Student Loans

Home » Admissions and Aid » Financial Aid » Student Loans

A college loan can help you pay for your education

College is an investment in your future, and sometimes, you might need a little extra help to cover the costs. That's where student loans come in!  Think of them like a special tool you can use to bridge the gap between scholarships, grants, and your own savings.

But remember, a loan is money you borrow that needs to be paid back with interest (like a small fee added on).  That's why it's important to understand the different types of loans and how they work before you decide to use them.

How to Borrow Wisely:

  • Think before you borrow!  Make sure you've exhausted all other financial aid options like grants and scholarships before considering loans.
  • Do your research!  Understand the terms and conditions of each loan before you commit.
  • Only borrow what you need!  Student loans can add up quickly, so make sure you can afford the repayments after graduation.

Federal Direct (Stafford) Loans

These are the "official" higher ed loans offered by the U.S. government.  They usually have lower interest rates than other types of loans.


Federal Direct Subsidized Loans are for students with financial need. The cool thing is, the government helps pay the interest while you're in school at least half-time! 

Loan Terms

  • No interest accumulates while you are attending at least half time.
  • If you drop below half time status, the grace period begins.
  • All loans have an origination fee.
  • Repayment begins after the end of the grace period, but payments can be made at any time.

There is a limit on the maximum period of time (measured in academic years) that you can receive Direct Subsidized Loans. For more information, please see the Federal Direct Subsidized Loan Limit guidance.


Anyone can get a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, but the interest starts adding up right away, even while you're in school. 

Loan Terms

  • Interest begins accumulating on the Unsubsidized Loan when the funds are disbursed to you.
  • If you drop below half-time status, the grace period begins.
  • All loans have an origination fee.
  • Repayment begins after the end of the grace period, but payments can be made at any time.

How do I get started?

Once your FAFSA is processed, we will determine how much you can borrow with both Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Loans.  Here's what you need to do next:

Head over to, the official Department of Education student loans portal. Make sure you choose Entrance Counseling, not Financial Awareness Counseling!  Follow the steps, and you'll be a loan master in no time.

Entrance Counseling

This online tutorial from the Department of Education is your chance to become a loan repayment pro!  Think of it as Loan Bootcamp – you'll learn your rights and responsibilities as a borrower.

Master Promissory Note (MPN)

The MPN is basically your loan agreement.  It's a promise to repay the loan funds you'll receive throughout your academic journey.  The good news is, you only need to sign one MPN, and it's valid for 10 years!

How much can I borrow?

Direct Loan Borrower Annual and Aggregate Loan Limits

In college, each year is like a new chapter. The annual loan limit is the most you can borrow for that year's expenses, like buying books or paying tuition. There's also a total limit, called the aggregate loan limit, for how much you can borrow throughout your entire education journey. This helps make sure you don't borrow more than you can manage to pay back after graduation.

Annual Loan Limits
Grade LevelMaximum SubsidizedUnsubsidizedTotal Yearly Amounts
Freshman (DEP)$ 3,500$ 2,000$ 5,500
Freshman (IND)$ 3,500$ 6,000$ 9,500
Sophomore (DEP)$ 4,500$ 2,000$ 6,500
Sophomore (IND)$ 4,500$ 6,000$ 10,500
Aggregate Loan Limits
ClassificationMaximum SubsidizedUnsubsidizedMaximum Total
Undergraduate (DEP)$ 23,000$ 8,000$ 31,000
Undergraduate (IND)$ 23,000$ 34,500$ 57,500

You may access your total outstanding loan balance and view your Loan Servicer contact information via your Student Aid Dashboard at

How many students default on their loans?

Default Rates

NWTC 3-Year Cohort Default Rates (CDRs)

The cohort default rate is the percentage of a school's students who had certain federal student loans enter repayment in a federal fiscal year and then default prior to the end of the second fiscal year. 

Cohort Year: Represents loans that first entered repayment during this first federal fiscal year.
Year Published: The official cohort default rate was calculated and announced to the public during this calendar year.
Rate: The cohort default rate for loans used to attend NWTC. 

Cohort Year: 2020
Year Published: 2023
Rate: 0.0%
National Rate: 0.6%
Cohort Year: 2019
Year Published: 2022
Rate: 3.1%
National Rate: 2.3%
Cohort Year: 2018
Year Published: 2021
Rate: 11.4%
National Rate: 7.3%

Other Loan Types

Federal PLUS Loan (Parent Loan)

PLUS Loans are a way for parents with good credit to bridge the gap and cover their child's college costs.  Think of it as a team effort – parents can borrow, and students can focus on their studies!

Here's the scoop on PLUS Loans:

  • Who can use them? Parents of undergraduate students enrolled at least half-time (that's 6 credits) and making good academic progress (Satisfactory Academic Progress).
  • Who qualifies?  Parents with a credit history that shows they're responsible borrowers (no major bumps in the road like defaults or delinquencies). There's a quick credit check involved.
  • How do you apply?  It's a two-step process:

If a parent doesn't qualify for a PLUS Loan on their own, they can explore getting a co-signer or the student might be able to borrow additional Unsubsidized Loans based on their eligibility.

Wisconsin Nursing Student Loan

The Nursing Student Loan Program allows Nursing students to borrow up to $3,000 per year with a lifetime maximum of $15,000. Plus, here’s the coolest part of the program: If you work as a nurse in Wisconsin after graduation, up to 25% of your loan amount for each of the first two years may be forgiven - that’s a potential 50% off!

Who can use it? Wisconsin residents enrolled at least half-time in a Registered Nursing (RN) or Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program.

How do you apply? Contact the NWTC Financial Aid Office.

Remember: There's a limited amount of money available, so loans are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The interest rate is super reasonable (not to exceed 5%), but to qualify for forgiveness, you will need to become a licensed nurse and practice in Wisconsin.

Learn more about eligibility and the application process (PDF) »

Alternative (Private) Loans

Who can use them?  Alternative loans are for students who need extra help covering college costs after exploring federal and state grants and loans.

These loans typically have higher interest rates and fees compared to federal options. Think of them as your backup plan – best used after exhausting all other possibilities. 

How do you apply?  Before diving in, make sure you've maxed out your federal and state aid (think FREE money!).  Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) first!  Pro-tip: Alternative loans can't be processed until August, and most lenders require a credit check (valid for 90 days), so plan accordingly.

Search for private loans »

When you are done with school

Once you have completed the online Exit Counseling session, the information will be sent electronically to the Financial Aid Office.

Just graduated, left school, or dropped below half-time enrollment?  Congrats on this new chapter!  

Exit Counseling

If you have a federal subsidized loan, you'll need to complete Exit Counseling before you officially enter repayment mode.  Think of it as a graduation requirement for your loans.

This online session will equip you with the knowledge you need to tackle repayment like a champ!  You'll learn about your options, how to make payments, and even who to contact if you have questions.

Bonus: At the end, you'll provide some basic info like your next of kin and employer (if known).  It's a breeze, and it helps everyone stay on the same page.

Begin Loan Exit Counseling

Repayment Resources

Repaying your student loans might seem daunting, but fear not!  GradReady is your free one-stop shop for all things loan management.  From understanding your repayment options to creating a budget that works for you, GradReady has the tools and info you need to feel empowered.