As a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible noncitizen, you may be eligible to borrow two types of federal loans—Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Graduate PLUS Loans—to help finance your education. 

To be eligible to borrow federal student loans, you must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the appropriate academic year. The HKS school code is E00215.

The federal student aid website will contain the most up-to-date information about federal loans, including current interest rates and repayment options.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Graduate students are generally eligible to receive a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan up to $20,500 per academic year.

Graduate PLUS Loans

You may borrow a Graduate PLUS Loan up to the difference between your cost of attendance and all other aid you are receiving. This loan requires credit approval.

Federal Student Loan Information

If you enroll at HKS for a full academic year, loans will be disbursed in two equal amounts at the beginning of each semester. An origination fee will be deducted from your loan before it is disbursed.

Your Federal Direct Loans begin to accrue interest from the time they are disbursed. Interest accrued on your Direct Unsubsidized Loan will capitalize at the end of your six-month grade period once you are no longer enrolled at HKS. Interest accrued on your Graduate PLUS Loan will capitalize twice: immediately after you graduate from HKS, and again at the end of your six-month post-enrollment deferment.

For the latest information on interest rates and origination fees, visit the Federal Student Aid website.

There are several repayment plans to choose from after you graduate from HKS—and before you enter repayment—that you may be able to change at a later date.

Among your repayment plan options are:

  • Standard 10-year plan
  • 25-year extended repayment plan
  • Graduated plan—the payment amount scales up over your repayment period
  • Income-driven repayment plans (IDR)

You must begin paying your loans six months after you are no longer enrolled at HKS on at least a half-time basis.

You must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible noncitizen to be eligible for a federal student loan. Additionally, you cannot be in default on an existing student loan.

To be considered for a federal educational loan, submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and include the correct Harvard Kennedy School code (E00215). Many applicants mistakenly choose the Harvard University code (002155)—this prevents them from submitting their FAFSA correctly.

If you are a Graduate PLUS Loan borrower, you will also need to complete a Graduate PLUS Loan Application.

Loan Entrance Counseling and Completing Promissory Notes

You will complete a loan entrance counseling session prior to orientation to learn more about your rights and responsibilities for borrowing a federal direct loan.  

You will also need to complete a promissory note, which will remain in effect for the entire time you are enrolled continuously at HKS. 

Loan Exit Counseling

During your last semester enrolled at HKS—or before you go on a leave of absence—you will be required to complete an online exit counseling certification through

Borrowers in deferment are not required to make payment on federal loans, but Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Grad PLUS Loans, or private loans continue to accrue interest during this time.

Deferments While Enrolled at HKS

You are eligible to defer your federal loan payments while you are enrolled at Harvard Kennedy School on at least a half-time basis. This applies to loans taken out to attend HKS as well as federal loans you may hold from attending undergraduate or other graduate programs.

HKS partners with the National Student Loan Clearinghouse. The HKS Office of the Registrar uploads enrollment information to this database three times each semester.

As a student enrolled at HKS, you may ask the HKS Office of the Registrar to provide you with a completed deferment form in hard copy if you hold older loans. You can do this by getting the deferment form from your lender and sending it to the registrar for certification. Deferment forms cannot be completed until after the semester’s first day of classes.

Post-Enrollment Deferments

Your repayment period typically starts six months from your last day of classes after you are no longer enrolled at HKS on at least a half-time basis. This is called “a grace period” if you hold Direct Unsubsidized Loans or “a post-enrollment deferment” if you hold Grad PLUS Loans.

A grace period is a one-time event only. If you exhausted the grace period previously, you are not eligible for an additional one. In these cases, your repayment period begins 30 days after you are no longer enrolled at HKS. 

If you have a hard time meeting your repayment obligations after you are no longer enrolled at HKS, you may be able to take advantage of some post-enrollment deferment options. They are only available for federal loans—Direct Unsubsidized, Perkins, and Grad PLUS. If you have private loans and are having difficulty meeting your repayment obligations, contact your lenders to talk about your options.


If you are unemployed but actively looking for gainful employment, you may be able to defer your loans for a cumulative period of three years. Unemployment deferments are typically granted in six-month increments, but you will need to file a new request every six months.

Economic Hardship

If you are employed but struggling to meet your repayment obligations, you may be eligible to defer your loans due to economic hardship. Your eligibility will be based on calculating the amount of your outstanding debt and required monthly loan payments relative to your earnings. Contact the U.S. Department of Education (1-800-848-0979) to determine your exact eligibility calculation and learn about deferments.


You may think about applying for forbearance if you do not qualify for deferment, but are having short-term difficulty with meeting your repayment obligations. Forbearance is similar to deferment. You may reduce or stop making payment on your loans for a cumulative period of no more than three years. However, unlike deferment, interest will accrue on the entirety of your borrowed amount, not just the unsubsidized portion.

If you decide to withdraw from Harvard Kennedy School after you’ve started classes, tuition will be refunded based on the schedule outlined in the financial information section of the HKS student handbook.

A portion of your federal loans may need to be returned. The federal financial aid refund policy applies if you have received—or are eligible to have received—federal financial aid for the semester from which you withdrew.

Returned Title IV Funds—Direct Unsubsidized or Perkins—are calculated by the dates you withdrew, which include the:

  • Date you began the withdrawal process from HKS
  • Date you officially notified the institution of your intent to withdraw
  • Your last date of attendance at a documented academic-related activity
  • Midpoint of the enrollment period if you leave without notifying the institution

If you do not return from an approved leave of absence, the calculation is determined either by the end of your leave of absence date or when you notify HKS that you will not be returning—whichever is earliest.

Title IV Aid

The Title IV aid amount you “earn” is based on the percentage of a semester you complete. This percentage is calculated by determining the total number of days in a semester (excluding breaks that are five days or more) and dividing this amount by the number of days in a semester.

For example, if a semester is 110 days and you attend 30 days, the percentage of Title IV funds “earned” would be 30/110 = 27.27 percent.

Once you complete 60 percent or more of a semester, you have “earned” the full amount of your Title IV funds. When determining funds to be returned, any amount to be returned is first applied against your Direct Unsubsidized Loan and then followed by your Grad PLUS Loan.

Further details can be found here.

Your Loan Must Be Repaid

The percentage of institutional charges owed is not the same as the percentage of federal loans earned.

Federal regulations dictate the portion of federal financial aid that may be retained. You may be eligible to retain a portion of loans that this represents; however, a loan must be repaid. Once you exhaust any grace periods, you will enter repayment no later than six months after your last day of attendance. We encourage you to review deferment and forbearance information if you foresee any difficulty in repayment.

Lastly, if you have a break in attendance, you are required to complete Student Loan Exit Counseling within 30 days of your withdrawal. Contact the Office of Admissions & Financial Aid for details.

The information provided below is in accordance with Federal Consumer Information regulations. Contact the Office of Admissions & Financial Aid for details or to request a hard copy.

HKS Financial Assistance Process Information

Basic Financial Assistance and Contact Information

Total Cost of Attendance

Terms and Conditions for Students to Receive Direct Loans

Need-based and Non-need-based State and Local Aid Programs, School Aid Programs, and Other Private Aid Programs

How Students Apply for Aid, and How Eligibility is Determined

How Does the School Distribute Aid Among Students?

How or When Financial Aid Will Be Disbursed

Rights and Responsibilities of Students Receiving Financial Assistance

Terms and Conditions of Any Employment that is Part of a Financial Aid Package

Terms, Schedules, Loan Repayment Necessity, and Required Loan Entrance/Exit Counseling

  • General information on entrance and exit counseling
  • Details on entrance and exit counseling for admitted students on internal site
  • Additional details are available on request if you are a prospective student


Students receiving federal need-based (Work-Study) assistance who are selected to be verified, and all students receiving federal financial assistance selected by federal processors are required to provide proof of identity and to sign a statement of educational purpose must complete the verification process. This includes documentation that is required depends upon the verification group. 

Criteria for Measuring Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP): How a Student Who Has Not Maintained SAP Can Reestablish Eligibility for Federal Financial Aid

Requirements to Return Federal Aid When a Student Withdraws: Return to Title IV (R2T4) Compliance and Student Aid Refund Policy


Accreditation and Institutional Research

  • Visit Harvard Office of Institutional Research for names of associations, agencies, or governmental bodies that accredit, approve, or license the School and its programs, and how students may review a copy of the school’s accreditation, licensure, or approval.

Cross Registration and Transfer Policy

Facilities and Services for Students with Disabilities 

Degree Programs, Training, and Other Educational Opportunities Available As Well As Plans for Improving Academic Programs at Harvard University

Instructional, Laboratory, and Other Physical Plant Facilities Associated with Academic Programs

List of HKS Faculty Members and Instructional Personnel

Terms and Conditions for Students Receiving Federal Loans to Obtain Deferment

Information on Placement of and Types of Employment Obtained by HKS Graduates

Consumer Information for Student Athletes

Graduation Rate Information


Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention

Campus Security Statistics and Security Policies 

Harvard provides a number of resources to help students understand campus security statistics and policies.

Building Information

  • The Harvard Planning Office manages the online Harvard map. Additional information can be added to the map or custom versions of the map can be created for Harvard websites. 

Harvard Kennedy School Missing Persons Procedures

Emergency Response and Evacuation Procedures

Harvard University's Fire Safety Report

Harvard Vaccination Policy

Policies and Sanctions Related to Copyright Infringement

Textbook Information 

  • Information about required textbooks and supplemental materials may be available in the Online Course Materials section, on the internal portal

Constitution Day

Harvard University Student Code of Conduct

FERPA Compliance and Blocks

Voter Registration

Students receive an email from Harvard Kennedy School that includes voter information. Paper voter registration forms are available in the HKS Office of Admissions & Financial Aid.

In addition, HKS is participating in the Harvard Votes Challenge, a nonpartisan, university-wide effort that is challenging Harvard schools to do their part to increase voter registration and participation among eligible students. Sign up today for more information about:

  • Registration deadlines
  • Voting resources and guides
  • Events on political participation, elections, and democracy in societies around the world at HKS and Harvard University
  • Volunteer opportunities with the Harvard Votes Challenge
Know Your Rights and Responsibilities
As a loan borrower, you need to stay informed.