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    How Long Does it Take to Pay off Student Loans?

    By Kayla Korzekwinski

    Kayla Korzekwinski is a Scholarships360 content writer. She earned her BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied Advertising/PR, Rhetorical Communication, and Anthropology. Kayla has worked on communications for non-profits and student organizations. She loves to write and come up with new ways to express ideas.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: May 13th, 2024
    How Long Does it Take to Pay off Student Loans?

    When the time comes to borrow or repay loans, students may wonder: how long does it take to pay off student loans? How long it takes to pay off student loans varies based on your loan type, balance, and repayment plan. Repayment periods can last from 10 – 30 years. This may sound intimidating, but there are many ways you can adjust your repayment period. Keep reading to learn more about how long it takes to pay off loans.

    Related: Student loan consolidation vs refinancing

    Standard repayment plan

    10-year repayment period 

    Federal direct and Family Federal Education (FFEL) loan borrowers are placed on the standard repayment plan. This plan has a 10-year repayment period and payments are at least $50 per month. The standard repayment plan is ideal for paying off loans quickly while keeping interest low. If you stick to this plan, you will save money on interest over time. 

    10 to 30 year repayment period

    Direct consolidation loans can also be paid through the standard repayment plan. Direct consolidation loans combine all federal loans into one loan. This makes the loan balance larger and, therefore, the repayment period longer. Direct consolidation loans can take 10 – 30 years to repay.

    The standard plan doesn’t work for everyone. According to EducationData.org, it takes the average graduate 20 years to pay off their debt. There are other plans that allow students to extend their repayment period if needed.

    Also see: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

    Graduated and extended repayment plans

    The government offers graduated and extended repayment plans for federal loans.

    10-year graduated repayment period 

    The graduated repayment plan maintains the 10-year repayment period, but it makes monthly payments more manageable. Payments start low and increase every two years. This is a good plan if your income is low now, but you expect it to grow over time.

    25-year extended repayment plan 

    The extended repayment plan has a 25-year repayment period. Students have the option to choose between fixed or graduated payments on this plan. The longer repayment period keeps monthly payments low, but you’ll end up paying more in interest over time. 

    Income-driven repayment plans

    If you need your payments to stay low relative to your income, an income-driven repayment plan could be right for you. The government offers four income-driven repayment plans. Each is different in its own way, but they all will extend your repayment period to 20 or 25 years.

    Like the extended repayment plan, this means you’ll pay more in interest. 

    Private student loans

    The previously mentioned repayment plans are offered by the government on federal loans only. 

    Private lenders have their own repayment period and repayment plans. Most lenders offer a 10-year repayment period similar to the government. Others offer a 25-year repayment plan. With private loans, the repayment period will vary based on your indebtedness and the lender’s terms.

    Make sure that you read up on the terms of your private loans to find out how long you’ll be paying them off. 

    Also see: How much student loan debt is too much?

    Tips for repaying loans quickly

    Since longer repayment periods mean more interest, you should try to pay off your loans as quickly as you can. 

    Pay more each month

    The best way to repay your debt quickly is to make more than the minimum payment every month. This will keep interest down over the course of repayment, which will save you time and money. Adding a bit more to each payment is a great way to pay off your debt faster.

    Pay bi-weekly

    Another strategy for repaying loans faster is to pay bi-weekly instead of monthly. Calculate your bi-weekly payment by cutting your monthly payment in half. Pay that amount every two weeks. You’ll pay the same amount every month, but you’ll have made one extra payment by the end of the year.

    Stick to your payment plan!

    Lastly, make and maintain a budget. Keeping payments consistent is important to avoid entering default or having to extend your repayment period using deferment or forbearance. 

    For more information about paying off student loans, consult our guide entitled: “how to pay off student loans.” If you want to pay off your loans early, our “paying off student loans early” article might come in handy.

    Remember to look to the future while repaying your student loans, and make your plan accordingly. You won’t be in debt forever, and it will feel great when you’ve made your final payment!

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    Frequently asked questions about how long it takes to pay off student loans

    Why is it hard to pay off student loans?

    Usually, it is hard to pay off student loans due to one major thing: loan interest. Many borrowers are not aware of how interest works on loans. Capitalization occurs when accrued interest is added to the principal loan balance, making the loans hard to pay off. Do your best to educate yourself before signing off on loans of any kind!

    What happens if I never pay my student loans?

    It’s not a good idea to not pay your loans at all. You will most likely damage your credit score and experience wage garnishment. If you are in a financial bind, find a solution to avoid the above scenario.

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