I’m going for a PhD, can I get federal student aid? | 03.31.10

Posted in Financial Aid, Graduate Loans By Evan Jacobs

Yes, and in fact… you can get a lot more per year than when you were an undergraduate. Did you know that the lifetime limit for borrowing federal student aid is $138,500 for most PhD candidates? If you are going for a medical PhD, it’s even higher at $224,000. That’s a stunning amount of low interest loans you can borrow with extremely generous repayment options available to make sure you don’t go bankrupt right out of graduate/medical school.

For instance, Income Based Repayment is offered to all lenders whose minimum payments on their federal loans would exceed 10% (under new legislation starting July 2010, 15% before) of their annual income. This is pretty much a guarantee if you are taking out a few hundred thousand dollars in loans to pay for your schooling from undergrad through a PhD and don’t get a six-figure salary the day after graduation. Thanks to the benefits of this program, if your income is less than $20,000 you actually don’t make any payments on your loan balances whatsoever until you net a better paying job. If you’d like to learn more, check out my blog on Income Based Repayment.

Getting back to the main point, virtually every federal student loan product that was available to you as an undergraduate has a graduate/doctoral counterpart. The only exception is the federal Pell Grant, which is limited to undergraduate students. In addition, the annual borrowing limits are higher than when you were going for your baccalaureate. To be exact, you can take out up to $20,500 per year in graduate Stafford loans, an increase of at least $8,000 over your previous undergraduate limits.


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