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Average Student Loan Payment: Federal & Private

The average federal student loan payment in 2023 was $756, though extra context is needed to understand why this number is so high.

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By Christy Bieber

Written by

Christy Bieber

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Christy Bieber has been working full-time as a freelance writer since 2008. She has written blogs, news articles, textbooks, and online courses on the topics of law, finance, and history. She lives with her husband, two children, and beagle.

Edited by Renee Fleck

Written by

Renee Fleck

Editor

Renee Fleck is a student loans editor with over five years of experience in digital content editing. Her work has been featured in Fast Company, Morning Brew, and Sidebar.io, among other online publications. She is fluent in Spanish and French and enjoys traveling to new places.

Updated January 31, 2024

Editorial disclosure: Our goal is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your finances.

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Credible takeaways

  • Before the pandemic payment pause, the average federal student loan payment was between $200 and $299 per month; more recent data indicates a much higher average today. 
  • Private student loan payments can vary greatly depending on your loan amount, interest rate, and repayment plan.
  • You may be able to lower your monthly payment by changing your repayment plan or refinancing. 

Student loan payments can be a big financial burden, but just how much money do they eat up from the typical family's budget? This guide will explain average student loan payments for different types of loans, and how you can estimate your own personal payment. Plus, we’ll share tips on how you may be able to reduce the amount you pay each month. 

Average federal student loan payment

Prior to the pandemic, the typical federal student loan payment was between $200 and $299 per month according to 2018-19 Federal Reserve Data. This average was based only on individuals who were currently making payments on their loans — some weren’t because their loans were in deferment or forbearance. In 2016, the average payment was $393 per month according to the same survey. 

However, the pandemic changed things. Payments on most federal student loans were paused between March 2020 and September 2023, and many borrowers didn’t make any payments in this time. During the first half of 2023, only 1.1 million borrowers made payments, down from nearly 12 million in 2019. During this time, the average student loan payment was $756, according to the Department of Education

This average was likely very high because only a small number of borrowers were voluntarily making payments and that group made much larger ones than the typical borrower. 

Average private student loan payment 

While there’s less data available around average private student loan payments, understanding current rates can help estimate what you’ll pay. Average rates on a 10-year fixed rate private student loan totaled 7.54% as of December 2023, while average rates on a 5-year variable rate loan totaled 11.46% according to Credible marketplace data. 

If you borrowed $10,000 at these average interest rates, here's what your repayment would look like on these loans:

  • A $10,000 student loan at 7.54% paid off over 10 years would come with $119 in monthly payments. 
  • A $10,000 student loan at 11.46% paid off with a five-year repayment term would have a $220 monthly payment. Because variable loan rates can change over time, your payment could go up or down depending how rates trend.
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Bottom line:

With private student debt, your timeline for repaying the loans, the amount you've borrowed, and the rate you were offered will all impact your monthly payment amount.

Estimating how much you’ll pay 

If you plan on borrowing money for college, knowing the average student loan payment can be helpful, but what’s more important is making sure your loans are going to be affordable for you.

To estimate how much you'll pay monthly on student loans, start by taking the following things into account:

  • Your school’s cost of attendance: Schools publish their estimated cost of attendance and you are allowed to borrow up to that amount using a combination of federal and private student loans. See how much your school costs, subtract any savings, scholarships, or grants you'll receive, and the amount left over is the amount you'll borrow. The more loans you must take out, the more expensive repayment will be.
  • Type of degree program: Some degrees take longer to earn than others, for example medical or law degrees. Consider what degree you're trying to earn and the number of years you'll be in school so you can better estimate the total amount you'll need to borrow. 
  • Type of student loans: Federal student loans have low fixed interest rates. Private student loans could have fixed or variable rates and the rate you'll pay depends on your credit score, income, and other financial credentials. There are limits in how much federal aid you're entitled to. Your financial aid package from your school will tell you what sources of funding are available so you can see if you need to supplement federal aid with private student loans. 
  • Your repayment terms: Finally, your repayment terms including interest rate and repayment timeline will affect how much you pay monthly. The higher the rate and the longer the payoff time, the more expensive your monthly payment will be. 

You can use an online student loan calculator to input potential loan details so you can estimate monthly payments and total costs over time. 

Check Out: How To Take Out a Student Loan

How to lower your monthly payment 

Whether you have federal or private student loans, you have options to lower your monthly payment if repaying the debt becomes a struggle.

If you have federal loans, you can often reduce your monthly payment by changing your payment plan. Income-driven plans cap payments at a percentage of income and in some cases your payment could be as low as $0 a month. Depending on your plan, any balance that remains after 20 or 25 years of repayment could be forgiven. 

The Department of Education also offers options to pause payments temporarily through either deferment or forbearance. This can bring your pay