What is the Maximum Amount of Student Loans in a Lifetime?

Featured Stories

Filter By Categories

There are two main types of student loans: federal student loans and private student loans.  While the eligibility requirements and repayment terms differ for each type of loan, every student loan program defines upper limits on how much money students may borrow.  Below we explain the maximum lifetime amounts that students are eligible to borrow for each type of loan.


Maximum Borrowing Limits for Federal Student Loans

Every federal student loan program has defined upper limits on how much students are eligible to borrow.  Limits are imposed on annual and maximum borrowing amounts, and differ based on a few different factors:

  • Cost of school attendance;

  • Type of loan (whether it is subsidized or not);

  • Student’s year of enrollment in school;

  • Whether the student is considered a dependent or independent for tax purposes;

  • For dependent students, whether the student’s parents qualify for Direct PLUS Loans; and

  • Whether the loan is for undergraduate or graduate school.


The Federal Student Aid Office of the Department of Education defines the maximum permissible borrowing amounts for federal student loans.  The maximum amount that dependent students may borrow is $31,000, of which not more than $23,000 may be in the form of subsidized loans.  The maximum amount that independent students may borrow is $57,500, with the same upper limit ($23,000) on subsidized loans. Graduate students, who are always considered independent, can borrow the most - $138,500, with not more than $65,500 taken in the form of subsidized loans.  However, the aggregate loan limit imposed on graduate students also includes any federal student debt incurred during undergraduate studies.


Students may borrow above the maximum stated limits if they repay some of the debt that they already have incurred.  However, in no case may a student borrow an amount that exceeds the cost of attending his or her school.


Maximum Borrowing Limits for Private Student Loans

Private lenders, such as banks and credit unions, independently set the terms for private student loans.  As such, every private lender specifies a different upper limit for how much it is willing to loan to students.  Private lenders typically consider the following factors when determining maximum permissible borrowing limits:

  • Internal guidelines: Financial institutions typically define a maximum dollar amount that no student loan can exceed.

  • Credit qualifications: Just like with non-student loans, lenders will consider a student’s credit history when determining maximum borrowing limits.  Students with bad credit or no credit may need a cosigner in order to obtain a private loan.

  • Education and employment: Private lenders do not want to extend more credit than is likely to be “affordable” for a student to pay back.  As such, many private lenders consider factors such as the degree program in which the student is enrolled (and how much money the student is likely to earn after graduation) and the cosigner’s income (if applicable).

  • Cost of attendance: Even if a lender is willing to finance up to 100 percent of the cost of attendance, which many are, few private lenders will let a student borrow more than the total price of enrollment at school.


Many students do not obtain enough federal financial aid to adequately cover their costs.  Receiving federal loans, even up to the maximum permissible amount, does not prevent a student from also borrowing from a private lender.  As such, students often assume additional private loans to pay for the remainder of their expenses.

 

New call-to-action

Sign up for updates

Popular Tags

Financial Aid and Scholarships* Cost of College* paying for college financial aid FAFSA grants and scholarships Student Loans* Saving for College* federal student loans college tuition 529 plan cost of attendance expected family contribution college financial planning financial aid award private student loans Salary and Career* taxes college savings plan room and board on-campus housing college expenses federal financial aid merit scholarships budgeting for college edmit hidden gems merit-based financial aid parent PLUS loan private universities public universities college applications living expenses CSS profile college costs edmit team education expenses financial need income application fees financial aid appeal off-campus housing loan forgiveness affordable college career college majors loan repayment student loan assistance work-study application fee waivers degree programs edmit scholarship institutional aid SAT choosing a college choosing a major in-state tuition net price prepaid tuition plans private scholarships repayment plans ACT budget college search free tuition international students internships need-based financial aid need-blind colleges qualified higher education expenses southern colleges standardized testing tuition discount tuition guarantee tuition payment plans 401k UGMA UTMA applying to college college ranking systems college spending college visits credit score discretionary income education savings accounts fees full ride scholarship grants health insurance options investment ivy league schools liberal arts degree meal plans midwestern colleges need-aware colleges out-of-state tuition retirement savings school-based scholarships student loan debt western colleges 568 presidents group Inversant MEFA asset protection allowance best price campus life college advisor college deposit concurrent enrollment cost by region cost by state crowdfunding dorms educational expenses esports fee waivers financial literacy fraternities and sororities full tuition gap year home equity loan income share agreements line of credit medical expenses military benefits new england colleges out-of-state students percent need met private college consultant saving small business state aid state schools student bank accounts student organizations title IV schools travel expenses tuition decreases tuition increases tuition insurance tuition reciprocity undocumented students