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From the Experts at

How Long Will I Be Paying My Student Loans?

by Lucy Lazarony

How Long Will I Be Paying My Student Loans?

Just how long you will be paying off your student loans depends on the payment plan that you choose.

The standard repayment plan for federal student loans is 10 years.

And you also are free to pay ahead on federal student loans such as Direct Loans and Stafford Loans without penalty.

There is also a 10-year standard repayment plan available when you consolidate any of your federal loans into a direct consolidation loan. You also can extend the repayment period for a direct consolidation loan up to 30 years.

By opting for the standard 10-year repayment plan, you are giving yourself the highest monthly payment, while paying off your debt with the least amount of interest. Using a standard repayment plan is the fast track for paying down your debt. And if you can afford it, it’s certainly a great way to go. Paying ahead on your debt when you have extra cash will shorten your repayment time even further (make sure that when you pay extra, you specify that it is meant to be applied to the principal).

Other Repayment Options

Several repayment plans that take into consideration a borrower’s income are also available. These plans include graduated plans, income-based plans, income-contingent plans, income-sensitive plans and pay as you earn plans.

Under the graduated plan, your monthly payments begin low and increase every two years and your repayment plan lasts up to 10 years.

With the income-based repayment plan, your monthly payment amount may increase or decrease each year based on your income and family size, and your payments are made over a period of 25 years. To qualify for an income-based repayment plan, you must show a partial financial hardship.

With the pay as you earn plan, your monthly payments are also based on income and family size, and you pay off your student loans over a period of 20 years. According to, this plan usually gives borrowers the lowest monthly payment amount of any repayment plan based on income.

If you’d like a repayment plan that gives you a break based on your income on your Direct Loans, another plan to look at is an income-contingent plan. This plan allows you to make payments for up to 25 years.

The income-sensitive repayment plan is available to low-income borrowers who have Federal Family Education Loans to repay.  Direct Loans cannot be repaid through this payment plan, which lasts for up to 10 years.

Whichever plan you choose, it’s important to make sure you continue to make your student loan payments on time and as agreed. Your payment history is the most important factor in your credit scores. If you want to see how your student loans are affecting your credit, you can check your credit scores for free on You’ll also see an overview of what factors are influencing your scores, along with a personalized plan to improve your scores.

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  • Idaho_Dave

    The answer is simple–you will be paying until Americans have the guts to remove those politicians who fail to support student loan reform. Virtually every other country assists their higher education students EXCEPT the US–our college money went to corporations and billionaires.

  • Barb

    Pay off the unsubsidized if you possibly can. It’s like owing a loan shark. The subsidized is actually more flexible and kinder to you in the long run.

    • mister g

      Barb, I agree with”owing a loan shark”..I tried paying salliemae extra money towards principal on unsubsidized loan and they applied it towards future interest instead of principal. It took several phone calls and many hours to stop them. A few years later, I decided to payoff unsubsidized loan of $9,000, I mailed them a check with a note specifically stating that it be applied to unsubsidized loan only, salliemae applied it towards my subsidized loan only. I had to contact the department of education OMBUDSMAN to make salliemae do the right thing.
      The system is rigged.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        The CFPB is asking consumers to report student loan servicing issues.

  • Joe Kazan

    I think make a right plan of a student loan is more important than how it takes time to repay. You are right that payment history is the most important factor in credit score. There are many plans for student loan repay. You should take the best for you.

  • Jojo

    Who the heck cares about a stupid credit score anyway? I’m 54 years old and my credit is beyond being retrievable, and I’m unemployed as well. I haven’t filed taxes for over three years now, knowing that a stupid dumb student loan would take everything I got. I said To Hell with them! I’m not going to file at all! And I haven’t! I sure could use that Tax Return. If I apply for the IBR how long will it take before I can apply for my tax return(s)? The only other way out is to MARRY RICH, and being that I’m still very attractive, it could be my only possibility! Or is it?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Jojo –

      I understand your frustration and sympathize with it. but you’re really not that old and failing to pay taxes and/or letting a loan languish in default for years can create other problems. I know it’s no doubt overwhelming when you are not working, but I’d encourage you to at least look into IBR. You may be able to apply using Alternative Income Documentation. (I am not positive on that process but it’s worth looking into.) You’ll find more information at

  • pappy

    I think the definition of government pyramid scheme is appropriate for the problem as they pass the debt around to various collectors and keep it running all the way to Washington D.C.

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  • Meet Our Expert

    lucy_lazarony GravatarLucy Lazarony is a freelance personal finance writer. Her articles have been featured on Bankrate, MoneyRates, MSN Money, and The National Endowment for Financial Education. Prior to freelancing, she worked as a staff writer for Bankrate for seven years. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida and spent a summer as an international intern at Richmond, The American International University in London. She lives in South Florida.
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