How Many Years To Pay Off Student Loans

Student loans are an important part of your financial life, and you need to understand how they work.

A student loan is a loan that you take out to pay for school. You can use these funds to pay tuition, housing, books, food, travel—anything that’s related to going to school.

But how long do student loans last?

The answer depends on the type of loan you get:

Federal student loans are offered through the federal government and can be used at any accredited college or university in the country. They come in two forms: subsidized and unsubsidized.

Subsidized loans allow you to defer payments while you’re in school and during grace periods after graduation (as long as you’re enrolled in school). This means that your payments won’t start until after graduation. The government pays the interest on your loans while you are in school.

Unsubsidized loans don’t have this benefit; the government doesn’t pay interest on them while you’re enrolled in school or in a grace period after graduation (if applicable).

Average Time to Pay Off Student Loans [2022]: Data Analysis

How Many Years To Pay Off Student Loans

The standard repayment term on a federal student loan is 10 years. The repayment term on private student loans vary from 5 years to 15 years.

Borrowers can choose alternate repayment terms which reduce the monthly loan payment by increasing the repayment term. These repayment terms range from 12 years to 30 years.

  • Income-contingent repayment (ICR) and income-based repayment (IBR) involve repayment terms of up to 25 years
  • Pay-As-You-Earn repayment (PAYE) and Revised Pay-As-You-Earn repayment (REPAYE) involve repayment terms of up to 20 years
  • Extended repayment (without consolidation) offers a 25-year repayment term for $30,000 or more in federal student loan debt
  • Extended repayment (with consolidation) offers repayment terms of 12, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years, depending on the amount of federal student loan debt

Generally, students should borrow no more than they can afford to repay in 10 years or by the time they retire, whichever comes first. If total student loan debt at graduation is less that the borrower’s expected annual starting salary, the borrower should be able to repay his or her student loans in 10 years or less.

When students graduate with too much debt, they usually choose a longer repayment term, so that the monthly payment represents about the same percentage of income as borrowers with less debt. For example, a borrower who graduates with one-third more debt than income might choose a 15-year repayment term instead of a 10-year term to keep the monthly loan payment about the same percentage of income. Thus, increases in debt are manifested in the length of the repayment term, not the percentage of income devoted to repaying the debt.

The next table shows the number of years until the student loans are repaid, assuming a 6.0% interest rate and monthly payments equal to 10% of monthly income. N/A indicates that the loan will never be repaid because the monthly payment is less than the new interest that accrues. The diagonal shows where total debt equals annual income.

Payment = 10% of income
Annual Income
Monthly Payment
$25,000$208.33$30,000$250.00$35,000$291.67$40,000$333.33 $45,000$375.00 $50,000$416.67 
Debt vs. Years in Repayment   
$25,000 15.311.

This table is similar, but with a monthly payment equal to 15% of monthly income.

Payment = 15% of income
Annual Income
Monthly Payment
$25,000$312.50$30,000$375.00$35,000$437.50$40,000$500.00 $45,000$562.50$50,000$625.00
Debt vs. Years in Repayment   

how long does it take to pay off 100k in student loans

The amount of time it takes to pay back a student loan in full depends on the type of loan, the amount borrowed, the interest rate, and the repayment plan the borrower selects, as well as the use of deferments and forbearances. Another factor is how much extra a borrower can pay each month.

That being said, most loan holders typically take no more than 16–19 years to pay back their federal student loans. 

Translation: you shouldn’t have to worry about making student loan payments after you’ve retired from the world of work. But every borrower is different, so how long it takes you to repay your loan may be different than how long it takes your roommate. 

Want to get a better idea of what your monthly payment will look like? Use our student loan calculator to figure out your monthly and total student loan payments.

Student loans are either federal student loans or private student loans. Both loan types have different interest rates and repayment options. 

Let’s dive into each loan type and how their repayment plans work.

Repaying Federal Student Loans

A federal student loan is student aid backed by the U.S. Department of Education. There are several types of federal student loans, including subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

The government pays interest on your behalf with a subsidized loan while your loans are in deferment, either an in-school deferment, economic hardship deferment or unemployment deferment. 

With an unsubsidized loan, interest is not subsidized, so it will continue to accrue. 

Repayment plans for federal student loans are divided into two main categories: traditional repayment plans (including Standard, Graduated, and Extended) and four different income-driven repayment plans, which are based on your household income and family size.

What is a traditional student loan repayment plan?

Traditional repayment plans are based on the loan’s principal balance. Your principal balance is just the amount of money you borrowed to fund your education. 

Traditional repayment options don’t consider your income or family size when working out how much you will be paying every month.

Both traditional and income-driven repayment plans come with their own set of pros and cons — including different repayment terms.

Traditional repayment plans include:

Standard repayment plans 

A standard repayment plan gives borrowers up to 10 years to repay their student loans. 

With a standard repayment plan, the exact monthly payment amount will vary depending on the total loan amount you borrowed. However, the monthly minimum payment is $50. 

As a good rule of thumb, the monthly payment you should expect to be giving back to your lender will be about 1% of the loan balance at repayment.

Graduated repayment 

Under the graduated repayment plan, borrowers have up to 30 years to repay their federal student loans, depending on the amount borrowed. 

Monthly payments will start just above interest-only payments and increase every two years.

Extended repayment 

The extended repayment plan gives borrowers up to 30 years to repay their loans in full, depending on the amount owed.

Payments under this plan are generally lower than those under Graduated or Standard repayment.

This table breaks down those repayment terms.

Loan balanceRepayment term
Less than $7,50010 years
$7,500 to $9,99912 years
$10,000 to $19,99915 years
$20,000 to $39,99920 years
$40,000 to $59,99925 years
$60,000 or more30 years

A similar set of repayment terms apply to graduated repayment. 

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