US Federal Loans

Applying for a Title IV Direct Loan

Heriot-Watt University is an approved Title IV institution for the purpose of administering the U.S. Department of Education’s federal student loan program, which is the  William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program . The loans are provided by the US Government to eligible students on eligible programmes of study.


Heriot-Watt University is permitted to provide Direct Loans for the following:

  • Bachelors degree programs
  • Masters degree and doctoral programs

Please note that some of our courses are not eligible for Federal Student Aid. We will advise you if this is the case when we assess your FAFSA. 

The following is a list of the types of courses that are not eligible for Federal Student Aid:

  • Certificate and diploma programs
  • Distance learning courses
  • Low Residency courses

Please note that students applying for Federal Student Aid and who intend to complete a Study Abroad period or their chosen program includes a mandatory work placement or professional placement while at Heriot-Watt University must check with the Student Funding Officers prior to accepting a place as this may affect your eligibility for federal funding.

Programs that do not qualify for Federal Student Aid may still qualify for Private Student Loans.

How to apply

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) applications for academic year 2022/23 can be submitted from January 2022, however the Global Student Office will not start processing FAFSA applications until the end of May 2022.

Please note, you must have been offered a place on a course by Heriot-Watt University AND accepted that place before we will process your application for Federal Student Aid.

Students wishing to apply for Federal Direct Loans should visit the student aid website and apply for FAFSA. Please note students are required to complete a FAFSA each year. For continuing students who received student aid from Heriot-Watt University in the previous year, use the Returning User option.

The Heriot-Watt University School Code is G22739 (this code may also appear as 02273900) and you will need this for completing your FAFSA.

Complete a FAFSA application

Once your FAFSA is completed and processed it will generate a Student Aid Report. This is used by Heriot-Watt University to determine your eligibility for a loan as stipulated by the US Department of Education.  If any information is missing or there are comments stating further information is required, you will need to make corrections and re-submit your application. If there is a C shown next to the EFC, further information will be required. Check the comments codes and make any necessary corrections. In some cases we may need to ask you to provide documentary evidence (such as proof of US citizenship).

Once we have received your SAR (Student Aid report) and identified you are eligible for the Direct Loans we will send you a calculated Cost of Attendance (COA) and details of the loans for which you are eligible, along with instructions on what you need to do next.

What types of Federal Loans are available?

Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program, the U.S. Department of Education is your lender. There are four types of Direct Loans available:

  • Direct Subsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need to help cover the costs of higher education at a college or career school. 
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, but eligibility is not based on financial need.
  • Direct PLUS Loans are loans made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. A Direct PLUS Loan is commonly referred to as a parent PLUS loan when made to a parent, and as a grad PLUS loan when made to a graduate or professional student. Eligibility is not based on financial need, but a credit check is required. Borrowers who have an adverse credit history must meet additional requirements to qualify.

The amount in Direct Loan funds that you are eligible to borrow each academic year is limited by your grade level; whether you are a dependent or an independent student; your financial need; and your cost of attendance.

Federal Direct Parent and Grad PLUS Loans may be used as supplemental funding when subsidised and unsubsidised loan maximums are reached. As always, the total amount you may borrow in student loans for any academic year is limited to your annual calculated cost of attendance (COA) minus all other sources of funding.

Here is a quick overview of the different kinds of loans.

Cost of attendance at Heriot-Watt University

Each academic year, the Global Student Office establishes standard student budgets that use cost of attendance (COA) estimates for awarding financial aid funds.

The cost of attendance (COA) consists of two basic components:

  • Tuition fees
  • Maintenance costs - accommodation, utilities, food, travel and miscellaneous personal expenses

While costs may vary depending on where students live in Edinburgh we expect students' cost of attendance to be roughly in line with our estimates and the university is required to issue a standard cost of attendance spreadsheet to all students on the same programme of study. Requests for variation to the standard cost of attendance spreadsheet will be considered only exceptionally on a case by case basis by the Student Funding Officer, up to four weeks prior to the end of the loan period.   

Each academic year the university uses a theoretical exchange rate to calculate the cost of attendance. For academic year 2022/23 the theoretical exchange rate of 1.4 was used. The actual exchange rate used when processing disbursements will be dependent on the market rate on the day the funds are processed.

Costs relating to spouses or dependents will not be considered apart from the cost of formal childcare for dependents during class time, study time and commuting time e.g. nursery/child-minder/after school club costs.

The most commonly used Undergraduate and Postgraduate Cost of Attendance budgets for 2022/23 are below. Some students will require slightly different Cost of Attendance calculations based on type and length of programme. For further information please contact us at

Please note that you are not able to borrow more than your total estimated costs of attendance (COA).

Undergraduate costs

Undergraduate courses typically have a 36-week academic year.

Items Weekly Costs Weeks Total Costs
Room (inc. Utilities) £245 36 £8,820
Food £70 36 £2,520
Books £15 36 £540
Travel £17 36 £612
Personal £60 36 £2,160
Sub Total     £14,652
Flights (2 round trips)     £2,000
Total     £16,652
Plus Tuition fees*     £              

*Tuition Fees can be found in the fees and funding tab of your chosen programme

Postgraduate costs

Postgraduate (graduate and professional) courses typically have a 52-week academic year.

Items Weekly Cost Weeks Total Costs
Room inc. Utilities £245 52 £12,740
Food £70 52 £3,640
Books £15 52 £780
Travel £17 52 £884
Personal £60 52 £3,120
Sub Total     £21,164
Flights (2 round trips)     £2,000
Total     £23,164
Plus Tuition fees*     £

*Tuition Fees can be found in the fees and funding tab of your chosen programme

Apply for loan

If you have firmly accepted an unconditional offer, the next steps to finalise your applications is to complete:

  • Entrance counselling
  • E-signing your Master Promissory Note for each loan type you have applied for (Direct Subsidised and/or Unsubsidised Loans, Graduate/Parent Plus Loans a Plus Loan Request application is also required)

Once we have received all your loan application documents, we will aim to process and approve all loans within 3 weeks. We will originate your loans on the system and once they are confirmed we will email you an award letter to you providing details of your loan for the year. 

Please note the disbursement dates provided are estimated. Please do not depend on funds being in your account on this date.  You may need to allow 5-6 working days for the release of funds process to be completed. We will not release the first disbursement until you are fully enrolled at the university. Satisfactory Academic Progress will be checked prior to further disbursements being released.

Receiving your loan disbursements

Loans will be disbursed in September and January for Undergraduate, in September, January and May for Postgraduate taught students and in October and April for PhD students.

From each disbursement we will deduct half the fee for tuition (and accommodation if you are staying in university halls) for undergraduates and PhD students and a third of the fee for postgraduate students and pay any remaining balance into your nominated bank account.

Heriot-Watt University has partnered with Convera to disburse funds for Federal Loans to students.

The funds come in dollars direct to the University's account with Convera.

We will convert the amount received into sterling using the exchange rate applicable on the date the funds were received.

Maintaining eligibility to funding

Direct loan regulations state that during your studies to maintain eligibility you must:

  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress
  • Be studying at least on a half time or more basis
  • Keep us informed of any changes you make to your studies
  • We will report your enrolment status via NSLDS not take any part of your studies in the USA without checking with prior to organising as it may affect your funding
  • Discuss with us ( to check that any study abroad placement periods, as appropriate, are eligible
  • Not violate any federal compliance regulations, such as repayment default or fraud
  • If you are no longer eligible to receive loans during a loan year we will carry out a Return of Title IV loans calculation
Exit counselling

The US Department of Education requires that all student loan borrowers complete an exit counselling session whenever you drop below half-time enrolment status, withdraw, take a break in study over 180 days or before you complete your course of study. If you withdraw or take a break in study over 180 days, you may have to return some of your US Federal Loan funds. 

To complete your online Exit Counselling visit the US Department of Education Student Loans webpage.  You need your FSA ID used for your FAFSA application. This session takes approximately 30 minutes and provides you with information on your rights and the repayment of your loans.

Please email us when you have completed this and we will update your loan records.