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While the average student loan debt for college students is $39,351, some students might end up leaving school with $70,000 or more in student loans.
Paying off this amount in student loans can feel overwhelming. For example, if you had $70,000 in federal student loans and made payments under the standard 10-year repayment plan with a 6.22% interest rate, you’d end up with a monthly payment of $785 and a total repayment cost of $94,188.
Thankfully, there are several strategies that could help you more easily manage $70,000 in student loans.
1. Refinance your student loans
Student loan refinancing is the process of paying off your old loans with a new loan. Depending on your credit, you might get a lower interest rate through refinancing, which could save you money on interest and even potentially help you pay off your loans faster.
Or you could opt to extend your repayment term to reduce your monthly payments and lessen the strain on your budget — though keep in mind that this means you’ll pay more in interest over time.
Keep in mind: You can refinance both federal and private loans. However, refinancing your federal student loans will cost you access to federal benefits and protections — such as income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness programs.
Visit Credible to compare student loan refinance rates from various lenders in minutes.
2. Consider using a cosigner when refinancing
You’ll typically need good to excellent credit to get approved for refinancing — a good credit score is usually considered to be 700 or higher. There are also several lenders that offer refinancing for bad credit, but these loans tend to come with higher rates compared to good credit loans.
If you have poor or fair credit and are struggling to get approved, consider applying with a cosigner. Even if you don’t need a cosigner to qualify, having one could get you a lower interest rate than you’d get on your own.
Tip: A cosigner can be anyone with good credit — such as a parent, another relative, or a trusted friend — who is willing to share responsibility for the loan. Just keep in mind that this means they’ll be on the hook if you can’t make your payments.
3. Explore income-driven repayment plans
If you have federal student loans, signing up for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan could be a good idea. On an IDR plan, your payments are based on your income — typically 10% to 20% of your discretionary income.
Additionally, you could have any remaining balance after 20 to 25 years, depending on the plan.
Tip: Signing up for an IDR plan might significantly reduce your monthly payments. However, keep in mind that by extending your repayment term, you could end up paying much more in interest over time.
4. Pursue loan forgiveness for federal student loans
There are several student loan forgiveness programs available to federal student loan borrowers. Most of these require that you work in a certain field and make qualifying payments for a specific amount of time.
For example: If you are employed by a nonprofit or government agency and make qualifying payments for 10 years, you might qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Or if you’re a teacher who works at a low-income school, you could be eligible for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.
Some other occupations that might qualify for a forgiveness program include:
Keep in mind: Unfortunately, private student loan forgiveness doesn’t exist. However, there are other options that could help you more easily pay off private loans, such as refinancing.
5. Adopt the debt avalanche or debt snowball method
If you have multiple student loans and aren’t eligible for refinancing or forgiveness, you might just need to concentrate on paying off your loans as quickly as possible. Here are two strategies that could help:
Debt avalanche method
With the debt avalanche method, you’ll focus on paying off your loan with the highest interest rate first while continuing to make the minimum payments on your other loans.
You’ll then move on to the loan with the next-highest interest rate — continuing until all of your loans are paid off.
Tip: The debt avalanche method can save you money on interest charges — but it can take a while to see any results. If you’re more motivated by small wins, the debt snowball method might be a better fit for you.
Debt snowball method
With the debt snowball method, you’ll focus on paying off your smallest loan first while making the minimum payments on your other loans.
After you repay this loan, you’ll move on to the next-smallest loan — continuing until all of your loans have been paid off.
Tip: The debt snowball method can be particularly motivating since it typically offers quick results. But if you would rather save money on interest and don’t mind waiting to see your savings, the debt avalanche method could be a better choice.
Find out if refinancing is right for you. Visit Credible to compare student loan refinance rates in minutes.
Frequently asked questions
Here are the answers to a few commonly asked questions about paying off $70,000 in student loans:
How long does it take to pay off $70k student loans?
This will depend on the type of student loans you have and what repayment plan you choose.
- Federal student loans: You could have 10 to 25 years to repay federal loans, depending on the repayment plan you choose. You could also opt to consolidate your loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan and extend your repayment term up to 30 years.
- Private student loans: Terms on private loans typically range from five to 20 years, depending on the lender.
Can I file for bankruptcy to eliminate my student loan debt?
Yes, you can file bankruptcy for student loan debt. However, it can be difficult to actually have your loans discharged. If you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you’ll have to prove to the court that paying them would cause an undue hardship for you and your dependents, which generally means that you wouldn’t be able to afford basic needs if you continue to repay the debt.
If the court decides in your favor, your loans could be:
- Fully discharged
- Partially discharged with you responsible for the remainder of the balance
- Adjusted with different terms to make repayment easier (such as a lower interest rate)
Tip: Filing for bankruptcy will severely damage your credit and should be treated as a last resort. If you’re thinking about filing for bankruptcy, it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney to make sure it’s the best choice for your financial situation.
Are student loans forgiven after 20 years?
This depends on the type of student loans you have.
- If you have federal student loans, you could be eligible for forgiveness after 20 to 25 years on an IDR plan. There are also other forgiveness programs that offer forgiveness sooner — for example, you could have your loans forgiven after 10 years if you qualify for PSLF.
- If you have private student loans, you aren’t eligible for forgiveness. In this case, you might consider refinancing your loans for a lower interest rate to potentially reduce your repayment time.
Do children inherit student debt?
Generally no. Here’s what you can typically expect:
- Federal student loans are discharged upon the death of the borrower. If you have a Parent PLUS Loan, it will be discharged if you or the student who benefitted from it passes away.
- Private student loans are often discharged similarly to federal loans. However, keep in mind that this is at the discretion of the lender. If the lender doesn’t offer a death discharge option, then your private loans will be considered part of your estate and will be paid off by your assets.
With Credible, you can compare student loan refinance rates from multiple lenders, all in one place.
About the author: Taylor Medine is a Credible authority on personal finance. Her work has been featured on Bankrate, Experian, The Balance, Business Insider, Credit Karma, and more. She’s also the author of The 60-Minute Money Plan, a self-published intro to budgeting guide for people who hate budgeting.