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How Much Do I Need to Borrow?

Borrowing Tips

Financial aid professionals are often asked the question, "How much do I need to borrow"?

While financial aid staff can tell you the maximum amount that you are allowed to borrow under federal financial aid regulations, the actual amount that you need to borrow should be determined by you and your family.

When you receive your financial aid award notice, you will notice an area referred to as "Estimated Cost of Attendance"(COA). Click here for more detail about the Cost of Attendance.

The following will aid you in determining your actual cost of attendance.


The Cost of Attendance tuition figure is based upon the average number of credit hours taken by a student during the period of time covered in your award notice. Typically the award notice is for the academic year or Fall and Spring semesters. If you are entering Ferris State in the Spring or Summer semesters, your award notice will reflect that single semester only.

For most undergraduate programs, the average student takes between 14-15 credit hours per semester. The estimated COA will reflect that average tuition cost. If you know that you will be taking more or fewer than the number of credit hours averaged in your COA, deduct or add tuition expense accordingly. New students will register for their classes during Orientation and will be able to calculate their actual tuition costs at that time.

Transportation and Personal Expenses

The COA will provide you with personal cost estimates based upon the average student's expenses. There are items included in these estimates such as personal expenses and transportation costs that you will not be billed by the University. For most students, these estimates total nearly $2000 per year.

If you are a freshman entering college for the first time, chances are that either your parents have been using their household funds to cover your transportation and personal expenses; or you have worked part-time to cover these expenses yourself.

If you and your parents continue to cover these expenses while you are in college, you may be able to reduce the amount that you need to borrow by nearly $8000 over a four-year period. To put this into perspective, reducing your total loan debt from $33,000 to $25,000 will reduce your monthly loans payments by $92 per month over a standard 10 year repayment period.


Textbooks are expensive. Students can save money by purchasing used textbooks, renting books, and/or by re-selling their books at the end of the semester.

Room and Board Expenses

The COA for room and board expense is an average reported by students living in a variety of situations on and off campus.

If you live in the residence halls on campus, opting for a private room can add nearly $2000 per year to your total charges (note - private room charges are not accounted for in the standard Cost of Attendance). Over a four-year period, borrowing money to cover a private room can add nearly $8000 to your loan debt.

Other Resources

When looking at how much to borrow, families are encouraged to look for other sources of funding before taking out loans.

Savings - While we recognize the importance of establishing an emergency fund, families are encouraged to look carefully at these sources before borrowing. For example, a student who receives cash gifts for high school graduation would be encouraged to use those funds to pay toward their expenses before borrowing money.

How Much Do You Need To Borrow?

Using the tips and guidelines above along with the estimated cost of attendance on your financial aid award notice. Look for areas where you can shave off expenses. Once you have a "bottom line" cost figure, look at the financial aid you have been offered. Deduct the total of your financial aid ** from your estimated expenses. The difference is what you will need to cover. If you do not have any other financial resources to cover those expenses, this is the amount you need to borrow.

**Please note that Work Study awards should be deducted from the total financial aid. Work Study does not apply to a student's billing account. If a student works on campus, they will receive a paycheck every two weeks for the number of hours they have worked.