What are Student Loan Limits?

Student loans have limits which is the amount you want to borrow for undergraduate and graduate studies. It will be reliant on many factors for Private and Federal Student Loans. Read the article to learn about loan limits on student loans.

Updated by Sagar.C on 20th May 2019

Student Loan has limits 

Federal and Private student loans have different limits. If you're an undergraduate student then you can borrow up to $12,500 yearly and if you're going with federal student loan then you can get up to $57,000. If you're a graduate student then you can apply for a loan up to $20,000 annually and a total amount of $138,500.

You can't be that liberal with borrowing those student loans amount, you need to calculate the predicted income and compare it with your college expense then apply for a student loan.

Federal Student Loans limit

Your borrowings depend on how many years you are going to spend in college/school for Federal Student Loans. There are three types of Federal student loans, Direct Subsidized & Unsubsidized and Direct PLUS and the limits on all of them vary.

Limits on Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loan

Only undergraduate students can apply for Subsidized Loans. Unsubsidized loans can be applied by both graduate and undergraduate students.

Your borrowing amount will be depending on the annual and aggregate loan limits. There are factors which might affect your loan amounts like loan type, degree level, years in school, the status of a dependency, college cost of attendance, loan program and the aid received.

You can take additional Federal student loans once you pay your outstanding debt. Let us go through yearly and lifetime limits on a Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loan.

Yealy Student Loan Limits on Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans

Student Type Maximum Subsidized Maximum Subsidized + Unsubsidized
Independent Freshman $3,500 $9,500
Independent Sophomore $4,500 $10,500
Independent Junior/Senior $5,500 $12,500
Dependent Freshman $3,500 $5,500
Dependent Sophomore $4,500 $6,500
Dependent Junior/Senior $5,500 $7,500
Graduate/Professional * $0 $20,500
Medical $0 $40,500

*The annual maximum for graduate students in selected clinical psychology majors may be increased to $31,000 depending upon financial need and cost of attendance.

Lifetime Student Loan Limits on Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans

Student Type Maximum Subsidized  Maximum Subsidized + Unsubsidized
Dependent Undergraduate $23,000 $31,000
Graduate/Professional * $65,500 $138,500
Independent Undergraduate $23,000 $57,500
Medical $65,500 $224,000

Direct PLUS loan limits

There is no specific limit on PLUS loan borrowings. The school cost of attendance minus other financial aid received is the maximum amount you can get out of PLUS loans. Usually, the cost of attendance includes room, board, tuition, fees, books, and other supplies.

If you have Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loan then use them first and once you exhaust them then go for PLUS loans because this loan has higher interest rates. 

PLUS loans are for graduate and professional students. They are offered to parents as well who wants to help their child for their educational financial aid.

Other options after you reach Federal student loan limits

If you have received grants or scholarships, you should use that aid first. After that, the Federal student loan comes into the picture. If you still think that you need to borrow more money towards your education cost then there are a few more options which might work for you.

Let us go through them and their limits.

Private Student Loan Limits

Private student loans are offered by private bank or lenders, so student loan limits are different for every lender. 

You can't exceed your borrowings than the total cost of attendance.

It is mandatory to fizz out all your Federal student loan borrowings before taking a private student loan because Federal loans offer protection but private lenders don’t. Federal student loan benefits include loan forgiveness programs and income-driven repayment plans (IDR).

Here is the list of some private lenders and their loan limits on a student loan.

Private Lender Limit on Private Student Loans
RISLA You can get up to $40,000 yearly. 
Citizens One For undergraduates limit - $150,000, it is the same for other private and federal loans. Graduate and professional students - Up to $350,000 which includes private and federal student loans 
Navy Federal Cost of attendance for undergraduates - $120,000 yearly, for Graduate student - $160,000 yearly.
CommonBond Up to $500,000.
Discover Cost of attendance minus other financial aid.
LendKey $160,000.
College Ave Cost of attendance minus other financial aid.
PNC Undergraduate - $40,000 yearly.
Ascent Up to $200,000.
Wells Fargo Up to $120,000 total, which includes other Private and Federal student loans.
SunTrust Yearly - up to $65,000 and Overall - $150,000.
Sallie Mae Cost of Attendance. 

Cut down credit class hours

This option is not for all the students, it might differ with everyone. You can lower down your cost of attendance by decreasing the number of classes when you hit your loan limits.

If you have received scholarships or grants then you might have to attend classes full time to receive benefits which come from the Department of Education.

Let's consider, if you have 12 credit hours but you're enrolled for 15 you can consider decreasing those credit hours. Keep an eye to your half-time duration.

This will help in decreasing your cost of attendance. The amount you will save will be less but it will be beneficial.

You should choose this option if it is going to help you financially along with getting a full-time status for education. If not, then you might end up increasing the time on your program which means you might have to get more student loans, so choose wisely.

Pursue Parent loans or gifts

This option can work if you have generous parents who are willing to back you up with education finances. They can help you with two options, either they can give you a student loan as a gift or they go for Parent PLUS Loan or parent loan from a private lender.

Direct PLUS Loan is offered to graduate students or to the parents of a dependent undergraduate student.

Private loan lenders do offer parent loan but they don’t act like the Federal Government. They have different eligibility criteria and parents credit check will be conducted.

Parent PLUS loans and Parent loan from private lenders have high-interest rates than Federal Direct loans.

School can be an option

Different schools have various norms, if you're reaching the limit of your student loan then talk to your school about it. They might have some solution for you.

Many schools offer small grants to help students. They might even offer you a monthly plan for payments instead of paying the full amount.

Several schools also have repayment plans which are beneficial for their students. Your school can be your option for loans, you should ask them first before taking any other steps.

Change your school

Changing your school might be an alternative if you can't afford the loan payment anymore. Community colleges are the answer, they offer 4-years degree with less amount of cost of attendance.

It's sad to leave the school of your choice but at least your cost will decrease with this decision.


Always keep a record of your loan payments, make a journal where you note down your cost of attendance. This way you can keep an eye on the loan amount and it will alarm you if you are gonna hit the loan limits.

Again let us go through the limits on student loan so you end up remembering the figures. For Direct Unsubsidized Loans, you can borrow up to $20,000 yearly where aggregate loan limit will be $138,500. For Direct Subsidized loan its $65,500 per year

For medical and health students you can get up to $40,500 per year and the aggregate limit will be around $224,000. You can learn to manage your finances in order to keep a check on your loans.


  How much can you borrow for college?

For the undergraduate students under Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized loan, it's between $5,500 and $12,500 yearly.

  How much in student loans is too much?

If you have to earn of $30,000 to $40,000 then your average student loan budget should be $25,000. If you want a manageable financial life then don't exceed this amount.

  Is 100k in student loans a lot?

If you enter the 6 figure loan borrower than you might have to face a monthly payment of $1,000 with the interest rate of 7%. So this is actually bad news for you. If you have already reached 6 figure loan then start looking for options to lessen your financial burden

  How long does it take the average person to pay off their student loans?

Depends on your borrowings but on an average student might pay back with 10 years repayment. With Federal income-based repayment, your debt can be forgiven in 20 years.

  How can I get out of student loans?

  • Apply for a disability discharge.

  • Pursue a career in public service.

  • Serve your country.

  • Enroll in income-driven repayment.

  • Investigate loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs).

  • Employers help.

  • File for bankruptcy.

  Do student loans go away after 7 years?

Debt will be falling off from your report after 7.5 years for private student loans. For federal loans, time is 7 years from the date you get the tag of the defaulter.

  How long do you have to pay off unsubsidized loans?

For Subsidized loan, interest does not get charged when you're in school and you will get about six months of the grace period.

With Unsubsidized loans, interest will accrue while you're in school.

  What happens if you Cannot pay back student loans?

There will be a negative effect on your credit score which will increase difficulties to get more future credits like mortgage, car loan, credit card or apartment lease. On top of it, your interest will keep on accruing until you pay your full amount.

  How much will my monthly student loan payment be?

If you have student loan debt of $30,000 then you might end up paying $50 monthly. It usually depends on your loan payment and interest.

  Who will contact me after I receive my loan?

The Loan Servicer which is appointed to you by Federal Government will contact you after you receive your loan.