How Much Can You Take Out In Student Loans?February 15, 2023
Whether you’re heading to college or already enrolled, you’ll need student loans to help cover the cost. Applying for federal student loans is a good place to start, but depending on your situation, the loans you qualify for might not pay for everything. In this case, private student loans may help close the gap.
It’s important to know, though, that several factors influence how much you can borrow in student loans, including the type of loan you’re getting, the number of years you’ve been in college, and whether you’re an undergraduate or graduate student.
For instance, as an undergrad, you can borrow up to $12,500 annually in federal student loans and $57,500 as a lifetime limit. But as a grad student, federal student loan limits increase to $20,500 annually and $138,500 as a lifetime limit.
If you’re wondering, “How much can I take out in student loans?” here’s what to know.
Federal Student Loan Limits
Federal loans are an attractive option for many students. Most federal loans don’t require credit checks, and interest rates are generally lower than what you’d get with private student loans.
However, the amount you can borrow in federal student loans is limited. The student loan limits are based on your dependency status — dependent or independent — your year in school and federal loan limits.
To apply for federal student loans, you have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your school’s financial aid office will determine how much you can borrow based on your FAFSA application.
Subsidized and Unsubsidized Student Loans
If you’ve researched federal student loans, you might’ve noticed both Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available. While both can help you pay for school, they each work differently. And it’s important to understand the difference between Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans if you’re completing the FAFSA.
Subsidized Loans are for undergraduates only, and these loans don’t accrue interest while you’re enrolled in school. These loans are for borrowers with demonstrated financial need. Unsubsidized Loans are available for both undergraduate and graduate students. But unlike Subsidized Loans, Unsubsidized Loans accrue interest while you’re in school, which can be a drawback. However, these loans aren’t financial need-based.
Undergraduate Federal Loan Limits
If you’re wondering, “How much can I get in federal student loans?” your dependency status also plays a role. If your parents support you, you’re considered a dependent student. You might be considered an independent student if you’re over 24, a military veteran, married, or financially support yourself.
Here’s a look at undergraduate federal loan limits for dependent vs. independent students:
|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)|
Graduate Federal Student Loan Limits
Dependency status isn’t a factor for graduate students; instead, all are treated as independent students. Borrowing limits also increase when you head to grad school.
As a grad student, you can borrow as much as $20,500 in Unsubsidized Loans annually, up to a lifetime limit of $138,500. Just be aware that any loans you received as an undergrad factor into this lifetime limit.
Direct PLUS Loan Limits
In addition to Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, PLUS loans are also available to graduate and professional students and parents of dependent undergrad students.
While other federal student loans 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 let you 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 perk, keep in mind that PLUS Loans have the highest interest rate of any federal loan, so look into Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans first.
Private Student Loan Limits
Private student loans may also be an option if federal student loans won’t cover the cost of school. Private student loans are typically provided by banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions.
The amount you can borrow varies by the lending institution, and you may need to meet certain criteria in order to qualify for a loan. For instance, you might need a good credit score or a co-signer with good credit. Certain lenders may also consider factors like your future earning potential in loan decisions.
What Happens If You Hit Federal Loan Limits?
Suppose you’ve reached the annual or aggregate maximums for Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans. In that case, 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:
- Look for external scholarships and grants: There are thousands of scholarships and grants offered by companies, non-profit organizations, and individuals. Look for scholarships on sites like Niche and FastWeb.
- 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.
- Look into work-study options: The financial aid office may also 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.
- 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.
- Find part-time work: You could also look for a part-time job on- or off-campus if you can’t find a work-study program. Working part-time may help you pay a portion of your costs. Check out this list of job ideas for college students for inspiration.
- Borrow from friends and family: If it’s an option, consider taking a loan from a trusted friend or family member. Just make sure you come up with a repayment plan that works well for both of you.
How Much Should You Borrow In Student Loans?
Everyone’s circumstances and goals are different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer regarding how much you should borrow in student loans.
As you research your options, consider the bigger picture and consider factors like employability, earning potential, and overall life goals before borrowing a large amount in student loans. Doing so could help you avoid overwhelming student loan debt.
Apply for a Private Student Loan 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 loan type and your eligibility for private student loans, 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.