Updated: Nov 22, 2022
If you are like most college students who need to borrow money to cover college costs, you’ll be looking at student loans. And there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be asking yourself, “how much in student loans can I get?” Both the federal government and private lenders offer different types of student loans and each have annual and aggregate loan limits.
Federal student loans are originated by the government. You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which schools use to determine eligibility for financial aid, including federal student loans. If you are eligible, federal loans will be included in the award letters you receive from the schools you've been accepted to. If you need a Direct PLUS Loan, there is an additional application to complete, so check with your school for their preferred process.
Federal student loan type
Who are they for
Annual loan limit
|Direct Subsidized Loans
Undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need.
The government pays the interest on your loan while you are in school at least half-time, during your grace period, and during periods of deferment.
|Your school determines the actual loan amount you’re offered, but there are also limits set by the government.
|Direct Unsubsidized Loans
Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who don’t demonstrate financial need.
These loans are similar to subsidized loans. However, you are responsible for paying the interest while you are in school, during your grace period, and during periods of deferment.
|Your school determines the actual loan amount you’re offered, but your dependency status will also inform how much you can borrow each year. Limits are set by the government.
|Direct PLUS Loans
Parents with dependent students in an undergraduate program.
Also available to students in a graduate and professional degree program.
A credit check is required, and people with poor credit history may not qualify.
Up to 100% of your cost of attendance minus other financial aid*
|*Annual cost of attending a specific school, including tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and personal expenses. This amount is determined by your school.
Private student loans are made by private organizations like banks and credit unions. You may want to consider them if still have costs to cover. You can apply online directly from a lender’s website. Like federal student loans, there are several different types of private student loans such as:
Private student loan type*
Who are they for
Annual loan limit
|In some cases, private student loans may have higher borrowing limits than federal ones.
The amount you can borrow varies from lender to lender, and depends on several factors, including:
|Graduate students in a master’s or doctoral program
|Health Professions Loans
|Graduate students pursuing a degree in the health professions
|Law School Loans
|Graduate students attending law school
|Graduate students pursuing a master’s degree in business administration
|Parents or other creditworthy individuals who borrow money on behalf of an undergraduate or graduate student
|*This is a list of common private student loans. Please note that private student loan types vary by lender.
This four-step process can help you determine how much to borrow.
Check your school's website for the annual cost of attendance. Typically, this number will include tuition and fees, housing and living expenses, books, and supplies. You can also use their net price calculator to estimate your cost to attend.
Add up how much money you already have for college, from things like grants, scholarships, family contributions, savings, and earnings from working.
Once you determine how much money you already have toward college costs, you can estimate how much you may still need to cover.
Once you receive your award letter, you will know how much in federal student loans is available to you. You can then use this student loan calculator to estimate how much you still need to cover.
We recommend you exhaust savings, grants, and scholarships before taking out loans. If you do need to borrow, compare federal and private student loans and choose the loans that best fit your needs.
FAFSA® is a registered trademark of the US Department of Education and is not affiliated with Discover® Student Loans.