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How Stafford Loans Work


How much can you borrow with a Stafford loan?

The amount that you can borrow through a Stafford loan depends on your year in school, and whether you qualify for a subsidized or unsubsidized loan.

If you're a dependent undergraduate student, each year you can borrow up to:

  • $5,500 if you're a first-year student enrolled in a program of study that is at least a full academic year. Not more than $3,500 of this amount can be in subsidized loans.
  • $6,500 if you've completed your first year of study and the remainder of your program is at least a full academic year. No more than $4,500 can be in subsidized loans.
  • $7,500 if you've completed two years of study and at least a full academic year of your program remains. No more than $5,500 can be in subsidized loans.

If you're an independent undergraduate student or a dependent student whose parents were unable to get a PLUS (parent) loan, each year you can borrow up to:

  • $9,500 if you're a first-year student enrolled in a program that is at least a full academic year. No more than $3,500 can be in subsidized loans.
  • $10,500 if you've completed your first year of study and at least a full academic year remains in your program. No more than $4,500 can be in subsidized loans.
  • $12,500 if you've completed two years of study and the remainder of your program is at least a full academic year. No more than $5,500 can be in subsidized loans.

If you're a graduate student, each year you can borrow up to $20,500. No more than $8,500 of that amount may be in subsidized loans. When you complete a graduate or professional degree, the maximum amount of debt allowed from Stafford loans is $138,500 -- including loans received for undergraduate study -- with no more than $65,500 from subsidized loans.

However, the loan limit rises to $224,000 for certain health care professional programs. This higher limit is designed to encourage qualified students to pursue degree programs in these critical fields of study. Keep in mind that you can't borrow more than your total cost of attendance minus the amount of any Federal Pell Grant you receive and any other financial aid or scholarship you receive, so you may receive less than the annual maximum amounts [source: Student Aid on the Web]

Next, learn more about the low interest rate benefits of Stafford loans.