Guide to private loans for US students

This page provides some information on private loans which may supplement, or replace, your federal loan requirements.

What is a private loan?

Private student loans are non-federal loans, borrowed from a private lender such as a bank or other corporation. A federal loan is borrowed from the US Government directly, via the US Department of Education's William D Ford Direct Loan Program. Federal loans are typically offered with more preferable rates of interest and with more flexible repayment options. A federal loan is usually partly based on financial need, whereas a private loan is not.

You may only use student loans (whether they are federal or private) for educational expenses such as tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, and transportation. Your Cost of Attendance is calculated by the University, and you may not borrow more than this whether you take out a private loan or a federal loan or both.

For further information you may find the guide to private loans (PDF) provided by Mapping Your Future to be useful.

How do I apply for a private loan?

The University will work with whichever private lender you decide to use, if they are willing to work with us. You should be aware that the majority of private lenders choose not to offer loans to students studying outside the USA.

What steps do I need to take?

Unlike federal loans you may borrow a private loan up to the full amount of your Cost of Attendance regardless of your financial need. Or, you may use a private loan to supplement your federal loans up to your Cost of Attendance if, for example, you cannot borrow that full amount in the form of a federal loan.

1. You must first make sure that the lender is willing to offer you a private educational loan, and that they are willing to work with Plymouth University.

2. You must complete a Cost of Attendance Calculator in the same way that federal loan applicants do. This will tell you how much you can borrow and tell us how much you want to borrow. You will need to use Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice, or other suitable software to open this file and enter information. The form is the same for federal loans and private loans.

3. You must then complete your loan application directly with your chosen lender.

4. You will need to complete and sign a Master Promissory Note supplied by your lender.

Once you have completed the steps above then you must notify the University of your intentions. You must provide us, by email, with the following documents:

  • Your completed Cost of Attendance Calculator; 
  • A copy of your private loan Master Promissory Note (MPN).

Do this by attaching your documents to an email and send this to the University's Student Funding Unit at studentfunding@plymouth.ac.uk.

For priority treatment please enter the subject line of your email in the following format: US Loan for Award Year YYYY-YY (surname, forename).

For example: US Loan for Award Year 2016-17 (Smith, John).

The University will then verify the information you have provided.

If any information is incomplete or incorrect then this will almost certainly delay the origination of your loans. The University will not certify loans for individuals who have not made their intentions known to us.

How do I get my funds? 

Once your information has been verified the University will certify your private loan with your lender. We will then provide you with details of the disbursement dates, and amount of funds, you should expect to receive. 

Disbursements of private loans typically arrive by cheque and may take time to clear. The University typically arranges for private loans to be paid in two disbursements regardless of your level of study. This compares with undergraduate federal loans disbursed on two occasions each year, and with postgraduate (taught or research) federal loans which are disbursed on three occasions each year. If you are in receipt of both private loans and federal loans you should be aware that your federal loan disbursements may be on different dates to your private loan disbursements.

It is essential that you arrange to open a UK bank account either whilst you are still in the USA or at the earliest available opportunity upon entry to the UK. 

It is also strongly recommended that you plan on having sufficient funds available for accommodation, books, supplies and any other personal expenses during the first four to six weeks of classes in light of the timeframes outlined above or in the event that there is some delay in your financial aid arriving from the USA.

Can I borrow a federal loan as well as a private loan?

You may borrow a combination of private and federal loans provided that this combination does not exceed your total Cost of Attendance. Please consult our web page on how to apply for a Federal Loan for further information.