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Student Loans Student Loan Repayment

How Long Will It Take to Pay Off My Student Loans?

Before calculating how long it will take to pay off your student loans, you need to know the type of loan and total amount. Federal student loans are funded by the U.S. Department of Education, or DoE. Private student loans are funded by private banks, credit unions, or online lenders.

If you’re unsure, you can check your loan provider and status for federal loans at the National Student Loan Data System. You can find your private loan servicer on your free annual credit report and then contact the lender. Your loan provider affects the interest rate, repayment terms, and repayment options. Federal loans offer unique repayment plans that could affect all of the above.

Here’s how to calculate an answer to the question, “How long will it take to pay off my student loans?”

In this guide:

Where to find the repayment term on your student loans

Your repayment term outlines how long you’ll pay toward your student loans. The repayment term listed on your loan reflects the time it will take to repay that loan if you continue to make all scheduled payments on time for the remainder of the term.

But if you plan on deferring payments, or making smaller or larger payments than you’re scheduled to make, this term can change. We’ll explain how below.

The typical federal student loan is structured to take 10 years to pay off (although some federal loans are structured to take 30 years). Private loans vary as well, but most lenders’ repayment terms are seven to 15 years

You can check with your loan servicer or on your loan statements to find your repayment term. 

How to look up your federal student loan repayment term

For federal student loans, the best way to figure out your repayment term is at the DoE’s Federal Student Aid website.

  • Log in to your account online using your FSA ID. (If you can’t remember your ID, you can quickly recover your account information here.)
  • If you’re having trouble logging in or prefer to speak with someone, you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.
  • Once you log in, you’ll see your student loan servicer. You can view your repayment term, interest rate, and monthly payment.

How to look up your private student loan repayment term

No database exists to access information about every private student loan, so getting additional information might require extra work. 

  • Private student loans appear on your credit report, which you can access at no charge every 12 months at
  • Once you find your student loan balance on your report, you’ll also see the service provider’s name. 
  • From there, you can contact the loan provider for repayment information and help establishing access to your online account. 

You can also contact your school. Most servicers distribute loans to colleges, so colleges often keep a record of loan disbursement details. 

Are there situations where the repayment term isn’t how long it takes to pay off the student loan?

Once you know your repayment term, you know how long it will take to pay off your student loans. 

But several scenarios could shorten or lengthen your loan term, including:

  • Deferment or forbearance
  • Making larger payments than scheduled
  • Making lower payments than scheduled

Keep reading to see how these could change your repayment terms.

Deferment or forbearance

If you don’t make full payments each month, you could lengthen the term of your loan. Depending on whether your loan is private or federal, you may have options if you can’t make the entirety of your monthly payment.

All federal loans and certain private lenders offer deferment and forbearance options if you’re experiencing financial hardship. You can pause your loan payments for a specific period, but your loans may still accrue interest, causing the balance to continue growing. 

Forbearance or deferment might be options if you’re experiencing an unexpected event, such as a layoff. It’s essential to communicate with your loan servicer as soon as possible if that happens. 

These options often add months of repayment to your loan balance that equal or exceed the number of months you paused payments.

If you make larger payments than scheduled

Whether your loans are public or private, you can make payments above the minimum due each month. You might make larger payments if you want to pay less toward interest fees or pay your loan off faster.

See the example scenario below:

Example only
Total loan amount$20,000
Interest rate7%
Repayment term10 years
Monthly payment$232.22
Total interest paid over life of loan (if making minimum monthly payment)$7,866.40

But imagine you decide to pay an extra $67.78 each month for a total payment of $300: 

Example only
Total loan amount$20,000
Interest rate7%
Repayment term7 years, 1.5 months
Monthly payment$300
Total interest paid over life of loan$5,401

You would pay off your loan almost three years early and save $2,465.40 in interest charges. 

If you make lower payments than scheduled

Federal student loans offer income-driven repayment plans that allow borrowers to make monthly payments based on a percentage of their income—often 10% to 20% of discretionary income—instead of standard payments based on a 10-year loan term. 

These programs are unique because they extend the loan term to 20 or 25 years. After that time has passed, the loans are forgiven. 

If you’re struggling to make your monthly payments and have federal loans, these plans might be a good fit. It’s important to remember they’ll extend your repayment period by 10 to 15 years, and you’ll pay more in interest over the long term.

Are there ways to pay off my student loan faster?

If you’re interested in paying off your student loans faster, one of the following three strategies might work.

Pay extra each month

Whether you pay $10 or $300 extra each month, every dollar will help you pay off your student loans faster.

Let’s revisit our example scenario from above and imagine you round up your payment to $240 each month: 

Example only
Total loan amount$20,000
Interest rate7%
Repayment term9 years, 6 months
Monthly payment$240
Total interest paid over life of loan$7,470.40

By paying an extra $7.78 each month, you would save $396 in interest and pay off your loan six months early.

Make a payment every two weeks

Using the same loan amount and term, you could pay off your loan 13 months sooner by making biweekly payments:

Example only
Total loan amount$20,000
Interest rate7%
Repayment term8 years, 11 months
Biweekly payment$116.11
Total interest paid over life of loan$6,911.32

So instead of paying $232.22 every month, if you broke that amount into biweekly payments, you would make the equivalent of an extra monthly payment each year—and save $955.08 in interest. 

Make lump-sum payments

Another strategy for paying off your loans early is making lump-sum payments at once instead of in smaller amounts over time. These are in addition to your monthly payments. 

Here’s how it works.

Example only
Total loan amount$20,000
Interest rate7%
Repayment term9 years, 4 months
Monthly payment$232.22
Additional one-time payment$1,000
Total interest paid over life of loan $6,910

So an extra lump sum of $1,000 could save you $967 in interest and get you out of debt faster. 

This strategy might work well for borrowers who are eligible for annual bonuses or who get tax refunds. 

How long will it take to pay off $20,000 in student loans?

Each loan has different terms and repayment plans. But to understand how long it will take to pay off your student loans, let’s imagine the scenario below.

The interest rate for this $20,000 loan is 7% (which is on the higher end for federal loans but on the lower end for private loans), and we’re assuming the same monthly payment for the life of the loan. 

With those factors in mind, here’s how long it will take to pay off $20,000 in student loans. 

Monthly paymentPayoff term
$232.2210 years
$179.7715 years
$155.0620 years
$141.3625 years

How long will it take to pay off $50,000 in student loans?

Now that you know what the monthly payments look like for a $20,000 student loan balance, let’s look at the same terms for $50,000. 

In this example, the interest rate is 7%, and the borrower pays the same amount each month.

Monthly paymentPayoff term
$580.5410 years
$449.4115 years
$387.6520 years
$353.3925 years

How long will it take to pay off $100,000 in student loans?

Using the same loan terms—7% interest and the same payment amount each month—let’s explore the monthly payments for $100,000 of student loans.

Monthly paymentPayoff term
$1,161.0810 years
$898.8315 years
$775.3020 years
$706.7825 years

How long will it take to pay off $200,000 in student loans?

With 10% of Americans carrying $100,000 or more in student loan debt, it’s no longer unusual to carry a high balance. For this scenario, we’ll imagine the exact same terms—7% interest rate and the same payment amount each month.

Monthly paymentPayoff term
$2,322.1710 years
$1,797.6615 years
$1,550.6020 years
$1,413.5625 years

Once you know the terms of your loan—total loan amount, interest rate, and repayment term—you can calculate your monthly payment with ease. 

The easiest way is to use the DoE’s Loan Simulator for federal loans or our Student Loan Payment Calculator for either type of loan.

You can even explore how changing different elements of your loan—such as paying more each month or extending the repayment term—can affect your monthly payment.