What Are Student Loan Limits?

US college students have limits on how much they can borrow in student loans. How much student loan can I get? Keep reading to find out.

Updated by Sagar.C on 10th October 2021

If you’re wondering “how much student loan can I get,” you’re asking the right questions. Students can’t borrow as much as they’d like, as there is a maximum student loan amount for both graduate and undergraduate students. 

Keep in mind though that just because you can borrow up to a certain amount, that doesn’t mean you should actually borrow all that money. How much can a student borrow for college? Keep reading to find out. 


Federal Student Loan Limits

The max federal student loan limit differs for each person. It depends on whether you’re a dependent or independent student, the type of loan, and where you are in your school journey. Students can borrow three different types of federal student loans, each with varying loan limits:


Independent students are students that are either married, a military veteran, over the age of 24, or supporting themselves. Since independent students don’t depend on their parents, independent student loan limits are higher than dependent student loan limits. 


Student checking the max federal student loan limit online


Limits on Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loan

Only undergraduate students can apply for direct subsidized Loans, while both undergraduate and graduate students can apply for direct unsubsidized loans. 

Your borrowing amount depends on the annual and aggregate loan limits. Some factors that might affect your loan amounts are loan type, degree level, years in school, independent vs. dependent student,, college cost of attendance, loan program, and financial aid received.

Here are the annual limits on federal direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans: 


Student Type

Maximum Subsidized

Maximum Subsidized + Unsubsidized

Independent Freshman



Independent Sophomore



Independent Junior/Senior



Dependent Freshman



Dependent Sophomore



Dependent Junior/Senior






Graduate/Professional Total




Lifetime Student Loan Limits on Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans

Student Type

Maximum Subsidized 

Maximum Subsidized + Unsubsidized

Dependent Undergraduate



Graduate/Professional *



Independent Undergraduate







Direct PLUS Loan Limits

There is no specific limit for Direct PLUS loans. The maximum student loan amount for Direct PLUS loans is the cost of attendance (tuition, fees, books) minus any financial aid you receive. In other words: everything that’s leftover after scholarships and grants. 

Direct PLUS loans tend to have higher interest rates. So, we recommend you exhaust your federal direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans before pursuing a Direct PLUS loan.


PLUS loans are meant for graduate and professional students, as well as parents who want to help their children with tuition costs. 


Private Student Loan Limits


Private student loans should be your last resort. First, start with grants, scholarships, and financial aid. Then, move onto federal direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans. After that, Direct PLUS. Only after that should you pursue private student loans, as the interest is higher. 

Private lenders base your max student loan amount on how credible you are as a borrower. They look at your income, debts, credit history, credit score, and whether or not you have a cosigner. 

Private Student Loan Limits

Private student loans have varying limits, as each lender might have different criteria to establish a borrower’s creditworthiness. Overall though, most private lenders won’t let you borrow more than the total cost of attendance. 

Here is a list of some private lenders, and a max student loan amount for each one. 

Private Lender

Limit on Private Student Loans


$45,000 per year. 

Citizens One

For undergraduate and graduate students: Total cost of attendance, up to $150,000

MBA or Law Students: $225,000

 Medical School or Parent Loans: $350,000 

Navy Federal

$120,000 for undergraduates; $160,000 for graduates.


$500,000 total, or total cost of attendance per year


Total cost of attendance minus all financial aid received


Total cost of attendance minus all financial aid received

College Ave

Total cost of attendance minus all financial aid received




Future Income-Based: $200,000 total, or total cost of attendance per year

Credit-based: $20,000 

Wells Fargo




Sallie Mae

Total cost of attendance


What to Do If You’re Nearing Your Student Loan Limit

Sometimes, the maximum student loan amount might fall short of all your expenses. Here are some ways to cut down on your costs. 

Cut Down Credit Hours

You can lower down your cost of attendance by decreasing the number of classes you’re enrolled in, or credit hours,  when you hit your loan limits. Similarly, you can increase the number of classes you’re enrolled in to be eligible for a greater student loan amount. 

Talk to Your College

If you're reaching the limit of your student loan, talk to your college advisor about it. They might have some solutions for you, and if you’re a great candidate, they might want to help you figure out a way to afford tuition. 

Some examples of accommodations they might make include offering grants, scholarships, or monthly payment plans.


People looking at a computer screen


Frequently Asked Questions


What is the maximum student loan amount for your lifetime?

This number is different for each type of loan, and especially different amongst private school loans. Look at the annual loan limits for each federal loan listed above and make sure the limit corresponds to your status (independent freshman undergraduate, graduate student, etc.). 

Multiply that by the number of years you plan to attend college for your full education amount, and talk to your loan servicer to find out how much you can receive after college. As for private school loans, the max loan amounts for your lifetime will vary. Check individual lender websites to be sure. 

How many student loans can you take out?

Technically, you can take out many different student loans, especially private student loans, provided you’re approved for each one. We don’t recommend borrowing more than your cost of attendance though. 

What are the federal student loan amounts per year?

Direct PLUS federal student loans don’t have set limits; rather, they depend on a borrower’s total cost of attendance and financial aid received. 

Direct subsidized and unsubsidized federal loans all have limits depending on the type of student you are. Check the tables above for more specific loan amounts. 



You can take on quite a bit of debt with student loans, since many of them have high limits. How much can I take out in student loans? The answer shouldn’t be the exact amount that you actually take out.  

When thinking about student loans, “how much can I borrow” should be replaced with “how much should I borrow. The max student loan amount doesn’t always correlate to the amount of money you actually need. 

Look into scholarships, financial aid, and assess your income to figure out exactly how much you should borrow.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1.What is the maximum student loan amount per semester?

    The 2019-2020 loan limits are $5,500 for freshmen. $6,500 for sophomores. $7,500per year for juniors, seniors, and any additional undergraduate years of study.

  • 2.How many times can you get a student loan?

    There's a limit to how many student loans you can get in your lifetime. Usually, you can only get enough Student Loans to pay for up to 7 EFTS of study. This includes all loans you got since 2010.

  • 3.Is there a statute of limitations on student loans?

    There is no statute of limitations on federal student loans, however, Private student loans have a statute of limitations. The time duration varies for each US State.

  • 4.Can you max out on student loans?

    Maxing out on student loans is best understood by understanding the aggregate limit which is the total amount of federal student loans you can take for your tuition. On reaching the limit you can take out more federal student loans only if you pay back some of the previously borrowed loans.