How Much Can You Get in Student Loans?April 28, 2021
With rising college costs, you’ll likely need to take out student loans to pay for at least a portion of your education expenses. For those who need to borrow money, federal student loans are the most popular option.
However, there are caps on how much you can take out in federal student loans per year and over your lifetime. Here’s what you need to know about the maximum student loan limits and what your alternatives are if you need more money to pay for school.
Federal Student Loan Maximums
Federal loans are an attractive option for many students. Most federal loans don’t require credit checks, and interest rates were recently reduced to the lowest they’ve been in over 15 years.
However, how much you can take out in federal student loans is limited. The student loan limits are based on your dependency status — dependent or independent — your year in school, and the type of federal loan.
If you need help paying for college, here are the types of federal student loans you can explore:
- Direct Subsidized Loans: Direct Subsidized Loans are designed for lower-income undergraduate students. With Subsidized Loans, the U.S. Department of Education covers the interest that accrues while you’re in school and during your grace period. For loans disbursed after July 1, 2020, and before July 1, 2021, the interest rate on Direct Subsidized Loans is 2.75%.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Direct Unsubsidized Loans can be used by both undergraduate and graduate students. For loans disbursed after July 1, 2020, and before July 1, 2021, the interest rate on Direct Unsubsidized Loans for undergraduate students is 2.75% and 4.30% for graduate students.
- Direct PLUS Loans: Direct PLUS Loans are for graduate students and parents borrowing to pay for their child’s undergraduate education. The interest rate on PLUS Loans disbursed after July 1, 2020, and before July 1, 2021, is 5.30%.
To apply for these loans, you have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you need to apply for PLUS Loans, you must fill out a separate PLUS Loan form in addition to the FAFSA application.
Direct Subsidized & Unsubsidized Federal Student Loan Limits
How much can you get in student loans from the federal government? If you are planning on taking out Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans, you should know that there are limits on how much you can borrow each year and aggregate loan limits.
The aggregate loan limit is how much you can borrow in total to pay for your undergraduate and graduate education.
As of the 2020-2021 academic year, the following student loan maximums apply:
|Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans|
|Year||Dependent Student Loan Maximum Amount||Independent Student Loan Maximum Amount|
|First||$5,500 (no more than $3,500 can be subsidized)||$9,500 (no more than $3,500 can be subsidized)|
|Second||$6,500 (no more than $4,500 can be subsidized)||$10,500 (no more than $4,500 can be subsidized)|
|Third year and up||$7,500 (no more than $5,500 can be subsidized)||$12,500 (no more than $5,500 can be subsidized)|
|Aggregate Amount||$31,000 (no more than $23,000 subsidized)||$57,500 (no more than $23,000 subsidized)|
|Direct Unsubsidized Loans for Graduate School|
|Graduate School||Not applicable||$20,500 per year|
|Aggregate Limit (including loans used for undergraduate study)||Not applicable||$138,500|
Federal Direct PLUS Student Loan Limits
Direct PLUS Loans work very differently than other federal student loans. While the other loan types don’t require credit checks, PLUS Loans do. And, they have different rules for how much you can borrow.
Instead of having an annual or aggregate limit, PLUS Loans allow you to borrow up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance minus other financial aid you received.
While the ability to borrow more is a major perk, keep in mind that PLUS Loans have the highest interest rate of any federal loan. If you are a parent borrowing to pay for your child’s education, you may want to refinance Parent PLUS Loans later to reduce your interest rate.
Private Student Loan Limits
If you’ve reached the aggregate student loan limit and still need more money for school, private student loans can help cover the remaining costs.
Private lenders have their own guidelines and borrower limits. While some — like ELFI — allow you to borrow up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance, others have annual and aggregate limits.
Your ability to qualify for a private student loan — and how much you can borrow — is dependent on the following factors:
- Credit score: Lenders typically look for borrowers with good to excellent credit. If your credit score is only in the fair range, you may not qualify for a loan, or you may get a higher interest rate.
- Income: Unlike federal loans, which don’t have income requirements, private lenders typically require you to earn a certain amount per year or higher.
- Cosigner: If you don’t meet a lender’s credit or income requirements, you might be approved for a loan if you add a cosigner — a friend or relative with excellent credit and a steady job — to your loan application.
Learn More: Student Loans for Bad or No Credit
What You Can Do if You Reach Your Federal Student Loan Maximum
If you’ve reached the annual or aggregate maximums for federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans, PLUS Loans may be an option if you are a graduate student or if your parents are willing to borrow on your behalf.
If PLUS Loans aren’t an option and you can’t afford to pay for college on your own, consider these other options to cover your expenses:
1. Look for external scholarships and grants
There are thousands of scholarships and grants offered by companies, non-profit organizations, and individuals. You can apply for and receive multiple rewards and use them to reduce your education costs. Look for scholarships on sites like Niche and FastWeb.
2. Contact the financial aid office
If you didn’t receive enough financial aid to pay for the complete cost of attendance at your school, contact the financial aid office. You may be able to appeal their financial aid decision and receive more institutional scholarships or grants.
The financial aid office may be able to connect you with a work-study program. With federal work-study, you get a part-time job related to your major. You can use your earnings to pay for a portion of your expenses.
3. Apply for private student loans
If you’ve exhausted other financial aid options, private student loans can be a useful resource. You can borrow enough to cover the remaining costs, and you can choose a loan term that fits your goals.
Apply for Student Loans Today with ELFI
If you’re looking for private student loans for college, consider applying for a loan from ELFI.*
ELFI offers undergraduate, graduate, and parent student loans. Depending on the type of loan you’re looking for, you can get a loan term as long as 15 years, and you can choose between fixed and variable interest rates. Use ELFI’s Find My Rate tool to get a rate quote without affecting your credit score.