You can take out student loans to help you cover the cost of college — but there’s a limit to how much you can take out. So, exploring your other options like federal PLUS Loans and private student loans can help you fill that gap.
The only borrowing limit on federal PLUS Loans is your cost of attendance (minus other financial aid you’ve received). Private student loan limits can depend on your ability to repay, but many private lenders will cover up to the full cost of attendance.
Federal loan limits
Federal loan limits depend on whether your parents are supporting you or not, and how far along you are in school. When you’re an undergraduate, your family’s finances will also determine whether you can qualify for subsidized loans, which don’t rack up interest while you’re in school.
If you depend on your parents for support, you’re considered a dependent student. Dependent undergraduate students can take out $5,500 to $7,500 in federal student loans each year in they’re in school, up to a total limit of $31,000. If your family qualifies, up to $23,000 of your total borrowing can be in subsidized loans.
If you hit your annual or total borrowing limit and your parents can’t qualify for a PLUS loan, the higher loan limits for independent undergraduates apply.
PLUS loan limits
Students and families who have hit their limits on the more affordable federal student loans often turn to PLUS loans. PLUS loans are available to both parents of undergraduates (parent PLUS loans) and to graduate students (grad PLUS loans).
You can take PLUS loan right up to your school-certified cost of attendance, minus other financial aid you’ve received. The cost of attendance includes not just your tuition and fees, but room and board, books, supplies, and transportation.
There’s no evaluation of your ability to repay a PLUS loan — you just have to pass a basic credit check. So it can be easy to borrow more than you’ll be able to comfortably repay.
Compare Rates: Parent PLUS Loans vs. Private Student Loans
Private loan limits
Limits on private student loans depend on your ability to repay a loan. Lenders look at how much of your monthly income would be required to repay your loan, and all your other existing obligations (your debt-to-income ratio). Because students usually don’t have a history of credit and earnings, most private student loans to undergraduates are cosigned by a parent, or another relative or friend.
In addition to looking at your ability to repay, most private student lenders will have a maximum loan limit. Regardless of how much you or your cosigner earns, private lenders won’t lend more than your cost of attendance, minus other aid you’ve received.