What is the Maximum FAFSA Loan Amount?

For many students, FAFSA loan limits play a role in the amount of funds available. Students should understand that there is not an unlimited amount of government student loan assistance on the table and it is important to plan accordingly based on the maximum FAFSA loan amount. The maximum amount you can borrow depends on whether the loan is federal or private and your school year, among other things.

Undergraduate students can borrow up to $12,500 per year and a total of $57,500 in federal student loans. Graduate students can borrow up to $20,500 per year for a total of $138,500. But just because you can borrow that much doesn’t mean you should. To keep higher education affordable, estimate how much you should borrow for college based on your expected future income and try to keep student loans below that amount.

FAFSA Loan Limits

The maximum FAFSA loan you can borrow depends on your school year, whether you are a dependent or independent student, and the type of loan. There are three main types of federal student loans: Direct PLUS, Direct Subsidized, and Direct Unsubsidized. To apply for federal student loans, submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – this FAFSA guide will walk you through the process.

Directly Subsidized and Unsubsidized FAFSA Loan Limits

Subsidized loans are for undergraduate students only, while unsubsidized loans are available for undergraduate and graduate students. These loans have aggregate and annual loan limits. The aggregate FAFSA Loan limit is the total amount of federal student loan debt you can take on during your undergraduate and graduate studies. When you reach your full limit, you can get additional federal student loans if you pay off your outstanding debt first.

Here are FAFSA loan limits for various students:

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Dependent Students

  • 1st Year – $5,500 overall; $3,500 subsidized
  • 2nd Year – $6,500 overall; $4,500 subsidized
  • 3rd Year and Up – $7,500 overall; $5,500 subsidized
  • Total Limit – $31,000 overall; $23,000 subsidized

Independent Students

  • 1st year – $9,500 overall; $3,500 subsidized
  • 2nd year – $10,500 overall; $4,500 subsidized
  • 3rd Year and Up – $12,500 overall; $5,500 subsidized
  • Total Limit – $57,500 overall; $23,000 subsidized

Professional and Graduate Students (unsubsidized only)

  • Annual limit – $20,500
  • Total limit – $138,500, including undergraduate loans

If you are a dependent student and your parents are not eligible for direct PLUS loans, for example if they have a bad credit history, you may be eligible for additional unsubsidized loans.

Direct PLUS FAFSA Loan Limits

Direct PLUS loans are available to professional and graduate students as well as parents of dependent students. There are no special limits for direct PLUS loans. The maximum FAFSA loan amount for PLUS Loans you can get is the cost of attending school minus any other financial aid you or your child may receive. Participation costs include tuition & fees, room & board, books as well as other materials.

Maximize subsidized and unsubsidized direct federal loans before availing PLUS loans. This is mainly because PLUS loans have higher interest rates than student loans.

Private Student Loan Limits

Private student loan limits vary by lender. In general, the amount you borrow cannot exceed the total cost of attending your school. Maximize federal student loans before taking on private student loans. Federal loans have protections that private loans do not, including income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs.

Private Student Loan Minimums and Limits

Ascent

Non-co-signed future income-based option:

  • Minimum loan amount: $2,001
  • Maximum loan amount: $200,000 (lifetime maximum). Annually, the cost of attendance.
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Co-signed and non-co-signed credit-based options:

  • Minimum loan amount: $2,001
  • Maximum loan amount: $20,000

Citizens Bank

  • Minimum loan amount: $1,000
  • Maximum loan amount: $100,000 (lifetime maximum). Annually, the cost of attendance minus financial aid.

College Ave

  • Minimum loan amount: $1,000
  • Maximum loan amount: School-certified cost of attendance minus financial aid.

CommonBond

  • Minimum loan amount: $2,000
  • Maximum loan amount: $500,000 (lifetime maximum). Annually, the school-certified cost of attendance.

Discover

  • Minimum loan amount: $1,000
  • Maximum loan amount: School-certified cost of attendance minus financial aid.

Earnest

  • Minimum loan amount: $1,000
  • Maximum loan amount: School-certified cost of attendance.

LendKey

  • Minimum loan amount: $1,000
  • Maximum loan amount: School-certified cost of attendance minus financial aid.

MEFA

  • Minimum loan amount: $1,500
  • Maximum loan amount: School-certified cost of attendance minus financial aid.

MPOWER

  • Minimum loan amount: $2,001
  • Maximum loan amount: $25,000 per semester and $50,000 annually

Navy Federal

  • Minimum: $2,000
  • Maximum: $120,000 for undergraduates and $160,000 for graduate students.

PNC

  • Minimum: $1,000
  • Maximum: $50,000

RISLA

  • Minimum: $1,500
  • Maximum: $45,000

Prodigy Finance

  • Minimum: $15,000 ($35,000 in certain U.S. states)
  • Maximum: $220,000.

Sallie Mae

  • Minimum loan amount: $1,000
  • Maximum loan amount: School-certified cost of attendance

SoFi

  • Minimum loan amount: $5,000
  • Maximum loan amount: School-certified cost of attendance

Custom Choice

  • Minimum: $1,000
  • Maximum: The school-certified cost of attendance minus other aid, not to exceed $99,000

Variables that Affect the Maximum FAFSA Loan Amount You May Qualify for?

Federal student aid has loan limits to limit the potential for over-indebtedness to finance one’s education. However, these limits may be affected by other sources of funding, including grants, scholarships, or private student loans. Federal student loans are discounted based on these factors, and for almost all students, the amounts available are much lower than private student loans.

Your dependent status, year of study, and enrollment status (for example, full-time or part-time) also affect the amount of federal financial aid you may receive in the form of subsidized or unsubsidized loans. Each of these factors affects what you can get and may dictate your need for additional funding through private student loans or other funding sources.

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Bottom Line on Maximum FAFSA Loan Amount

Federal student loans are the go-to resource for the majority of graduate students today. Indeed, federal student loans are easy to obtain, whether you are a dependent or independent student, an undergraduate or graduate student, or have different credit histories and incomes.

However, annual FAFSA loan limits on the actual loan amount can make it difficult to pay the full cost of attendance. Understanding the student loan limits outlined in this guide is a good starting point for seeing what is available to you from the Department of Education and its various loan programs.

This information is also helpful in determining the amount that may be needed through other financial options, including private student loans, grants, scholarships, or PLUS loans. When considering private student loans, the maximum FAFSA loan amount you can borrow is usually equal to the cost of attendance. Have you reached your FAFSA student loan limit? Then private student loans can be used to fill the gap.

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