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How much should I borrow in student loans?

If you have to take out student loans, try to only borrow 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; however, this might not be possible for all students.

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.

If possible, try not to accumulate more total student debt than you expect to earn as a starting annual salary when you leave school. This might not be feasible for all students.

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 understand your financial aid offer and access the full cost of college. It will also help you estimate how much you’ll owe and determine if you can afford that debt.

More tips about student debt

You are not obligated to borrow the maximum loan amount that you’re offered. Depending on your circumstances and your work earnings and other income, try to borrow just enough to fully pay for your tuition, housing, and other expenses. Some students who don’t have access to other financial support may want to consider taking out the maximum loan amount offered; however, that might not be the right call for all borrowers.

Keep track of how much you are borrowing. As you continue to borrow additional student loans each year you are in school, keep track of your total student debt. Maintain your own copy of all documents and transaction entries. The definitive source for your current loan balances on 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.

Of course, you can 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. Learn more about the different ways to pay for college.