How Much Can I Get in a Student Loan?

Written By
G. Dautovic
July 13,2023

Most students rely on some form of student loan to pay for higher education. The two main types of student loans are federal and private loans. The US Department of Education issues federal student loans, while banks and other lending institutions issue private student loans.

Both options have pros and cons, and some key differences include flexibility and the amount of money you're eligible for. 

So, if you’re wondering: "How much can I get in a student loan?", keep reading, as we’ll answer that and provide other relevant information regarding financial aid, such as the possibility of increasing the loan amount and the factors that define the total sum.

How Much Can I Take Out in Student Loans?

If you’re wondering how to apply for a student loan and how much money you can get, it depends on various factors, including the type of loan - federal or private.

The government limits how much you can borrow in federal loans. The amount varies depending on a number of factors, including whether you're an undergraduate or graduate student, a dependent or independent student, your age, and more.

On the other hand, private loans don't have the same limits as federal loans. The amount you're eligible for will depend on your credit score, income, and the terms set by the lender.

In general, you should only take out as much money as you need to cover your expenses, regardless of the maximum student loan amount you’re eligible for. Remember that you'll have to repay your student loans with interest with every monthly payment, and the bigger your student loan debt is, the more you'll pay and the longer it will take to pay it off.

Federal Student Loans

You can apply for a federal student loan via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid - FAFSA. But, before you fill out the FAFSA form, keep the following information in mind:

Factors Determining the Financial Aid Limits

The school you wish to attend evaluates the student loan limits based on a number of factors. The parameters defining federal student loan limits are:

  • The cost of attendance
  • The year you’re in school
  • Whether you’re a dependent or independent student

Federal Student Loan Types

The three main types of federal student loans are:

  • Direct subsidized loans are available to undergraduates who need financial aid; the Department of Education handles interest rates during the period of deferment and while the student attends school.
  • Direct unsubsidized loans are available to qualifying undergraduate and graduate students, who pay the interest themselves.
  • Direct PLUS loans are available to graduates, professional students, and parents of dependent undergraduate students, whatever their financial needs are.

Maximum Federal Student Debt Amount

The maximum federal student loan amounts for people pursuing higher education depend on whether they’re independent or dependent students, as well as whether they’re undergraduates, graduates, or professional students. 

Undergraduate Students

Federal loan limits differ between dependent and independent undergraduates.

A dependent undergraduate is someone who needs their parents’ support during their higher education. Independent undergraduates are students who are over 24 years of age, married, veterans, or are able to demonstrate financial independence.

Now, to get to the main question: What is the maximum lifetime student loan amount for undergraduates? 

The federal student debt limit for dependent undergraduates is $31,000, while independent undergraduate students can get up to $57,500.

Eligible undergraduate students can borrow a certain yearly amount until they reach the borrowing limits. Also, depending on eligibility, student loan payments may feature different subsidization percentages. Refer to the following tables for the details:

Dependent undergraduates


Total amount

Maximum subsidized amount

First year



Second year



Third year and onward



Lifetime limit 



Independent undergraduates


Total amount

Maximum subsidized amount

First year



Second year



Third year and onward



Lifetime limit 



Graduate and Professional Students

The lifetime maximum student loan amount for graduates and students pursuing a professional degree is $138,500. The annual limit is $20,500 in direct unsubsidized loans. Note that the lifetime limit includes both undergraduate and graduate loans.

Direct PLUS Loans

This loan type is available to graduates and professional students who need additional funds to complete their education. Dependent undergraduates’ parents are also eligible for this type of student loan. You should max the amount of other federal loans, however, before borrowing a PLUS loan.

The borrowing limit for a Direct PLUS Loan is the cost of attendance minus other financial aid received. Attendance costs encompass tuition, fees, books, and a few other types of expenses.

Private Student Loans

Students can finance their university or college costs by taking out a loan from financial institutions, such as banks, credit unions, and private lenders. Private student loan limits and terms vary between providers. 

High private student loan interest rates and the perks of federal loans, such as income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness opportunities, are the main reasons why many students consider governmental financial aid first. 

Moreover, applying for a private loan requires a hard credit check, which may affect your credit score. Finally, private lenders may have an upper limit you can't exceed regardless of your education cost, while the government allows you to apply for additional funds. 

Examples of private student loan limits from several private lenders are:


Minimum amount

Maximum lifetime amount




Citizens Bank











Cost of attendance



Outstanding debt when the
cost of financial aid
is deducted from the cost of

The Bottom Line

In this article, we’ve answered the titular question for undergraduate, professional, and graduate students applying for federal loans, as well as those considering a private loan. 

While dependent students can borrow less money than independent undergraduate students, a higher percentage of their loan is subsidized. Furthermore, borrowers receiving government funds have options for getting additional capital to fund their education.

Still, it would be best if you researched different types of student loans since private loans are often more expensive in the long run. Even so, remember to only apply for the amount you need, not the maximum amount you can get, in order to minimize your student loan debt. 

Finally, if you don't find any loan that suits your needs, check whether you qualify for a scholarship or another student loan alternative.


What is the maximum amount of student loans you can get?


A dependent undergraduate student applying for a federal loan can get up to $31,000, while independent undergraduates can receive up to $57,500. Professional and graduate students are eligible for a $138,500 maximum lifetime amount. Applicants taking out a private loan can get even more, depending on their credit history and the lender.

How do I know how much student loan I will get?


The answer depends on the loan type you're considering and a number of eligibility factors. Still, students applying for federal loans can receive up to $138,500, while some private lenders offer even more. For a detailed insight into the subject, take a look at our full article: How Much Can I Get in a Student Loan?

What is the maximum student loan amount for lifetime undergraduates?


The maximum lifetime student loan amount is $57,500 for independent and $31,000 for dependent undergraduates.

About author

I have always thought of myself as a writer, but I began my career as a data operator with a large fintech firm. This position proved invaluable for learning how banks and other financial institutions operate. Daily correspondence with banking experts gave me insight into the systems and policies that power the economy. When I got the chance to translate my experience into words, I gladly joined the smart, enthusiastic Fortunly team.

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