With our Standard Repayment Plan, the plan you’ll enter if you don’t take any action, you’ll have your loans paid off in 10 years. If you can’t afford that amount or if you need or want lower payments because you haven’t found a job, aren’t making much money, or want to free up room in your budget for other expenses and goals, you should apply for an income-driven repayment plan. Your monthly payments will likely be lower than they would on the standard plan—in fact they could be as low as $0 per month—but you’ll likely be paying more and for a longer period of time. If you choose an income-driven plan, you must provide documentation of your income to your loan servicer each year (even if your income hasn’t changed) so that your payment can be recalculated. To compare the different repayment options based on your loan debt, family size, and income, use our repayment calculator.
“Some borrowers may be better off targeting the highest-rate loan for quicker repayment,” said Kantrowitz. “You can’t do that after consolidating. If the interest rate on the refi will be higher than most of the interest rates on the refinanced loans, except for one or two, you may save money by accelerating repayment of the highest-rate loans instead of refinancing.”
Variable interest rates are based on either the Prime Index or the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) Index and will change periodically if the index changes. Similarly, your monthly payment will increase or decrease as the interest rate changes. Variable interest rates tend to start lower than fixed interest rates, but may increase over the life of the loan.

Many students ignore their loans until after graduation, but it’s wise to start paying them off while you’re in school. Get a part-time job while you’re in college and dedicate most or all of the earnings to your student loans. If you can pay off $800 a month while you’re in school, then you’ll have paid off $30,000 or more by the time you graduated. For some people, that’s their entire amount owed!


Next, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report, which outlines your expected family contribution. The form will automatically be forwarded to the schools listed on your application. The financial aid offices of those institutions will send you a financial aid award letter outlining the aid package they will offer. It’s your job to compare those offers and choose the school that best fits your future goals and family budget.

You can pay off the principal early by making pre-payments while studying. Call your loan servicer to make sure your payments are applied to the principal and not the interest. You can make payments on federal loans while in school, but some private loans will charge you a fee for doing so. Be sure to find out which loans you can pay off without fees.
Private loans are typically made through private banks, credit unions, state agencies, or financial institutions. They may have rates and terms that are different from federal loans. If you’re considering applying for a private loan, be sure that you’ve taken advantage of all federal aid opportunities first. There are two types of private education loans:

Variable Rates: Starting variable rates range from 3.65% to 11.25% APR (with autopay), and will never exceed 13.95% (sometimes lower in certain states as required by law). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin of between 1.58% and 9.98%. The current one-month LIBOR rate is 2.27%. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Zero fees, period.
As you can see, federal student loans have many benefits, including fixed interest rates and student loan forgiveness programs. Because of those benefits, it often makes sense to prioritize paying off private student loans first if you have multiple student loans. You’ll need to know you know how much you owe and make a personalized plan for your situation.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.45% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.89% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of November 21, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
There are no application, origination, or late fees from Discover. In fact, there are no fees at all. Discover doesn’t even charge late fees. That’s a unique and possibly valuable feature for some borrowers. In addition, Discover offers a 1.0% cash reward on each new student loan for borrowers with a 3.0 or better GPA. That’s a great good grades discount and another unique feature that makes Discover a good option for student loans.
For example, you could apply part of your yearly bonus from work or a tax refund to your debt, said Brian Walsh, a certified financial planner and financial planning manager at SoFi. Or you could participate in a challenge like dry January or a no-spend month to come up with the extra cash. It might feel painful to put something fun like a cash windfall toward your student loan debt, but the results can be dramatic.

Lowest rates shown include the auto debit discount: Fixed 4.74% - 11.35% APR and Variable 2.75% - 10.22% APR. Interest rates for Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options are higher than interest rates for the Interest Repayment Option. You're charged interest starting at disbursement, while in school, during your separation/grace period, and until the loan is paid in full. The repayment option that is selected will apply during the in-school and separation/grace periods. When you enter principal and interest repayment, Unpaid Interest will be added to your loan's Current Principal. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan. Advertised variable rates reflect the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Advertised APRs are valid as of 11/25/2019 and assume a $10,000 loan to a freshman with no other Sallie Mae loans. Additional information regarding the auto debit discount: Borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction benefit. This benefit applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month and may be suspended during periods of forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan. Loan amounts: $1000 up to 100% of the school certified expenses: Loan amount cannot exceed the cost of attendance less financial aid received as certified by the school. Sallie Mae reserves the right to approve a lower loan amount than the school-certified amount. Repayment term of 5 to 15 years: This repayment example is based on a typical Smart Option Student Loan made to a freshman borrower who chooses a fixed rate and the Fixed Repayment Option for a $10,000 loan, with two disbursements, and a 8.44% fixed APR. It works out to 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $156.04 and one payment of $118.97, for a Total Loan Cost of $19,962.73.


Elaine Rubin is the Senior Contributor and Communications Specialist at Edvisors. Ms. Rubin is responsible for maintaining content, responding to press and media inquiries, as well as serving as the lead contributor for the Edvisors blog and the Ask the Edvisor column. Ms. Rubin volunteers in the local Las Vegas community to help students and families understand the importance of education for success. Ms. Rubin has worked in higher education finance for more than 10 years, including seven years with the U.S. Department of Education's office of Federal Student Aid, and provides information and advice from both personal and professional experiences. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a concentration in Public Policy and Administration from Northeastern University.
You might be eligible for tax credits if you’re currently paying tuition, including while you’re in grad school. While there aren’t any tax credits related to simply paying student loans, it’s worth checking out if you’re currently in college or thinking about going back to school soon. See our post on student loan tax credits for more information.
There are some circumstances that may result in your no longer having to repay your federal student loan. For instance, some or all of your loan could be forgiven in exchange for your performing certain types of service such as teaching or public service. Or the obligation to make further payments on your loan might be discharged based on specific factors such as your school closing or your becoming totally and permanently disabled. Take a look at all the possibilities: Find out what circumstances qualify your loans for forgiveness, cancellation, or discharge.

Cosigner Release: If you are approved for a student loan with a cosigner, some lenders will allow you to release the cosigner from your loan (making them no longer responsible for repayment) after you make a certain number of on-time monthly payments. If this is something that is important for you, be sure to check if the lenders you are considering offer it and how long it takes.
Loan tip#9: Since the Department of Education sets virtually no student loan borrowing standards to vet would-be borrowers, and outstanding student debt is now reported to be 1.3 trillion dollars, many bad-actors in the business of education have been for years falling over themselves attempting to gain access to this seemingly endless taxpayer funded pot of gold. Isn’t it past time that the DoED became more seriously proactive in protecting the hoards of naive student borrowers on the front-end before they fall victim to many post secondary schools that spend more on marketing than insuring that retention and graduation rates along with educational standards do not perpetuate the moral hazard of not having to perform to be enriched. The quid pro quo for schools that derive 80-90% of their revenue from these loans should not be measured arbitrarily in ever changing arcane regulations but in the firm expectation that graduation rates of 3% or even 30% (over a six year allowable tabulation period) are clearly unacceptable. Without this firm line in the sand drawn, there is no impetus for these businesses to effect positive change. Good, bad or indifferent, they know they will get a payday. Until strictly quantifiable measures are undertaken, the department’s purported advocacy for for the underserved student will continue to be gamed by some ingenuous students and many avarice colleges alike.
One final thought concerning the use of private student loans: get a strong understanding of the interest rates as well as the loan’s other terms and conditions. Most lenders offer you a choice between a variable or fixed APR (annual percentage rate), so be sure to read up on the differences between the two interest rate options. Keep in mind that the rates advertised may not necessarily be the rates you qualify for based on your creditworthiness — or that of a qualifying cosigner.

Publisher Disclosure: PrivateStudentLoans.com is an independent advertising-supported platform for consumers to search, compare and apply for private student loans. PrivateStudentLoans.com is not affiliated with any colleges or universities. Lender search results do not constitute an official college preferred lender list. PrivateStudentLoans.com receives compensation from lenders that appear on this site. This compensation may impact the placement of where lenders appear on this site, for example, the order in which the lender appear when included in a list. Not all lenders participate in the Edvisors site. Lenders that participate may not offer products to every school.
Pay early. Pay often. Pay extra. If you want to ensure that your loan is paid off faster, tell your servicer two things. First, tell them that the extra you pay is not intended to be put toward future payments. Second, tell them to apply the additional payments to your loan with the highest interest rate. By doing this, you can reduce the amount of interest you pay and reduce the total cost of your loan over time.
×