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Last update: March 7, 2024

6 minutes read

How Much Can You Borrow with Private Student Loans? A Comprehensive Guide

Explore the factors affecting your private student loan borrowing limit. Know before you borrow, and take control of your college finances.

By Brian Flaherty, B.A. Economics

Edited by Rachel Lauren, B.A. in Business and Political Economy

How much do you think private student lenders can lend you? The answer depends on several factors we'll dive into today. You could borrow anywhere between $75,000 and $120,000 with private student loans. In this post, we'll explore what determines your borrowing potential and guide you in making an informed decision about your college financing strategy.

Key takeaways

  • The borrowing limit for private student loans typically ranges between $75,000 and $120,000 but can go up to your total cost of attendance minus financial aid
  • Your credit score greatly affects your borrowing potential — higher scores correlate to larger loans and lower interest rates
  • The cost of attendance at your school directly influences the amount you can borrow

    How much can I borrow with private student loans?

    So, how much can you borrow with private student loans? The loan amount varies by lender and is influenced by factors like your credit score and cost of attendance at your school, among other things.

    You could potentially borrow from $75,000 to $120,000 with private student loans when federal loans, scholarships, and grants don't quite cover it all.

    What's the maximum borrowing limit for private student loans?

    Private student loan borrowing limits are often based on the total cost of attendance minus any other financial aid you receive. They can range from a few thousand dollars to the full cost of your education.

    Compared to federal loans, which limit you to $5,500 to $20,500 per year based on your dependency status and school year, private loans can help fill the gap. Plus, if you have an existing relationship with a lender, don't hesitate to negotiate; they could be more willing to offer you a higher loan limit.

    Is my credit score a deal-breaker?

    The difference between private and federal student loans lies in the basis of loan eligibility. Federal student loans are available to almost all students, whereas private student loans are credit-based.

    Have a good-to-excellent credit score, or a cosigner with a great score? Then you're more likely to qualify for a larger loan with a more manageable interest rate.

    Get a cosigner with good credit on board and watch the doors open up for you. Having a cosigner can potentially land you a private student loan with a lower interest rate. Do bear in mind though, the cosigner must be both willing and able to repay the loan if you're unable to do so.

    How does the school cost of attendance impact the loan?

    Don't forget to factor in your school's cost of attendance, which has substantial implications on your private student loan amount. This means taking into account tuition, fees, books, housing, and meal plans.

    Most lenders use a simple equation to determine your loan amount. They subtract your other forms of financial aid (if any) from your estimated cost of attendance. Hence, if your school has a higher cost of attendance, it's more likely you can borrow more.

    Taking on a private student loan – is it worth it?

    The more you know about your borrowing potential, the better-equipped you'll be to have a good financing strategy. Factors like maximum borrowing limit, your credit score, and the cost of attendance play key roles in this.

    But remember to borrow only what you need, even if you qualify for more. Choosing federal student loans and scholarships first is a good strategy. Remember that taking on big student loan debt can affect your finances for years post-graduation, so be wise, plan ahead, and then follow through.

    When I was going to college, I knew I was going to need some help paying tuition. After taking out as much as I could in federal loans and pursuing every scholarship, I was left with a small remaining balance. I was able to take out a private student loan to fill the gap, but I made sure to pursue better options first.

    Do’s and don’ts of borrowing private student loans

    As you learn about private student loans, it's essential to know the do’s and don’ts. These guidelines can steer you clear of common hurdles and help maximize your borrowing power.


    • Check your credit score

    • Explore various lenders

    • Find a reliable cosigner

    • Borrow only what you need


    • Forget to calculate your school's cost

    • Ignore your other financial aid options

    • Overlook the long-term financial impact

    • Forget to plan for loan repayments

    Advantages and disadvantages of borrowing private student loans

    When sorting out your college financing strategy, weighing the pros and cons of private student loans could be a genuine eye-opener. It arms you with a more comprehensive view of whether this is the right path.

    Pros of borrowing private student loans

    • Higher borrowing limits: Private loans can cover the full cost of attendance, providing a comprehensive financial solution.
    • Flexible eligibility: Private student loans are available to a wide range of students, providing financial aid without strict requirements.
    • Customized loan terms: Private lenders offer flexible repayment options, allowing you to tailor your loan to your unique financial situation.

    Cons of borrowing private student loans

    • No federal benefits: Private loans lack federal benefits such as income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs.
    • Credit and cosigner requirements: Private lenders may require a credit check and a cosigner, limiting accessibility for some borrowers.
    • Potentially higher interest rates: Interest rates on private loans can be higher, especially for borrowers without excellent credit or a cosigner.

    How TuitionHero can help you

    At TuitionHero, we get that college finances can be tricky. Especially when you're juggling classes and personal growth, it can all feel like a lot. That's why we're really into teaching you everything about finance, like private student loans.

    We're here to help you figure out how much you can borrow and what factors affect that, so you can make smart choices that match your goals.

    But wait, there's more! We're not just about private student loans. We've got your back with student loan refinancing, scholarships, FAFSA help, and credit card stuff too. With these tools, you can create a plan that fits your education needs without causing money stress or weighing down your future.

    Final thoughts

    Going to college is a big deal, and figuring out how to pay for it is a whole other challenge. Private student loans can help, but they can also be a headache. The important part is knowing how much you can borrow, thinking about the costs, and looking at all the ways you can get financial aid.

    And guess what? You've got a team with you! At TuitionHero, we're all about helping you make smart choices about your college finances. Take a look at what we've got to kickstart your own plan for paying for college.

    Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

    Yes, refinancing your private student loan is an option if the interest rate is pinching your pocket. Refinancing essentially means replacing your current loan with a new loan at a lower interest rate. At TuitionHero, we offer student loan refinancing services to help simplify your financial obligations and make repayment more manageable.

    A cosigner for a private student loan can be any adult who has a good credit score and a steady income history. This could be a parent, guardian, or other relative. Remember, the cosigner takes on the responsibility of repaying the loan if you can't, so it's important that they are aware of this commitment.

    Before you borrow from a private lender, we recommend making the most of federal student loans, grants, and scholarships. These sources often have favorable terms and lower interest rates. Also, you might want to check out our FAFSA assistance services. By completing the FAFSA, you can access many federal student aid options and take the first step toward funding your education.

    It really depends on your lender. Some private lenders might allow you to take additional loans or increase your existing loan amount, especially if your school's cost of attendance rises. Always talk to your lender about your options before deciding.



    Brian Flaherty avatar

    Brian is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he earned a B.A. in Economics. After graduation, Brian spent four years working working at a wealth management firm advising high-net-worth investors and institutions. During his time there, he passed the rigorous Series 65 exam and rose to a high-level strategy position.


    Rachel Lauren avatar

    Rachel Lauren is the co-founder and COO of Debbie, a tech startup that offers an app to help people pay off their credit card debt for good through rewards and behavioral psychology. She was previously a venture capital investor at BDMI, as well as an equity research analyst at Credit Suisse.

    At TuitionHero, we're not just passionate about our work - we take immense pride in it. Our dedicated team of writers diligently follows strict editorial standards, ensuring that every piece of content we publish is accurate, current, and highly valuable. We don't just strive for quality; we aim for excellence.

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