Student loan debt is a major financial burden for millions of Americans. In 2023, the total outstanding student loan debt in the United States exceeded $1.6 trillion. The average student loan borrower owes over $37,000.
Student loan payments can be a significant financial strain, especially for recent graduates who are just starting their careers. However, there are a number of things that borrowers can do to make their payments more affordable and manage their debt more effectively.
When do student loan payments start?
Student loan payments typically start 6 months after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. However, if you have a Direct Subsidized Loan or a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, you have a 6-month grace period before you must begin making payments. You'll have a 9-month grace period if you've got a Perkins Loan.
If you have a PLUS Loan, payments begin after the loan is fully disbursed (paid out).
How much will my student loan payments be?
The amount of your student loan payments will depend on the following factors:
- The total amount of your student loan debt
- The interest rate on your loans
- The repayment plan you choose
You can use a student loan calculator to estimate your monthly payments.
What are the different types of student loan repayment plans?
There are a number of different student loan repayment plans available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The most common repayment plans include:
- Standard Repayment Plan: This is the default repayment plan for most federal student loans. Under the standard repayment plan, you will make equal monthly payments over a period of 10 years.
- Graduated Repayment Plan: This plan starts with lower monthly payments and gradually increases the payments over time.
- Extended Repayment Plan: This plan extends the repayment period to 25 years.
- Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plans: IDR plans cap your monthly student loan payments at a percentage of your discretionary income. After 20 or 25 years of making payments under an IDR plan, the remaining balance of your loans may be forgiven.
How to choose the right student loan repayment plan
The best student loan repayment plan for you will depend on your individual financial situation and goals. If you are unsure which plan to choose, you should contact your loan servicer for assistance.
Tips for making student loan payments
Here are some tips for making student loan payments:
- Create a budget and include a line item for student loan payments. This will help you track your spending and make sure that you are making enough money to cover your payments.
- Consider enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan. IDR plans can make your payments more affordable if you have low income.
- Make extra payments to reduce your principal balance and save on interest. If you have extra money, you can make extra payments on your student loans to reduce your debt faster.
- Explore student loan forgiveness programs. There are a number of student loan forgiveness programs available, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness. See if you qualify for any of these programs.
If you are having trouble making your student loan payments, you should contact your loan servicer immediately. There are a number of options available to help you, such as forbearance, deferment, and modification.
Student loan debt can be a major financial burden, but there are a number of things that borrowers can do to make their payments more affordable and manage their debt more effectively. By understanding the different types of repayment plans and options available, borrowers can choose the best solution for their individual financial situation and goals.