists solely as a service to Mount Holyoke students, representing only a small portion of the loans available. Mount Holyoke College realizes no financial or other benefit in providing this list. Students always have the right to the lender of their choice, and Student Financial Services will process any loan requested. We are happy to discuss loan options with students but will not direct them to a particular funding source.

International students with qualified U.S. co-signers may be eligible to borrow an alternative loan from many of the lenders on this list as well.

Note: Before applying for a non school-certified loan, please contact Student Financial Services. SFS counselors should be consulted to ensure you have exhausted more favorable financing options before utilizing direct-to-consumer loan products.

Offsite links are provided as a courtesy and do not imply endorsement by Mount Holyoke College.

Loan tools

Please email Student Financial Services if you wish to give us feedback on a past or present loan you have borrowed. We would like to know why you chose your loan or if you have concerns about the lender or loan program you chose.

Contact us

The Office of Student Financial Services administers financial aid and student billing.