Student loan debt is a reality for millions of Americans. According to the Institute for College Access & Success, in 2020, the average student debt at graduation varied from $18,350 in Utah (the lowest) to $39,950 in New Hampshire (the highest), and the possibility that new graduates would have debt varied from 39% in Utah to 73% in South Dakota.
For many Americans, student loan debt is a crushing burden that feels impossible to escape. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a number of strategies you can use to get rid of your student loan debt.
Table of Contents
- 1. Qualify For Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
- 2. Research Federal Loan Cancellation or Discharge Programs
- 3. Ask for a Repayment Plan
- 4. Refinance Your Student Loans
- 5. Ask Your Employer for Repayment Help
- 6. Make Extra Payments
- 7. Consider Student Loan Consolidation
- 8. Get Student Loan Forbearance or Deferment
- 9. Contact Your Loan Servicer
- Final Thought
1. Qualify For Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
The first step is to research whether you qualify for any student loan forgiveness programs. There are a number of these programs available, but they often have specific requirements that must be met. For example, some programs may only forgive loans for borrowers who work in certain professions, such as teacher, military, or public service.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program is a federal program that forgives up to $17,500 in student loans for borrowers who have worked as full-time teachers in low-income elementary or secondary schools for five full academic years.
Military Student Loan Forgiveness
There are a number of student loan forgiveness and repayment programs available for military borrowers. These programs include the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Loan Repayment Programs and the Military College Loan Repayment Program. If you’re in the Army, you may also be eligible for the Army Reserve Loan Repayment Program.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is a federal program that forgives the remaining balance on your direct loans after you make 120 qualifying monthly payments if you work for a qualified employer.
2. Research Federal Loan Cancellation or Discharge Programs
There are also a number of federal loan cancellation and discharge programs that may cancel or discharge all or part of your student loan. These programs include:
- Bankruptcy Discharge
- Closed School Discharge
- Death Discharge
- Disability Discharge
- False Certification Discharge
- Unpaid Refund Discharge
3. Ask for a Repayment Plan
There are several repayment plans available that can lower your monthly payment amount. These plans include:
- Extended Repayment Plan
- Graduated Repayment Plan
- Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE)
- Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR)
- Standard Repayment Plan
- Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE)
- Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)
4. Refinance Your Student Loans
Refinancing your student loans can save you money in interest and lower your monthly payment. When you refinance, you’ll take out a new loan with a lower interest rate and use that loan to pay off your existing student loans.
5. Ask Your Employer for Repayment Help
Some employers offer student loan repayment assistance as an employee benefit. If your employer offers this benefit, they may make monthly payments directly to your loan servicer on your behalf or reimburse you for a portion of your monthly payment.
6. Make Extra Payments
Making extra payments on your student loans can help you pay off your debt faster. Every extra payment you make will go towards the principal balance of your loan, which will save you money in interest over the life of the loan. You can make extra payments by sending in a check with your monthly payment or by making an additional payment online.
7. Consider Student Loan Consolidation
Consolidating your federal student loans can lower your monthly payment by extending your repayment term. When you consolidate, you’ll take out a new loan to pay off your existing loans. This new loan will have a fixed interest rate that’s based on the weighted average of the interest rates on your existing loans. You can consolidate your federal student loans through the Direct Consolidation Loan program.
8. Get Student Loan Forbearance or Deferment
If you’re struggling to make your monthly student loan payments, you may be eligible for forbearance or deferment. You can temporarily stop making payments or lower your monthly payment amount using forbearance. Deferment allows you to temporarily postpone making payments on your loan.
9. Contact Your Loan Servicer
If you’re having trouble making your student loan payments, the first thing you should do is contact your loan servicer. They may be able to help you find a repayment plan that fits your budget or offer forbearance or deferment options.
There are a number of ways you can get rid of your student loan debt. You can apply for forgiveness programs, discharge programs, or repayment plans. You can also refinance your loans or make extra payments. If you’re having trouble making your payments, you can contact your loan servicer for help.