If you use a credit card, you are probably familiar with credit limits. When you reach your credit card limit (commonly called maxing out your card), you must pay down your principle before you put anything else on the card. Many people don’t realize that federal student loans also have limits, and, unless students are aware of these limits and practice responsible borrowing, there's the possibility that you could max out your student loans.
When students rely too heavily on federal loans, they may reach their loan limits, leaving them unable to afford their education and stuck with unmanageable amounts of debt. Read on to learn about loan limits and how to avoid them through responsible borrowing.
Annual and Total Loan Limits
The federal government limits the total amount of subsidized and unsubsidized loans a student can borrow at one time – this is known as a total or aggregate loan limit. If you previously attended college and took out federal loans that you have not yet repaid, those loans will count toward your total loan limit. To check your prior federal student aid history and previous loans, visit the National Student Loan Data System at www.nslds.ed.gov.
There is also an annual loan limit on the amount of loans you can borrow in one academic year. Total and annual loan limits depend on your year in school and whether you are dependent or independent student. You can see the annual and total loan limits that apply to you at http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/loans/subsidized-unsubsidized#how-much-can-i-borrow. If you're a current student, you can also contact your Student Finance Counselor to learn more.
How to Avoid These Limits
When you discuss your financial aid package with your Student Finance Counselor, make sure you understand your loan limits and try not to rely solely on federal loans. Here are just a few tips that can help you avoid reaching these limits.
• Find alternative ways to finance your education, such as scholarships and grants. There are many scholarships and grants out there, so don’t be afraid to apply. They can make a big difference in your financial plan!
• If you are currently employed and your desired degree relates to your job, ask your employer if they are willing to help sponsor your education.
• By making regular cash payments, even as small as $20 per month, you can reduce the amount you need to borrow and the interest you’ll pay in the future.
• Remember, you do not have to take the full amount of federal aid for which you are eligible. Only accept the aid that you truly need and do not use the loans for expenses outside of your education.
• Stay committed to completing your education in a timely manner. Having to re-take a class will end up costing you extra.
When you create a plan for paying for your degree, think about your long-term financial future. Remember, having to make large monthly payments on your student loan debt will limit what you can spend in the future on large purchases, such as your house or your car, and even daily expenses. Making the right choices today will help you tomorrow.