As tuition rates at many colleges continues to rise, the limits that students may borrow each year has stayed the same.
Dependent undergraduates may borrow up to $2,625 their freshman year, $3,500 their sophomore year and $5,500 for each remaining year in Stafford Loans.
Students classified as independent from parents, may qualify for additional unsubsidized loans. Dependent students may also receive unsubsidized loans if parents do not qualify for a PLUS loan.
Unsubsidized loans can be a double edged sword -- they allow the student to pay for college, but borrowers do not receive the interest free benefit of subsidized loans.
There is also cumulative limit of $23,000 for an undergraduate education.
The limits on amounts students can borrow though federal loans hasn't increased since 1992. In that time tuition rates have more than doubled.
According to finaid.org, tuition rates increase at about twice the general inflation rate. On average, tuition tends to increase about 8% per year. In addition, general inflation has caused prices for student housing, meals and other necessary expenses to increase.
For the school year 2005-2006 many colleges dramatically raised tuition rates. An example of such tuition hikes is the University of Colorado where rates rates have been raised for all of the system's campuses. Tuition at CU-Boulder will go up by 27.8 percent, from $3,480 to $4,446. Other CU campuses will see a similar increase.
The national average tuition for public universities is $4,694 per year for in state residents. For freshmen and sophomore students, the current student loan limit does not even cover tuition costs.
Because of the restrictions with federal student loan limits, students and parents will need to become more diligent in seeking out alternative sources of college funding.
There are many scholarships available nationwide that students can apply for. One of the easiest ways to apply is through the FastWeb online database. There are also many books available that list scholarships that students can apply for.
Part time and summer student employment also becomes more important when education costs rise.
Until the federal government reconsiders raising the student loan limits, students will become increasingly dependent upon scholarships, savings and employment. The lesson for families with children not yet in college is simple -- start saving early.
Michael Carter is a contributor at College Financial Aid Guide, an informational resource for educational funding, scholarships and student loans.