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How much should I borrow in student loans?

If you have to take out student loans, you should borrow only what you need to cover the cost of your education. A good guideline is to limit your borrowing to what your future earnings will allow you to repay. As a rough estimate, try not to accumulate more total student debt than you expect to earn as a starting annual salary when you leave school.

When deciding how much you should borrow in student loans, it helps to start with a budget for not only the school year but for your total expected time in school. For each additional year that you are in school and take out student loans, your total debt will continue to increase.

You should borrow only what your future earnings will allow you to repay. As a rough estimate, try not to accumulate more total student debt than you expect to earn as a starting annual salary when you leave school.

Check out our web tool, Your financial path to graduation, to explore salaries for different programs and majors and what you might expect to earn after graduation. This tool will help you estimate how much you’ll owe and if you can afford that debt.

Don’t borrow the maximum just because you are able to obtain the loans. Borrow just enough to make sure your tuition, housing, and other expenses are fully paid after accounting for work earnings and any other sources of income.

Keep track of how much you are borrowing. As you continue to borrow additional student loans each year you are in school, you should keep track of your total student debt. The definitive source for your current loan balances of all of your federal student loans is the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website. Through this website you can access information about your federal student loans. Your college financial aid office or your lender will have more information about your private student loan balances.

TIP: Use the Your Financial Path to Graduation Tool to better understand your financial aid offer. Understanding your financial aid offer letter can help you access the full cost of college. Use the tool to create a plan to finish your program with debt you can afford.

Of course, you should consider many other factors specific to your individual circumstances when determining how much debt you can handle. This is a personal decision that only you can make. You may also want to consider discussing it with your family and other trusted advisors.

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