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If you’re planning to attend graduate school, student loans could help you pay for it. However, keep in mind that some graduate student loans come with limits that will affect how much you’ll be able to borrow.
Here’s what you should know about graduate student loan limits:
- Federal student loan limits
- Private student loan limits
- Graduate student loans vs. undergrad student loans
Federal student loan limits
If you need to borrow money to pay for grad school, federal student loans are typically a good place to start. This is mainly because federal student loans offer federal benefits and protections, such as access to:
- Deferment or forbearance: These options let you temporarily pause or reduce your payments without impacting your credit score or repayment plan. Keep in mind that interest might continue to accrue, depending on the type of loan you have.
- Income-driven repayment plans: On an income-driven repayment plan, your monthly payment is based on your income. You could also have any remaining balance forgiven after 20 to 25 years of payments, depending on the plan.
- Student loan forgiveness programs: These programs generally require that you work in a specific field or sign up for a certain repayment plan. For example, if you’re a doctor who used federal student loans to pay for medical school, you might be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness in the future.
- Federal consolidation through a Direct Consolidation Loan, which combines all of your federal student loans into one and could potentially extend your repayment term up to 30 years
Here are the kinds of federal student loans that graduate students might be eligible for, as well as the student loan limits that come with them:
Direct Unsubsidized Loans
How much can I borrow? Unsubsidized loans for graduate students come with a limit of $20,500 per year ($138,500 total limit).
Direct Unsubsidized Loans loans are available to graduate and professional students, regardless of financial need. Keep in mind that unlike other types of federal student loans, you’re responsible for all interest that accrues on unsubsidized loans.
Unsubsidized student loans for the 2020-21 academic year come with a 4.30% fixed interest rate for graduate and professional students.
Unlike PLUS Loans, you won’t have to pass a credit check to take out unsubsidized loans. This might make them a good option if you want to get a student loan without a cosigner.
Learn More: Federal Stafford Loans
Direct PLUS Loans
How much can I borrow? As a graduate student, you might be able to borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance in federal Direct PLUS Loans, minus any other financial aid you’ve received.
There are two types of Direct PLUS Loans: Grad PLUS Loans for students who want to pay for grad school and Parent PLUS Loans for parents who want to cover their child’s education.
PLUS loans come with a 5.30% interest rate for the 2020-21 academic year. Note that unlike Direct Unsubsidized Loans, PLUS Loans require a credit check.
If you decide to take out a student loan, be sure to consider how much that loan will cost you in the future so you can prepare for any added expenses. You can use our student loan calculator below to find out how much you’ll owe over the life of your federal or private student loans.
Enter your loan information to calculate how much you could pay
With a $ loan, you will pay $ monthly and a total of $ in interest over the life of your loan. You will pay a total of $ over the life of the loan, assuming you're making full payments while in school.
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Private student loan limits
How much can I borrow? You might be able to borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance with a private student loan, depending on the lender.
If you’ve hit your federal student loan limits and have exhausted other types of financial aid like college scholarships and grants, private student loans could help fill any financial gaps left over. These loans are offered by private lenders and can come with a fixed or variable rate.
Keep in mind that private student loans don’t come with federal protections, such as access to income-driven repayment plans or student loan forgiveness programs. However, they do offer some benefits of their own, such as:
- No application deadlines: You can apply for a private student loan at any time.
- Potentially higher borrowing limit: You might be able to borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance, depending on the lender.
- Might get a lower interest rate: If you have excellent credit, you might qualify for a lower interest rate compared to federal student loans.
- Specialized loans sometimes available: Some lenders offer special private loans if you’re going into certain fields, such as law school loans and medical school loans.
If you decide to take out a private student loan, be sure to consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for you. Credible makes this easy — you can compare your prequalified rates from our partner lenders in the table below in two minutes.
|Lender||Fixed rates from (APR)||Variable rates from (APR)||Loan terms (years)||Max loan limit|
|2.91%+||1.48%+||5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 20|
(depending on loan type)
|3.23%+1||1.03%+1||5, 10, 15||$350,000
(depending on degree)
||0.99%+2,3||5, 8, 10, 15||Up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance|
|3.75%+||1.08%+||7, 10, 15||$180,000|
|3.0%+7||2.17%+7||7, 10, 15||$200,000|
|3.83%+8||1.69%+8||5, 10, 15||Up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance|
|3.75%+||N/A||10, 15||Up to school-certified cost of attendance
(depending on school type and minus other aid received)
|3.5% - 12.6% APR9||1.13% - 11.23% APR9||10, 15||Up to 100% of school-certified cost of attendance|
your credit score. 100% free!
Lowest APRs reflect autopay, loyalty, and interest-only repayment discounts where available | 1Citizens Disclosures | 2,3College Ave Disclosures | 7EDvestinU Disclosures | 8INvestEd Disclosures | 9Sallie Mae Disclosures
You’ll generally need good to excellent credit to qualify for a private student loan. While some lenders might offer student loans for bad credit, these loans typically come with higher interest rates compared to good credit loans.
Learn More: Best Private Student Loans
Graduate student loans vs. undergrad student loans
While graduate student loans function similarly to undergrad student loans, here are a couple of differences to keep in mind when comparing graduate student loans vs. undergrad student loans:
- Credit check might be required: Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans don’t require a credit check, but PLUS Loans and private student loans do.
- Different loan limits: As an undergraduate student, you’re limited to a maximum of $12,500 per year in Direct Unsubsidized Loans — depending on your year in school, dependency status, and school’s cost of attendance. However, as a graduate student, you could borrow up to $20,500 annually in unsubsidized loans. You might also be able to borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance in Grad PLUS Loans or private student loans, minus any other financial aid you’ve received.
If you decide to take out a private student loan, remember to compare as many lenders as possible to find a loan that suits your needs. Credible makes this easy — you can compare your prequalified rates from multiple lenders in two minutes.
Keep Reading: 3 Best MBA Student Loans for Business School