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How long does it take to pay off a student loan?

It depends on your repayment plan and loan terms. Ask your loan servicer what student loan repayment plans are available to you. Your options will be different depending on whether you have federal or private student loans.

Federal student loans

If you have federal student loans, you can choose from several repayment plans that may be available to you. If you do not pick a repayment plan, you loan servicer will automatically place you in a 10-year fixed repayment plan. To learn more about the following options, contact your loan servicer.

Repayment option Payment term (length of time) Things to remember

Standard repayment

Payments are the same each month. All federal borrowers are automatically enrolled in this plan.

120 months (10 years, or up to 30 years for consolidation loans)

All federal loan borrowers are eligible. This generally results in the highest monthly payment but the lowest cost over the life of the loan.

Graduated repayment

Graduated repayment is for borrowers who expect their incomes to rise over time.

Up to 10 years (up to 30 years for consolidation loans)

All federal loan borrowers are eligible. Payments start off low and generally increase every two years. You will pay more interest over time than under the standard repayment plan.

Extended repayment

Extended repayment is available to borrowers with more than $30,000 in federal student loans.

Up to 25 years

If you extend the term of your loan, you will pay substantially more interest over time, but your payments will be significantly smaller.

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

If you repay your loan under an income-driven repayment plan, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness after 20 or 25 years of qualifying payments. Under the SAVE plan, you can be eligible for loan forgiveness after 10 years of qualifying payments, if you borrowed $12,000 or less. If you borrowed more than $12,000, then your repayment term will rise by one year for every additional $1,000 you owe. The maximum repayment term for borrowers with only undergraduate loans is 20 years and 25 years for any borrowers with graduate school loans.

Income-driven repayment plans cap your monthly payments at a certain percentage of your discretionary income. Your monthly payment may change as your income or family size changes. You must submit paperwork each year to “recertify” your income and family size to stay enrolled in your income-driven repayment plan.

Learn more about federal student loan payment plans at the Department of Education’s website . You can also learn more about federal student loan forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge here .

Private student loans

Unlike for federal student loans, there is no standard repayment schedule for private student loans. Generally speaking, many private student loans give you 120 months (10 years) to repay. However, some private student loan terms have you repay over 25 years. Check the terms and conditions of your loan or contact your servicer for more details on how long it will take you to repay your private student loans.

You may have options to lower your monthly payment. Many private student loan lenders have alternative payment programs for borrowers who might not be able to make a full payment. These plans may include:

  • Graduated repayment: a plan where your payments start out lower and gradually increase over time.
  • Extended repayment: a plan where you pay less each month but extend the life of your loan over a longer period of time.

Asking for help when you run into trouble can keep you from falling further behind. Contact your student loan servicer and ask what options are available to you. Keep good records of communications and transactions associated with your loans.