Aug 11 · 3 min read
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Whether you choose to use federal or private student loans to pay for school, you’ll want to be aware of how much you can actually borrow. Although the cost of college varies across the country, all students are limited to a certain amount of student loans. Depending on what year of school you’re in and whether you’re a dependent or independent student, these limits will vary. Let’s take a deeper look at student loan limits based on these factors.
In your freshman year of college, you’ll be limited to $5,500 in federal student loans as a dependent student and $9,500 as an independent student. Regardless of what type of student you are, no more than $3,500 of your yearly loan amount may be in direct subsidized loans.
Sophomore year, you’ll be limited to $6,500 in federal student loans as a dependent student and $10,500 as an independent student. No more than $4,500 of this amount can be direct subsidized loans.
For your junior year, senior year, and any year after that (yes you too super seniors), you’ll be limited to $7,500 per year in federal student loans as a dependent student and $12,500 per year as an independent student. No more than $5,500 per year can be direct subsidized loans.
While this seems a little unfair to dependent students, there are alternatives to get more student loans as a dependent. The first option would be for one of your parents to get a Parent PLUS Loan in order to help you pay for college. While this sounds like a good option, most parents won’t want the burden of a student loan they’re responsible for. And even if they are willing to take out a Parent PLUS Loan in their name, parents who have an adverse credit history won’t be approved. Fortunately, if your parent is denied a Parent PLUS Loan, FAFSA will allow you to take more loans in your own name until you reach the limit for independent students.
Graduate and professional students also have federal student loan limits. Because graduate school is often more expensive, if you’re pursuing a graduate degree, you’re allowed to take out a max of $20,500 in federal student loans per year.
For all students, federal student loans are also limited based on lifetime totals. If you’re a dependent undergraduate, you are limited to $31,000 in student loans. Of this $31,000, no more than $23,000 may be in subsidized loans. If you’re an independent undergraduate or a dependent undergraduate whose parents were denied a Parent PLUS Loan, you are limited to $57,500 in student loans. Of this $57,500 in student loans, no more than $23,000 may be in subsidized loans. And if you’re a graduate or professional student, you are limited to a grand total of $138,500 in lifetime student loans. While this may seem like a lot, any outstanding undergraduate loan will also count toward this limit.
Private student loan limits are less uniform. Since these loans are offered by banks and online lenders, the maximum amount of student loans you can borrow will vary. Generally, these lenders will not allow you to borrow more money than it costs to attend your school.
Whether you are looking to use federal loans, private loans, or a mix of both to pay for college, make sure you keep in mind student loan limits. Remember to borrow whyzely by taking only what you need to pay for school. This will help keep you from exceeding the limits. Also remember to use all grants, scholarships, and work studies before considering either type of student loans.