Private Student Loans Guru
Private Student Loans Guru

Federal Student Loan Limits

By Mark Kantrowitz

Loan limits for the Federal Stafford loans depend on the student's year in school, degree level, and dependency status. Loan limits also depend on whether the loans are subsidized or unsubsidized.

Overall Undergraduate Federal Stafford Loan Limits
Year in SchoolDependentIndependent
Freshman Year$5,500$9,500
Sophomore Year$6,500$10,500
Junior Year$7,500$12,500
Senior Year$7,500$12,500
Sum of First Four Years$27,000$45,000
Cumulative Limit$31,000$57,500

The annual and cumulative loan limits for the unsubsidized Federal Stafford loan are equal to the overall Federal Stafford loan limits minus the amount of any subsidized Federal Stafford loans. The loan limits for subsidized Federal Stafford loans are the same for dependent and independent students and are shown in this table.

Overall Undergraduate Subsidized Federal Stafford Loan Limits
Year in SchoolDependentIndependent
Freshman Year$3,500$3,500
Sophomore Year$4,500$4,500
Junior Year$5,500$5,500
Senior Year$5,500$5,500
Sum of First Four Years$19,000$19,000
Cumulative Limit$23,000$23,000

If a dependent undergraduate student's parents are denied a Federal Parent PLUS loan because of an adverse credit history, the student becomes eligible for the higher unsubsidized Federal Stafford loan limits available to independent students. These loans limits are $4,000/year higher during the freshman and sophomore years and $5,000/year higher during the junior and senior years.

Graduate and professional school students have higher loan limits. This table shows the Federal Stafford loan limits for graduate and professional school students.

Graduate & Professional Student Federal Stafford Loan Limits
Year in SchoolGraduate & Professional SchoolMedical School
Annual Limit$20,500$40,500
Cumulative Limit$138,500$224,000

The medical school annual limit is reduced to $33,000 for pharmacy, public health, chiropractic, clinical psychology and health administration programs.

Graduate and professional students must exhaust the Federal Stafford loan limits before borrowing from the Federal Grad PLUS loan.

The annual limit on the Federal PLUS loan is equal to the cost of attendance (COA) minus other aid received. There is no cumulative limit.