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Learn more about keeping loans, student debt at a minimum

If grants and scholarships are not enough to cover your expenses, loans are available.

Your financial aid package will include a review of federal Direct Loan eligibility after completing the FAFSA application. Parents of dependent students may also apply for federal parent PLUS loans. 

With interest and fees, most loans cost more than the original amount borrowed. So it’s important to know the facts and exercise caution before you commit to taking on debt. Consider how much you need to borrow before taking on a loan, and know your rights and responsibilities.

The less money you have to borrow for school, the better off you'll be in the long run. If you do have to borrow, consider how much you need. This video provides basic guidance when determining how much to borrow.

Federal Direct Loans and Parent PLUS Loans 

The U.S. Department of Education provides loan funding programs for students and parents at lower interest rates and more beneficial borrower benefits compared to private loans. Undergraduate students may borrow between $3,500 and $12,500 per year in federal Direct Loans, dependent on basic eligibility criteria, dependency status and year in college. Parents of dependent students may also apply for credit-based Parent PLUS Loans. If a parent is denied the loan during the credit check, additional federal loan eligibility may be made available in the student's name.

Direct Loan annual limits and lifetime limits

Direct Loans have both an annual maximum eligibility amount and an aggregate limit, which is the maximum amount a student can receive in federal Stafford Loans.

Stafford Loan aggregate limits are as follows for undergraduate and graduate students:

  • Dependent undergraduate students: $31,000 total, of which $23,000 can be subsidized
  • Independent undergraduate students or dependent students whose parents have been denied PLUS Loans: $57,000 total, of which $23,000 can be subsidized
  • Graduate students: $138,500 total, of which $23,000 can be subsidized

Students may review all loans received through the federal education loan programs. 

Proration of Stafford Loans

Columbia College is required by federal regulations to prorate, or adjust, Stafford Loan amounts when students have fewer than a full year's worth of courses (24 credit hours) to complete their degree. If a student will graduate in fewer than four 8-week sessions or in one 16-week semester, Columbia College is required to prorate. The Financial Aid Office will calculate an eligible percentage amount for the expected remaining sessions and the student will be notified by student email through CougarMail.

Lenders for private loans

Students may consider applying for private loans to be used as a supplemental resources for college costs. Private loans have to be repaid and in most cases have higher interest rates than federal loans. Some U.S. state government agencies provide loans to residents of their state. The U.S. Department of Education has a list of State Higher Education Agencies. Columbia College recommends taking a conservative approach if taking out private loans. See our list of lenders.

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