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What’s the maximum student loan amount you can borrow?
Find out how much federal funding you can get for your degree.
What’s the maximum student loan amount for federal loans?
How much you can borrow in federal loans generally depends on four factors:
- Your type of program. Graduate students have higher annual and lifetime limits than undergraduate students.
- Your year in your program. Generally, the further you are in your program, the more you can borrow per year.
- Your financial independence. If you’re considered a dependent student, you aren’t eligible for as much as independent students.
- Your cost of attendance. You might not be eligible for the absolute maximum amount of federal student loans if your school’s cost of attendance is low.
Maximum student loan per year for undergraduates
|Type of student||Direct Subsidized Loans||Direct Unsubsidized Loans|
|Third+ years dependent||$5,500||$7,500|
|Third+ years independent||$5,500||$12,500|
Maximum student loan per year for graduate students
There are only two types of loans available to graduate students: Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loan limit: $20,500
- Direct PLUS Loan limit: Cost of attendance
Maximum student loan per year for parents
Parent PLUS Loans are limited to the school’s cost of attendance — it’s part of the Direct PLUS Loan program.
Maximum federal loan amount for a lifetime
In addition to annual limits, the federal government also has a limit to how much you can borrow in your lifetime — also known as the aggregate loan limit.
How much you can borrow in total depends on your loan type, the type of degree you pursue and your financial independence.
|Type of borrower||Maximum lifetime loan amount|
|Graduate or professional student|
|Parent||Total cost of attendance|
What happens if I borrow more than the maximum amount?
In some cases, students accidentally receive more than they’re eligible to borrow due to administrative errors — this is called “inadvertent overborrowing”. When this happens, you’re no longer for eligible for federal aid until you take one of the two steps:
- Repay the excess amount. Contact your student loan servicer and explain the situation. Once you repay the amount over your annal limit, you’ll become eligible to receive federal loans again.
- Sign a reaffirmation agreement. If you need those funds, you can pay it off with payment plan, called a “reaffirmation agreement”. Contact your servicer and sign the agreement. Typically you need to submit a copy to your school’s financial aid office to regain eligibility.
What’s the maximum amount for private student loans?
Private student loans also often come with a maximum amount you can borrow per year and per lifetime, though they’re generally more flexible than federal loans.
Typically, you can borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance each year. Lifetime limits depend on your level of education and can vary from lender to lender.
Generally, graduates and undergraduates can borrow up to a total of $150,000 to $200,000 — including federal loans. Medical, law or business students might be able to borrow more. For example, Citizens Bank allows medical students to borrow up to $350,000.
Compare private student loans
Not enough? Consider these alternatives
Talk to your school’s financial aid office about which alternatives might be available to you. These might include:
- Scholarships and grants. You might be eligible for additional funding besides the work study and scholarships you got through the FAFSA.
- Extra employment. Getting a part-time job or even a side gig could help offset some of your personal and educational expenses before you get a loan.
- Personal loans. You can apply for a personal loan with a cosigner if you’re out of other options — though it’s less flexible and often more expensive than a student loan.
- Dropping to part time. Still can’t cover your costs this semester? Dropping to part time can lower your tuition costs. Just don’t drop below part time — then you won’t be eligible for most student loans and you could trigger repayments.
Just because you can borrow up to a certain amount per year doesn’t mean you necessarily should. If you need help covering personal expenses like housing, transportation and food, budget out how much you need first before borrowing the maximum amount you’re eligible for. How much you can borrow each year or in a lifetime mostly depends on the type of student loan you’re applying for and your level of education. Federal student loans typically have more favorable rates and terms than private loans, but are available in lower amounts. Often, a private student loan can help you cover those extra costs if federal loans fall short. To learn more about how it all works, read our guide to student loans. Picture: Shutterstock
Don't borrow more than you need
Frequently asked questions
Just because you can borrow up to a certain amount per year doesn’t mean you necessarily should. If you need help covering personal expenses like housing, transportation and food, budget out how much you need first before borrowing the maximum amount you’re eligible for.
How much you can borrow each year or in a lifetime mostly depends on the type of student loan you’re applying for and your level of education. Federal student loans typically have more favorable rates and terms than private loans, but are available in lower amounts. Often, a private student loan can help you cover those extra costs if federal loans fall short.
To learn more about how it all works, read our guide to student loans.
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