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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.

Updated

Federal student loans are hard to beat when it comes to rates, terms and benefits. But you might not be able to cover everything with federal loans alone. That’s because the government sets limits based on factors like your degree level and personal finances.

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 studentDirect Subsidized LoansDirect Unsubsidized Loans
First-year dependent$3,500$5,500
First-year independent$3,500$9,500
Second-year dependent$4,500$6,500
Second-year independent$4,500$10,500
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 borrowerMaximum lifetime loan amount
Dependent undergraduate
  • Direct Subsidized Loans: $23,000
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans: $31,000
Independent undergraduate
  • Direct Subsidized Loans: $23,000
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans: $57,500
Graduate or professional student
  • Subsidized Loans: $65,500
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans: $138,500
  • Direct PLUS Loans: Total cost of attendance
ParentTotal cost of attendance

Compare unsubsidized Loans vs. subsidized Loans

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

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Min. Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR
Ascent private student loans
540
$200,000
2.71% to 12.99%
EDvestinU Private Student Loans
675
$200,000
4.07% to 9%
Straightforward student loans for undergraduate and graduate students.
LendKey Private Student Loans
Varies by lender
4.99% to 11.06%
This connection service partners with Sallie Mae and WSFS Bank to offer competitive rates.
 Advantage Education Loan Refinance Loan
670
Starting at 3.74%
Refinance to a more flexible repayment plan with this nonprofit lender.
Alliant Credit Union Traditional Student Loan
680
$60,000
Starting at 4.56%
All-purpose personal loans from @pl_product_min_loan_amount@ to @pl_product_max_loan_amount@ with rates that stop at @pl_product_var_rate@.
ChangEd student loan payment app
Securely connect all of your student loans and bank accounts to one place for a painless repayment experience.
Chicago student loans
None
Cost of attendance, up to $50,000
7.53% to 8.85%
No cosigner needed for this fixed-rate financing option.
Citizens Bank Private Student Loans
700
$295,000
1.25% to 10.57%
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

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.

Don't borrow more than you need

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 overborrowing could cost you

Bottom line

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.

Frequently asked questions

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