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Student Loans — Frequently Asked Questions

Heartland Community College participates in the Federal Direct Loan Program.  Under the Federal Direct Loan Program, loan eligibility is determined by the Heartland Financial Aid Office and the loans are actually made by the U.S. Department of Education.

Federal Direct loans are educational loans that must be repaid with interest, so we encourage you to consider all other options for financing your education first and use a student loan only as a "last resort." Think carefully before you borrow under this loan program because there are serious consequences to not repaying student loans.

What types of student loans are available?

There are three types of loans available; Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans for students and Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) for parents.

How do I qualify for a Direct Student Loan?

You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to be considered for a Direct Student loan.

A Direct Subsidized loan is a need-based loan which means that students must demonstrate financial need according to data submitted on the FAFSA. Interest begins accruing on the loan at the time the loan funds are disbursed, but the federal government pays (subsidizes) the interest for you while you are enrolled in school on at least a half-time basis, so you do not make any payments on the loan while you are in school.

A Direct Unsubsidized loan is not based on financial need, which means that as long as you meet other general eligibility requirements you can borrow through the Unsubsidized loan program, even if you do not demonstrate financial need. Interest begins accruing on the loan at the time the loan funds are disbursed and you are responsible for paying the interest while you are in school. Interest can be capitalized which means you will not have to pay the interest while in school, but the interest accruing is added to the amount you borrow, so the loan amount continues to increase. We recommend that you pay the interest on an Unsubsidized loan while you are in school.

To be considered for a Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Student Loan you must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Apply for financial aid using the FAFSA;
  • Have a completed and verified, if necessary, student aid record on file;
  • Be admitted to Heartland Community College in a degree seeking program or approved certificate program;
  • Meet Satisfactory Academic Progress Standards;
  • Be enrolled in at least six credit hours;
  • Not be in default on any educational loan, show an unwillingness to repay an educational loan, or owe any refund on a grant or student loan;
  • Meet with a Heartland Community College loan officer for pre-loan counseling and complete a Student Loan Request Form, if required; and
  • Must schedule an appointment to meet with a financial aid officer if you have significant prior borrowing as part of the college's debt management plan. You may be required to submit an appeal to the College's Appeals Committee in order to borrow additional funds under the student loan program.

How much can I borrow under the Direct Student Loan Program?

Under the Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized programs you may generally borrow up to $5,500 as a freshman and up to $6,500 as a sophomore. Under special circumstances, independent students may be eligible to borrow additional funds of up to $4,000 under the Unsubsidized program. Need for the additional funds will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

What is the interest rate on Direct Student Loans?

For the 2015-2016 academic year, the interest rate on  Direct Subsidized and  Direct Unsubsidized loans is 4.29% .

What is a PLUS Loan?

A PLUS loan is a loan that parents of dependent students can receive to cover educational expenses for their dependent undergraduate student.

How do parents apply for a PLUS Loan?

The first step is completing the FAFSA. Eligibility for a PLUS loan will not be considered until eligibility for a Direct Student loan is first considered. In addition to completing the FAFSA, parents should complete a  2015-2016 Heartland PLUS loan application (use for Fall 2015 and/or Spring 2016) * (applications available in PDF format, 60 KB, 1 page). Download 2015-2016 instructions  for completing the PLUS loan application* ( both available in PDF format, 18 KB, 1 pages).

*Note: You must download and install Adobe® Acrobat® Reader™ in order to view and print the PDFs.

How much can a parent borrow, and what is the interest rate on the loan?

Parents can borrow up to the cost of education at Heartland, less any financial aid their student is receiving.

The current interest rate is 6.84% and interest accrues on the PLUS loan as soon as the loan is disbursed. Repayment of the loan begins within 60 days of the loan being fully disbursed.

What is Entrance Loan Counseling?

All students at Heartland Community College who borrow a Direct Student loan must complete an entrance loan counseling session each academic year with the U.S. Department of Education before loan funds can be disbursed.

The entrance loan counseling session is designed to inform students about their rights and responsibilities as a borrower, explain the importance of loan repayment and make sure that students understand the consequences of defaulting on a student loan.

Students should complete online loan counseling through the U.S. Department of Education's Web site. Sign into the site using your FSA ID, and then select "Complete Entrance Counseling".

Financial Aid Loan Officers are available to answer any questions students have about information contained in the online loan counseling. Please contact the Financial Aid Office if you have any questions.

How do I complete my Master Promissory Note?

Because Direct Student loans must be repaid with interest, all students borrowing under the Direct Student loan program, must sign a promissory note each time they borrow. This is your promise to repay the loan, and it is a legally-binding document between you and the U.S. Department of Education.

Students should complete the Master Promissory Note (MPN) through the U.S. Department of Education's Website. Sign into the site using your FSA ID and then select "Complete Master Promissory Note".

If you have any questions about completing the MPN, contact the Financial Aid Office.

What is Exit Loan Counseling?

Before a student graduates or once he/she drops below half-time attendance, an exit loan counseling session must be completed. The exit loan counseling session will review your repayment obligation, provide information regarding typical monthly repayment amounts based on various levels of borrowing, explain deferment and forbearance options and stress the serious consequences of defaulting on a federal student loan. In-person exit loan counseling sessions will be scheduled with students during their last semester of attendance. Online exit loan counseling is also available for students. Online loan counseling can be completed at http://www.nslds.ed.gov.

Please contact the Financial Aid Office if you have any questions concerning the exit loan counseling requirement.

What is Heartland Community College's Student Loan Code of Conduct?

The 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act requires that all institutions adopt a Student Loan Code of Conduct which serves as the formal guiding principles in insuring integrity of the student loan process and ensures the ethical conduct of Heartland Community College (HCC) employees in regard to student loan practices.

Interaction with Borrowers

Heartland Community College participates in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program through the U.S. Department of Education. This program includes Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized and Direct Parent PLUS loans.

To a much lesser extent, private education loans are also processed for students at their request as needed.

HCC does not maintain a preferred lender list for private student loans nor does it recommend any private lender. All decisions concerning private education loans will be made by the borrower based on his/her independent review of lender benefits and services. HCC will not refuse to certify or delay certification of any private education loan based on the borrower’s selection of a particular lender or guaranty agency.


Employees of the HCC Financial Aid Office are prohibited from receiving gifts from any lender, guaranty agency or loan servicer. Exceptions related to specific types of activities or literature include the following:

  1. Brochures or training material related to default aversion or financial literacy.
  2. Food, training or informational materials as part of training as long as the training contributes to the professional development of those individuals attending the training.
  3. Favorable terms and benefits to the student employed by the institution as long as those same terms are provided to all students at the institution.
  4. Entrance and exit counseling as long as the institution's staff are in control and they do not promote the services of a specific lender.
  5. Philanthropic contributions from a lender, guaranty agency or servicer unrelated to education loans.
  6. State education, grants, scholarships or financial aid funds administered by or on behalf of the State.

Contracting Arrangements

Employees of the HCC Financial Aid Office shall not accept from any lender or affiliate of any lender any fee, payment or other financial benefit as compensation for any consulting arrangement or other contract to provide services to a lender or on behalf of a lender relating to education loans.

Revenue Sharing

HCC will not enter into any revenue-sharing arrangement with any lender. This is defined as any arrangement between a school and a lender that results in the lender paying a fee or other benefits, including a share of the profits, to the school, its officer, employees or agents, as a result of the school recommending the lender to its students or families of those students.

Opportunity Pool Loan

HCC will not request or accept from any lender any offer of funds to be used for private education loans including funds for an opportunity pool loan in exchange for HCC providing concessions or promises to the lender for a specific number of loans, or inclusion on a preferred lender list.

Staffing Assistance

HCC will not request or accept from any lender, guarantor or servicer of student loans any assistance with call center staffing or financial aid office staffing.

Advisory Board Compensation

Employees of the HCC Financial Aid Office who serve on any advisory board, commission or group established by a lender, guarantor or student loan servicer are prohibited from receiving anything of value from the lender, guarantor or loan servicer for serving in this capacity, except that an employee may be reimbursed for reasonable expenses incurred while serving in this capacity.

Who can I contact with questions?

Financial Aid Office
Community Commons Building (CCB), Room 1106
1500 W. Raab Rd.
Normal, IL 61761
(309) 268-8020
Email: Financial Aid