Financial aid sources not only limit the amount a student can receive each year, but also the total amount a student can borrow over his or her lifetime. Lifetime limits will allow the average student to have more financial aid to complete the education program until a PhD is obtained. However, students who complete multiple degrees at some level may eventually run out of financial aid.
Students can only receive Pell Grants for undergraduate studies or, in exceptional circumstances, to complete compulsory post-baccalaureate subjects in order to be granted a teaching certificate. The federal government limits Pell Grants to 18 full-time semesters. This will have plenty of time for students to complete their college subjects. With the Pell Grant maxing out annually at $5,550 per year at the time of publication, this figure equates to $2,775 per semester. As a result, a student can receive up to $49,950 in Pell Grant over 18 semesters. This amount could increase if the government increases the Maximum Pell Grant.
Students can borrow no more than $138,500 through the federal government’s Stafford loan program. Of this amount, students must not have more than $65,500 in subsidized Stafford loans. In addition to the lifetime limit, the federal government also limits the amount students can borrow on a Stafford loan to attend college. Dependent non-graduates can borrow up to $31,000, of which $23,000 can be subsidized. Independent students and students whose parents cannot borrow PLUS can borrow a total of $57,500 to attend college.
Some students with high financial needs are eligible for Perkins loans, which are funded by the federal government and disbursed by the school. A student cannot receive more than $60,000 in total Perkins loan amounts over his or her lifetime. Of this, only $27,500 can go to college.
Other types of financial assistance may have their own time limits, depending on the issuer. For example, a school can only provide institutional grants to students during their first four years of college because most of the academically motivated students are completed at the time. State financial aid agencies can also set limits on how much students can receive in grants or loans, but these limits vary from state to state. Private lenders may be wary of granting more student loans to people already with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.