How much can you borrow in student loans?

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The amount you can get in student loans depends on factors such as your dependent status, student status, and type of student loan. (Shutterstock)

The amount you can borrow in student loans is usually limited. These limits depend on the type of loan you take out, whether you are a dependent, and other factors.

Whatever your limit, it’s best to borrow only what you really need. You should also exhaust your federal loan options before turning to private loans, as federal student aid comes with certain benefits and protections.

Credible lets you compare private student loan rates from multiple lenders, all in one place.

How much can you get in federal student loans?

How much you can borrow in federal loans depends on a few factors, including your dependent status, your academic year, and whether you’re an undergraduate or graduate student.

It also depends on the type of federal student loan you take out. The three main types of federal loans are:

  • Subsidized direct loans — Undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need are generally eligible for this type of loan. The US Department of Education pays interest on direct subsidized loans, as long as you meet the eligibility requirements.
  • Unsubsidized Direct Loans — Available to undergraduate and graduate students, these loans are not based on financial need. Borrowers are responsible for payment of all accrued interest. Your school’s financial aid office determines how much you can borrow – this amount is based on your tuition and any other financial aid you receive.
  • Direct PLUS Loans — Parents of dependent undergraduate students, as well as graduate and professional students, can take advantage of these loans for expenses not covered by other types of financial aid. You will need to go through a credit check and your loan limit is your entry fee minus any other financial assistance you receive.

Borrowing Limits for Dependent Undergraduates

You are considered a dependent undergraduate student if you still receive some kind of financial support from your parents. If you reach your annual or total borrowing limit and your parents do not qualify for a PLUS loan, the upper federal student loan limits for independent undergraduate students apply to you.

Borrowing limits for independent undergraduate students

An independent undergraduate student is someone who does not have financial support from their parents and who meets at least one of the following criteria:

  • At least 24 years old
  • Married
  • A veteran
  • A member of the armed forces
  • Orphan or ward of the court
  • Has legal dependents other than spouse
  • An emancipated minor
  • Homeless or at risk of becoming homeless

If you are independent of your parents, you can borrow a little more than dependent students.

Borrowing limits for graduate students

Your borrowing limits are higher if you are a graduate student, since you are also considered an independent student. But your total borrowing limit includes the amount you have already borrowed for your undergraduate studies.

  • Annual limit on unsubsidized loans — $20,500
  • Total Subsidized Loan Limit — $65,500
  • Aggregate loan limit — $138,500

Borrowing Limits for Direct PLUS Loans

Direct PLUS loans are best for borrowing parents or graduate students who need extra financial help to bridge tuition gaps. They are ideal for those who have already reached aggregate or annual limits for subsidized or unsubsidized direct loans, or parents who want the benefits of federal student loans, such as income-based repayment plans.

Unlike other types of federal loans, PLUS loans have no limits – the maximum you can borrow is the cost of attending your school minus any other financial aid you have received.

Since PLUS loans have higher interest rates than other types of direct loans, it is best to maximize the limits of unsubsidized and subsidized direct loans first. Keep in mind that you will need to go through a credit check as part of the application process.

Benefits of Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are generally easier to get as a student because they don’t require a credit check or a co-signer to take out a loan.

Plus, fixed interest rates on federal loans tend to be lower than private student loan rates, which could save you thousands or more over the life of your loan. And if you take out a direct subsidized loan, the U.S. Department of Education pays your interest until you graduate (when you’re enrolled at least half-time) and for the first six months after you leave school. school. Private loans generally do not offer this advantage.

One of the biggest advantages of federal student loans is their repayment plans. If you’re having trouble repaying your loan, you can sign up for an income-based repayment plan, where your monthly payment is adjusted based on your income. You may also qualify for student loan forgiveness, a benefit that private student loans are not eligible for.

If you need private student loans, visit Credible to compare private student loan rates from various lenders in minutes.

How much can you get in private student loans?

Private student loan limits vary by lender, but the maximum amount you can borrow is usually your school’s tuition.

If you have a poor or limited credit history, you’ll likely need a co-signer, as private student lenders require a credit check and other financial details (such as your income) as part of your application.

The following eight credible partner lenders offer private student loans.


  • Minimum loan amount: $2,001
  • Maximum loan amount: $200,000

Citizens Bank

  • Minimum loan amount: $1,000
  • Maximum loan amount: 100% school certified tuition fees

College Avenue

  • Minimum loan amount: $1,000
  • Maximum loan amount: 100% of school-certified tuition (less other financial aid)

Custom choice

  • Minimum loan amount: $1,000
  • Maximum loan amount: $180,000


  • Minimum loan amount: $1,000
  • Maximum loan amount: $200,000


  • Minimum loan amount: $1,001
  • Maximum loan amount: 100% of school-certified tuition (less other financial aid)


  • Minimum loan amount: $1,500
  • Maximum loan amount: 100% of school-certified tuition (less other financial aid)

Sally Mae

  • Minimum loan amount: $1,000
  • Maximum loan amount: 100% school certified tuition fees

How much should you borrow?

You should only borrow what you really need to pay your tuition and other educational costs. Borrowing more means you are responsible for a higher loan balance and the interest charges that come with it. To determine how much to borrow, estimate how much you think you’ll need to cover all your expenses, including tuition, housing, meal plans, books, and supplies.

Remember, it’s always best to exhaust your federal loan options first. That’s because federal student loans offer benefits and protections that private student lenders typically don’t.

Once you’ve exhausted all of your federal loan options, you may want to consider private student loans to help fill in the financial gaps. When choosing a private lender, consider features beyond the borrowing limit to ensure your loan is best for you. Shop around and compare rates and terms, and find out what you might be entitled to before you sign on the dotted line.

With Credible, you can compare private student loan rates without affecting your credit.

About Judith J. George

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