Understanding Financial Aid Limits

The federal government and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts limit the amount of financial aid a student is eligible to receive. These limitations can be confusing, but it is very important that students keep this in mind as they navigate through their degree programs.

Pell Grant

Students are limited to 12 full-time semesters (or the equivalent) of Pell Grant usage. This translates to approximately 6 years, or 600%, at full-time status. For Pell Grant purposes, full-time status is calculated at 12 credits or more. Once a student reaches the Pell Grant lifetime eligibility limit, he or she will no longer be able to receive Pell Grant funds to support their education.

If you are a full-time student (12 credits or more) each academic year you receive a Pell is considered 100% of Pell usage.

If you are a part-time student (11 credits or less) the number of credits you enroll in each semester determines your percentage of Pell Grant usage for that academic year.

NOTE: Pell Grant eligibility is based on financial need as determined by filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Eligibility for one academic year does not guarantee eligibility for the next academic year.

How do I know how much of my 600% I have used?
The amount of Pell Grant you may use is referred to as your Lifetime Eligibility Use (LEU). Your LEU includes Pell Grant funds you have received at all colleges and universities you have attended, not just at Westfield State University. You can log on to www.nslds.ed.gov (National Student Loan Data System) using your FAFSA PIN and view your LEU. The LEU will be found on the Financial Aid Review page.

I did not realize that I was near the lifetime limit for Pell Grant funds. What can I do now?

  • Pursue federal and/or private student loans
  • Work with an academic advisor to map out all of the courses you need to graduate and develop a plan to finish your degree.
  • Search and apply for outside scholarships.
Federal Direct Loans

Federal Direct Loans are limited by the federal government in both dollar amount and in the duration that a student may remain eligible. Dollar amounts are limited both by the year (Annual Limits) and in lifetime amounts (Aggregate Limits).

Annual Subsidized Limits

  • 1st year Undergraduates = $3,500
  • 2nd year Undergraduates = $4,500
  • Remaining Undergraduates = $5,500

Annual Unsubsidized Limits

  • Dependent undergraduates whose parents can borrow PLUS = $2,000
  • Independent undergraduates and 1st and 2nd-year dependent undergraduates whose parents cannot borrow PLUS = $6,000
  • Remaining independent undergraduates and dependent undergraduates whose parents cannot borrow PLUS = $7,000
  • Graduate/professional students = up to $20,500 or Cost of Attendance, whichever is less

Aggregate Direct Loan Limits

  • Undergraduate students
    • Dependent students = $31,000 (up to $23,000 may be subsidized)
    • Independent students and dependent students whose parents cannot borrow PLUS = $57,500 (up to $23,000 may be subsidized)
  • Graduate students
    • Subsidized = $65,000 (includes undergraduate borrowing)*
    • Unsubsidized = $138,500 (no more than $65,000 may be subsidized)

*Graduate students are not eligible for subsidized loans. The subsidized limits referenced here may be from undergraduate work or graduate loans disbursed as subsidized prior to the change to unsubsidized-only for graduate students.

Time Limitations on Direct Subsidized Loan Eligibility for First-Time Borrowers on or after July 1, 2013
For those borrowers who are taking Direct Subsidized Loan for the first time on or after July 1, 2013, the federal government limits the maximum period of time that you can receive Direct Subsidized Loans. In general, you may not receive Direct Subsidized Loans for more than 150% of the published length of any program of study. In its simplest form, the maximum duration that a student may receive subsidized loan funds for a four-year bachelor's degree program is six years. 

A dependent undergraduate student whose parents are able to borrow PLUS, who had taken his or her maximum federal loan eligibility for four years, will run out of eligibility under the Aggregate Loan Limits before this six-year period is up. However, if a student chooses to reduce the annual loan amounts from the standard amounts over the course of his or her program, that student could possibly run out of time under the 150% Rule before reaching aggregate limits. That student may still be able to borrow Unsubsidized Direct Loan funds.

Mass Grant

The State of Massachusetts limits eligibility for Mass Grant to eight semesters for all recipients.