How Much Can You Get in Student Loans?

Anna HelhoskiSep 24, 2021

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Student loans aren’t limitless. The maximum amount you can borrow depends on factors including whether they’re federal or private loans and your year in school.

Undergraduates can borrow up to $12,500 annually and $57,500 total in federal student loans. Graduate students can borrow up to $20,500 annually and $138,500 total.


But just because you can borrow that much doesn’t mean you should. To keep higher education affordable, calculate based on your expected future earnings and aim to keep your student borrowing below that amount.

The maximum you can borrow depends on your year in school, your status as a dependent or independent student, and the type of loan. There are three main : Direct subsidized, direct unsubsidized and direct PLUS.

To apply for federal student loans, submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — this guide walks you through the process.

Subsidized loans are for undergraduates only, while unsubsidized loans are available to both undergraduates and graduate students.

There are both annual and aggregate loan limits for these loans. The aggregate limit is the total amount of federal student loan debt you can take on throughout your undergraduate and graduate-level studies. If you reach your total limit, you can take out additional federal student loans if you first pay down your outstanding debt.

If you’re a dependent student and your parents aren’t eligible for a direct PLUS loans — for example, if they have an — you may be eligible for additional unsubsidized loans.

PLUS loans are available to graduate and professional students, and to parents of dependent undergraduate students.

There are no specific caps on PLUS loan borrowing. The maximum amount of PLUS loans you can take out is the school's minus other financial aid you receive or your child receives. Cost of attendance includes tuition and fees, room and board, and books and other supplies.

Max out federal subsidized and unsubsidized direct loan borrowing before tapping PLUS loans; PLUS loans have higher .

Private student loan limits vary by lender. Generally, the amount you borrow can’t exceed your school’s total cost of attendance.

Max out federal student loan borrowing before taking out private student loans. Federal loans have protections that private loans don't, including income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs.

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