Federal Loan Maximums

Loans are a common way for students to finance their education. Undergraduate Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loan maximums adjust as a student progresses toward their degree and are different depending on the student's dependency status. 

Subsidized v. Unsubsidized

Eligibility is split between two versions of the same student loan. The title denotes if the government is subsidizing (paying) the interest on students' behalf while they are enrolled.

Unsubsidized loans are therefore interest-bearing while the student is enrolled. The student can elect to make interest-only payments while in school or allow the interest to capitalize onto the principal (resulting in being charged interest-on-interest when in repayment). Arrangements for paying interest only while enrolled can be made with your loan servicer.

Annual Loan Amounts

The chart below illustrates current maximum annual eligibility that is based on the student's current class level. Figures are maximum award amounts, and fees are taken out prior to disbursement on loan amount borrowed.

Maximum awards may also be limited by the budgeted cost of education and other aid awarded the student.

Dependent Students
(except in cases of Parent PLUS denial)
Base Award1 Additional
Combined Maximum
Freshman (up to 30 semester hours)
$3,500 $2,000 $5,500
Sophomore (30-59 semester hours)2
$4,500 $2,000 $6,500
Junior or Senior (60+ semester hours)
$5,500 $2,000 $7,500
Independent  Students
(& Dependent Students with a Parent PLUS denial)
Base Award1 Additional
Unsub Eligibility
Combined Maximum
Freshman (up to 30 semester hours)
$3,500 $6,000 $9,500
Sophomore (30-59 semester hours)2
$4,500 $6,000 $10,500
Junior or Senior (60+ semester hours)
$5,500 $7,000 $12,500
Graduate Student (as classified by academic program as long as 72 semester hours as an undergraduate are completed) $8,5003 $12,000 $20,5004
1 Subsidized (interest-free for the student while in school) loan, unsubsidized (interest-bearing) loan, or a combination of both based on eligibility determined by financial need.
2 Students in associate degree programs cannot be classified higher than sophomore.
3 Beginning July 1, 2012, graduate and professional students will no longer be eligible for in-school subsidy; the maximum $20,500 in borrowing will be made available to students in unsubsidized (interest-bearing while in school) loans based on eligibility.
4 Pharmacy students are eligible for an annual maximum of $33,000 if 9 months and $37,167 if 12 months.


Loan funding is also influenced by your attendance. Students who attend year-round (particularly co-op students) should be aware of limited summer options and the possible need to reserve some loan funds for summer.

Reviewing Eligibility & Increasing the Loan

Loan awards are made using the best information on file at the time of awarding to project your appropriate class level and loan amount.

Once you have accepted any portion of your loan, your financial aid award offered amount will then reflect your accepted amount. Students who decline a portion of their loan may later ask to have their loan increased/reinstated if they remain eligible for the loan.

Undergraduate students who review their financial aid award and find their Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loan combined amount is less than the "Current Combined Maximum" on the chart or who change class level mid-year may be eligible for additional funding. An exception would be for students whose total aid package has reached the budgeted cost of education.

Students may be able to increase their loans within the above described limits if they did not accept their full annual amount or they increase class level mid-year.  Consult One Stop Student Services (onestop@uc.edu; 513-556-1000; 2nd Floor University Pavilion) to have eligibility evaluated.

Loan increases, when a student is deemed eligible, will appear as part of the award package within 5 business days. Please do not make multiple requests within a week's timeframe.

Aggregate Loan Limits

In addition to the above annual limits, students are limited in what they can borrow over their educational lifetime. The following chart details the federal limits to Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans.

Aggregate Limit
Aggregate Limit
Aggregate Limit
Dependent Undergraduate Student
Independent Undergraduate Student (or Dependent Students with a current Parent PLUS denial)
Graduate Student
1 Or the combined aggregate limit based on Subsidized eligibility determined by financial need.
2 Pharmacy aggregate limit is $224,000.

Eligibility in these loan programs is based on official university classification and ceases when limits are met even if a student has not completed their academic program. Of particular concern are students who attend part-time but take out their full, annual loan eligibility. They can more easily borrow their lifetime limit in loans prior to completing their degree.

Limits are also cumulative and do not begin anew with a new degree program.

Students can check on their borrowing history by reviewing information contained within their Student Aid Report sent to you when you complete the FAFSA each year or by viewing your loan account information at the National Student Loan Data System.

150% Subsidized Loan Time Limit

On July 1, 2013, a new measure on loan limitations went into effect. As a result, all new student loan borrowers – students who had never borrowed previously or who had paid off all previous student loan debt – are subject to an additional 150% subsidized loan time limit.

Schools are now required to report to the U.S. Department of Education information regarding the length of a student's academic program in addition to the student's loan borrowing. Once a student has borrowed subsidized loans for the equivalent of 150% of the length of the undergraduate program (i.e., 3 years for a 2-year degree, 6 years for a 4-year degree), the student will no longer be eligible for subsidized loans. The appropriate annual limit is still the maximum eligibility if the aggregate limit has not been reached. However, any loans assumed will then be unsubsidized (interest-bearing while attending school) regardless of financial need eligibility.

Additionally, the continuing student who has met the 150% loan time limit will have any previously borrowed subsidized loans convert to being unsubsidized at that point, even if the student is not borrowing additional loans.

Any and all periods of enrollment will count against the 150% time limit.

More information on this new loan provision is available in the updated version of online loan counseling.

It is key for all students (but particularly those undergraduate students borrowing for the first time after July 1, 2013) to be planful in their approach to graduation. Efficient scheduling to complete your degree in a timely manner can help you reduce overall college costs, total loan debt, and the way in which interest is calculated on loans borrowed.

student on cell phone

Consider utilizing only part of your loan eligibility. By not fully borrowing, you save on your college debt.

Students going part-time or on co-op should strongly consider reducing reliance on loans with lower tuition costs so as not to use up their maximum aggregate amounts as quickly. Just because it is offered, does not mean you need to borrow it.

As well, think about reserving untapped loans as a rainy day fund. As long as you are continually enrolled fall-spring, you can request an increase at any time during the academic year should a financial emergency arise.

Students planning to attend summer should be aware of year-round loan disbursement rules.