What Is the Maximum Student Loan Amount for a Lifetime?

What is the maximum student loan amount for a lifetime? Depending on your dependency status, it can be as low as $5,500.

The cost of higher education has been steadily rising over the past few decades. With increased tuition and other costs, more and more students are using student loans to pay for some of their education. However, you may be surprised to find out that there are limits on how much you can borrow. 

What is the maximum student loan amount for a lifetime? It depends on the types of loans you qualify for and your dependency status. If you exhaust the limit, don’t get discouraged; there may be other financial aid options available. 

What Are Student Loan Borrowing Limits? 

When it comes to understanding student loan limits, the first thing you need to know is that there are two types of loans: federal and private. 

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are issued by the U.S. Department of Education, and their maximums and interest rates are set by Congress. Federal loan limits are designed to keep borrowing in check so that students don’t take on more debt than they can afford, but it’s not always effective. 

Periodically, Congress will raise the federal loan borrowing limits . Studies have shown that students adjust their borrowing along with limit increases, contributing to the national student loan debt. 

Private Student Loans

Unlike federal loans, private student loans are issued by banks, credit unions and online lenders. They set their own terms, so each lender will have its own limits on borrowing. While some lenders will cap how much you can borrow over your lifetime, others allow you to borrow up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance. 

What Is the Maximum Student Loan Amount for a Lifetime for Undergraduates? 

As a federal loan borrower, you may qualify for one of the following loans: 

  • Direct Subsidized: For undergraduate students with significant financial needs.
  • Direct Unsubsidized: For undergraduate or graduate students.
  • Grad PLUS: For graduate or professional students.
  • Parent PLUS: For parents of undergraduate students.

Annual and Aggregate Loan Limits for 2021-2022 Academic Year


Dependent Students

Independent Students


First-Year Undergraduate Annual Limit

$5,500 (no more than $3,500 can be subsidized)

$9,500 (no more than $3,500 can be subsidized)

Up to 100% of the total cost of attendance

Second-Year Undergraduate Annual Limit

$6,500 (no more than $4,500 can be subsidized)

$10,500 (no more than $4,500 can be subsidized)

Up to 100% of the total cost of attendance

Third-Year and Above Undergraduate Annual Limit

$7,500 (no more than $5,500 can be subsidized)

$12,500 (no more than $5,500 can be subsidized)

Up to 100% of the total cost of attendance

Graduate or Professional Student Annual Limit

Not applicable; all graduate students are considered independent


Not applicable

Lifetime Limit

$31,000 (no more than $23,000 can be subsidized)

$57,500 for undergraduates (no more than $23,000 can be subsidized); for graduate or professional students, the maximum is $138,500 (no more than $65,500 can be subsidized)

Not applicable

The maximum amount you can borrow is based on your grade level and dependency status for financial aid purposes. 

For undergraduate dependent students, the annual maximum ranges from $5,500 to $7,500 per year. The lifetime maximum is $31,000. Of that amount, no more than $23,000 can be in the form of Direct Subsidized Loans. 

If you’re an independent undergraduate student, the annual maximum ranges from $9,500 to $12,500. The aggregate maximum is $57,500 for undergraduates. 

What About Graduate or Parent Student Loans? 

Unlike undergraduate loans, most graduate and parent loans don’t have caps on how much you can borrow. Instead, you can borrow up to the total cost of attendance. The one exception is unsubsidized loans for graduate students. The maximum you can borrow with these loans is $20,500 per year, and the aggregate cap is $138,500. 

5 Financing Options If You Reach Your Lifetime Limit

If you’ve reached the loan maximum and still need money to pay for school, you may be eligible for one or more of the following financing options. 

1. Gift Aid

Scholarships and grants don’t have to be repaid, and they’re available from schools and private organizations. You can use Juno’s scholarship database to search for available awards. 

2. Work-Study

Depending on the information you submit with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, you may be eligible for a state or federal work-study program. You can work part time and use your earnings for your education. 

3. Institutional Loans

Some schools offer their own loans to help students who have reached federal loan limits or are ineligible for federal financial aid. Contact your school’s financial aid office to see what assistance is available. 

4. Private Student Loans

If you need other help paying for school, private student loans can be a valuable resource. You can use private loans to cover your remaining costs, and many lenders allow you to borrow up to the total cost of attendance. 

Paying for College

Student loan borrowing limits are set by Congress and impact how much you can take out in federal loans per year and over your lifetime. If you reach the annual or aggregate limit and are unable to qualify for additional aid, private loans can cover the rest. Before submitting a loan application, join Juno so you can access the lowest possible interest rates and exclusive discounts from Juno’s partner lenders. 

If you already have student loans and are looking to refinance your debt to pay off your loans faster, Juno has negotiated with top refinancing lenders to give you the best deals. 

Kat Tretina
Written By
Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, FL. She specializes in helping people finance their education and manage debt. Her work has been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, MarketWatch, and many other publications.

Related Articles

View All Articles
20 Most Valuable Majors in 2021

Trying to figure out the return for your money for various college majors? Here are the 20 most valuable degrees in 2021 as well as some key takeaways.

Read more
USAA Student Loans Are No Longer Offered: Here Are the Best Alternatives

If you’re looking for USAA student loans, they’re no longer an option. Read on to learn about the best alternatives to USAA student loans.

Read more
Best MBA Internships Ranked

An MBA internship can help you gain experience and stand out from your peers. Read on to learn about the best MBA internships and how to land one.

Read more
Education Loan Finance Review: Student Loan Refinancing and Private Student Loans

Read this Education Loan Finance review to learn about the company’s options for student loan refinancing and private student loans.

Read more
Splash Financial Review: Student Loan Refinancing

Splash Financial is a student loan refinancing marketplace featuring multiple lenders. Learn more about if Splash student loan refinancing is right for you.

Read more
Student Loan Refinance Rates Comparison All Lenders

We have assembled a list of rates across all of the student loan refinance companies as of December 21, 2021.

Read more
All Categories: