The amount of federal money a student can borrow through the FSA’s loan programs depends on the student’s dependency status, college grade level, and the loan type. In general, the range is between $3,500-$12,500 per academic year for undergraduates and up to $20,500 for graduate students.
Private student loan limits are typically higher than federal loans but are also more difficult to obtain.
Federal Student Loans
There are two primary types of federal student loans, the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) and the Federal Perkins Loan. Generally, the interest rates are lower on federal loans, and the repayment plans are more varied and flexible.
To apply for a federal loan, you will need to file your FAFSA®.
The most you can borrow under these programs is between $3,500 and $12,500 per year for undergraduate study, depending on your dependency status and college grade level. This table has the full breakdown:
|Loan||Who is eligible?||Annual Limit||Aggregate Limit|
|Direct Subsidized||Undergraduates with demonstrated need||$3,500 for freshmen; $5,500 for upperclassmen||$23,000|
|Direct Unsubsidized||Undergraduates||$5,500 for dependent freshmen; $12,500 for independent upperclassmen||$57,500|
|Direct Unsubsidized for Graduate Students||Graduate and Professional Students||$20,500||$138,500|
PLUS loans do not have a specific annual and aggregate limit. Rather, they are limited only by the school’s cost of attendance.
If you can’t get everything covered with federal loans, you can consider a private loan with a bank. Private loans tend to carry higher interest rates than federal loans, and lenders will also factor your credit history into your eligibility.
Private loan limits and terms will vary by institution, so comparing all loan options is recommended. It’s fair to expect a potential lender will limit your annual loan to your school’s cost of attendance.
Your age and credit history will also factor into how much money a private institution is willing to lend. Students without a significant credit history may need a parent or family member to cosign their loan, and some banks may limit the amount such individuals are allowed to borrow.
Most private lending institutions will set an aggregate undergraduate student loan limit between $100,000-$150,000, although it varies by institution. For graduate students, loan limits are typically between $150,000-$250,000, depending on your academic program and career path.