Financial aid is a great benefit to those pursuing higher education opportunities. Without the potential of financial aid, whether federal student aid or other types, many students would be unable to afford college.
Unfortunately, financial aid is not unlimited. While discussing its limits it is important to remember that there are three different types of federal financial aid available to students applying to accredited schools who are at enrolled at least part-time: grants, direct student loans, and work-study programs. There are also scholarships and financial aid from private organizations and the colleges themselves.
Limits on Federal Financial Aid
Federal financial aid is determined by your level of financial need. There are some general eligibility requirements for students applying for federal financial aid, including things like being a US citizen or eligible non-citizen and having a valid Social Security number (unless you're from certain territories) - as well as needing to be enrolled in an eligible program and making "satisfactory progress" towards a degree. Even with these requirements, which include remaining in good academic and legal standing, there are some limits. (PS - Remember that in order to qualify for any aid you need to file the FAFSA annually.)
How Many Years can You Get Federal Loans?
The newest federal regulation now only allows a student to borrow subsidized loans for “150 percent of the published length of your program.” Once a student reaches this threshold, the student is no longer eligible for subsidized loans - unless he or she switches programs and the new program has a longer eligibility limit (e.g. switching from a two-year program to a four-year program). Your limit is based on the program in which you are currently enrolled.
For example, most bachelor’s degree-awarding institutions consider themselves four-year schools. Under the 150 percent rule, this would cover an individual for over six years. Additionally, it is important to remember that there are borrowing limits for these loans as well.
There is no time limit on unsubsidized or PLUS loans.
How Many Years can You Get Federal Grant Aid?
Grants are another federal student aid option. The most common and widely known one is the Federal Pell Grant. The Federal Pell Grant is awarded to undergraduate students for up to 12 semesters of eligibility.
How Many Years can You Get Federal Work-Study?
Work-study programs are also funded by the federal government, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not a guarantee that it will be part of your financial aid package annually. Some schools limit the length of time depending upon the institution.
Limits on Institutional & Private Financial Aid or Scholarships
Other options for financial aid will have their own limits. There may be school-based scholarships, private scholarships, niche scholarships, or private loans. How long these other options are available to you will vary depending upon who is funding them. In order to find out more information regarding these types of financial aid options, students should contact the particular organization sponsoring or funding the aid.