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How Long Will I Be Paying My Student Loans?

Advertiser Disclosure 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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  • Credit Experts

    Is it possible for you to compromise, and do a bit of both? It’s important to have an emergency fund, and that should be a high priority. You can read more here:
    10 Ways You Sabotage Your Finances

  • 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.

  • Geo. Sam Fiste

    They said if you pay extra to be sure and specify that it is meant to be applied to the principle! Where else could it go? if you just made a payment the interest has been paid to date and the extra would automatically go to the principle unless I have missed something about how the school loans are set up Sam Fiste

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Under federal regulations they can apply your extra payments toward future payments (in other words making future payments early) which is why you need to specific if you want the extra amount to go to principal.

  • NancyNurse

    Our Do-Nothing Congress created this crisis by allowing U.S. big business/corporations to continue their “Out-of-Control Outsourcing.” Subsequently, the job market dwindled to zero for any college graduate seeking employment after graduation. Of course “outsourcing” is continuing to destroy and bankrupt our economy today. Thank you Do-Nothing Congress!

    Today, the 85,000 plus H-1B Visas are adding to the unemployment problem in the U.S. Many U.S. corporations such as Microsoft, Google. Intel and many others are sponsoring primary H-1B Visa recipients to enter the U.S. and remain in the U.S. for six years instead of the previous restricted three year term. Note: These same businesses/corporations are paying H-1B Visa recipients a much lower wage than an American would receive doing the same job. There have been changes in the H-1B Visa recipient requirements in 2015. Previously, a H-1B Visa recipient was only allowed to remain in the U.S. for three years, not the six years permitted today. Now, the H-1B Visa recipient’s family can enter the U.S. and be hired by the company/business sponsoring the H-1B Visa recipient and remain for six years. Prior to 2015, the family of an H-1B Visa recipient could not be hired by the sponsoring company, and remain for six years.

    The following website: [no spaces between: my visa jobs] to connect to .com with Reports/2015-H1B-Visa-Sponsor will give you more information when you scroll down the webpages.

  • NancyNurse

    I think people should think twice about consolidation of their federal student loans. Read the fine print carefully when you’re considering consolidation because there are strings attached. For instance, if the student loan consolidator dies unexpectedly before payoff of loans, the federal government will actively go after the dead consolidator’s assets/estate such a savings/checking accounts, even a house. Be very careful to consider your other options without consolidation of federal student loans.

  • NancyNurse

    There are very few jobs, if any, in the market place for skilled, educated, talented Americans. With the out-of-control “outsourcing” by big business/corporations and the H-1B Visas being grabbed up by big business/corporations, tell me where are the good paying jobs today in the U.S.?

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  • 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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