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Student Loans Reports

LendEDU Survey: Large Lump Sum Payments May be Key to Speedy Student Loan Repayment

Despite being given a bad rap, the truth is that student loans can be incredibly useful for college students and are often the difference in obtaining a degree or not.

With that said, the fun years of college, potentially made possible by student loans, inevitably lead to the not-so-fun years of repayment. Unless you happen to be one of the few borrowers that qualifies for student loan forgiveness, student loan debt must be paid back or the consequences can be severe.

For some, student loan repayment can last decades into adulthood in the form of a nagging, recurring monthly payment that can prevent borrowers from achieving other life milestones.

But there are others who navigate student loan repayment with efficiency, employing strategies that allow them to pay back that debt in just a few years.

>> Read More: How to pay off student loans fast

What strategies can lead to a rapid repayment of student loan debt? Should you refinance student loans, make large lump sum payments, or live a life of extreme frugality?

​To answer those questions and more, LendEDU surveyed 1,000 former student loan borrowers that have successfully repaid a student loan balance of at least $15,000. Our study’s key findings included:

  • 42% of respondents were able to pay off their student loan debt balance in one to five years26% paid it off in six to nine years, 21% needed 10 years, and 2% took longer than 20 years.
  • 51% of respondents that paid off their student loan debt in one to five years made at least one lump sum payment of at least $5,000, with the median lump-sum payment size being $7,000. In comparison, only 17% of respondents that needed over 20 years to repay their debt made at least one lump-sum payment of at least $5,000. 
  • After paying off student loan debt, respondents were largely able to focus on other crucial personal finance areas. For example, 14% were able to contribute more towards retirement12% began saving for a real-estate property, and 11% started chipping away at other forms of debt

Full Survey Results

(Survey results derive from an online poll to only 1,000 four-year college graduates who successfully paid off at least $15,000 in student debt)

1. How many years after graduating from a four-year undergraduate college did it take you to repay your student loan debt in-full?

a. 42 percent of respondents answered “1 to 5 years”

b. 26 percent of respondents answered “6 to 9 years” 

c. 21 percent of respondents answered “10 years (Standard Federal Repayment Plan)”

d. 7 percent of respondents answered “11 to 15 years”

e. 2 percent of respondents answered”16 to 20 years”

f. 2 percent of respondents answered “Over 20 years”​

2. Upon graduating college, what was your total student loan debt balance?

Time It Took to Repay (Years)1 to 56 to 910 11 to 1516 to 20Over 20Overall Results
Median Student Loan Debt Upon Graduating$16,570$20,000$24,000$25,000$20,000$35,000$20,000

3. Once you started repaying your student loan debt, what was your average monthly payment size?

Time It Took to Repay (Years)1 to 56 to 910 11 to 1516 to 20Over 20Overall Results
Median Monthly Loan Payment Amount$350​$250$350$250$243$300$300

4. When repaying your student loan debt, did you ever make a one-time large lump sum payment of at least $5,000?

Time It Took to Repay (Years)1 to 56 to 910 11 to 1516 to 20Over 20Overall Results
No 39%53%70%71%88%74%53%
I’d Rather Not Say10%6%5%5%8%9%8%

5. (Asked only to those who answered “Yes” to Q4) What was the exact amount of your largest lump-sum payment?

Time It Took to Repay (Years)1 to 56 to 910 11 to 1516 to 20Over20Overall Results
Median Lump Sum Payment Amount$7,000$6,500$7,250$6,250$5,000$5,120$6,500

6. When repaying student loan debt, did you ever receive financial help to repay that debt from sources like your parents or other relatives?

Time It Took to Repay (Years)1 to 56 to 910 11 to 1516 to20Over 20Overall Results
No 56%57%46%49%67%65%54%
I’d Rather Not Say8%4%3%6%4%13%6%

7. Did you ever refinance your student loan debt during repayment?

Time It Took to Repay (Years)1 to 56 to 910 11 to 1516 to 20Over 20Overall Results
No 78%74%54%51%42%52%69%
I’d Rather Not Say7%5%5%4%4%13%6%

8. When repaying your student loans, did you ever work for a company that helped with a student loan repayment employee benefit?

Time It Took to Repay (Years)1 to 56 to 910 11 to 1516 to 20Over 20Overall Results
No 73%79%61%71%79%74%73%
I’d Rather Not Say4%2%3%5%0%13%3%
Not Applicable5%2%4%3%0%9%4%

9. Did you employ any of these strategies during repayment to help you repay your student loan debt faster? (Select all that apply)

Time It Took to Repay (Years)1 to 56 to 910 11 to 1516 to 20Over 20Overall Results
Lived at home to avoid rent payments11%11%13%14%7%13%12%
Seriously limited leisure spending (i.e. eating out)17%16%14%15%12%20%16%
Never took on credit card debt11%10%11%6%5%5%10%
Made more than the minimum payment19%18%13%15%14%11%17%
Limited my retirement/investing contributions5%4%8%7%11%4%6%
Invested aggressively and used profits to repay debt1%2%4%4%2%0%2%
Started second job or side-gig to make extra money9%10%9%12%11%7%9%
Moved to a cheaper city to live3%3%4%4%3%4%3%
Avoid other major expense like buying a car12%13%12%9%19%13%12%
Used inheritance money to help repay debt2%4%3%3%0%4%3%
Used work bonuses to make lump sum payments6%5%5%5%2%2%5%
Something other than the above2%2%3%3%3%2%2%
None of the above2%2%1%3%11%15%3%

10. What repayment plan did you utilize when repaying your federal student loan debt?

Time It Took to Repay (Years)1 to 56 to 910 11 to 1516 to 20Over 20Overall Results
Standard Repayment Plan36%47%72%29%21%17%45%
Graduated Repayment Plan 16%20%8%21%21%13%16%
Extended Repayment Plan3%3%6%8%29%0%5%
One of the Income-Driven Repayment Plans6%4%5%12%4%31%6%
Not Sure30%22%6%25%25%39%22%

11. When repaying your student loan debt, did you ever enter deferment, forbearance, or did you ever default on your student loan debt?

Time It Took to Repay (Years)1 to 56 to 910 11 to 1516 to 20Over 20Overall Results
I entered deferment12%16%20%28%29%17%16%
I entered forbearance4%7%20%11%13%9%9%
I defaulted on my student loan debt4%4%5%5%12%9%4%
Some combination of the above5%13%9%20%4%22%10%
I’d rather not say10%5%3%5%0%4%6%

12. Did you have any private student loan debt as part of your overall student loan debt balance?

Time It Took to Repay (Years)1 to 56 to 910 11 to 1516 to 20Over 20Overall Results
No 72%69%61%60%71%70%68%
I’d Rather Not Say8%5%3%3%0%17%6%

13. (Asked only to those who answered “Yes” to Q12) How much private student loan debt did you have?

Time It Took to Repay (Years)1 to 56 to 910 11 to 1516 to 20Over 20Overall Results
Median Private Student Loan Debt Amount$5,000$9,000$3,000$4,250$10,000$20,000$5,000

14. After repaying your student loan debt, what changed about your personal finance situation? (Select all that apply)

Time It Took to Repay (Years)1 to 56 to 910 11 to 1516 to 20Over 20Overall Results
Started contributing, or contributing more, to my retirement savings14%15%16%14%10%6%14%
Started contributing, or contributing more, to my emergency savings fund12%11%8%8%4%6%11%
Saving for a house down payment or rent on an apartment12%11%14%10%10%3%12%
Able to focus my money on eliminating other debt, like credit card debt9%12%9%13%21%25%11%
Able to invest more in the market4%4%6%3%4%3%4%
Able to travel more, or save for traveling9%5%8%7%0%9%7%
Able to start building a college fund for my child’s education3%3%4%5%2%0%3%
Able to start my own business2%2%4%2%0%3%2%
Able to pay for health insurance3%4%4%4%8%0%4%
Able to take out a life insurance policy2%3%2%4%4%0%3%
Able to spend more money on social outings, like concerts or dinner8%9%7%7%17%9%8%
Able to purchase things for my enjoyment, like new clothes9%9%8%10%8%6%9%
Able to make a down payment on a car or I bought a car7%7%6%5%2%6%6%
Something other than the above2%3%1%5%2%3%2%
None of the above4%2%3%3%8%21%4%

15. While repaying your student loan debt, which of the following, if any, did you have to sacrifice (Select all that apply)

Time It Took to Repay (Years)1 to 56 to 910 11 to 1516 to 20Over 20Overall Results
Buying a home or renting an apartment10%9%10%8%4%7%9%
Traveling or taking vacations15%14%13%14%13%9%14%
Getting married3%4%5%4%1%4%4%
Starting a family5%6%7%5%3%1%6%
Taking out a life insurance policy3%5%4%6%4%6%4%
Having health insurance3%4%4%5%3%6%4%
Owning a pet5%4%6%5%3%3%5%
Social expenses like concerts or dinner11%11%11%11%13%6%11%
Having cable t.v. or streaming services like Netflix6%5%6%6%6%6%6%
Living in a city that I always wanted to3%3%3%4%2%4%3%
Buying or leasing a car7%6%6%5%7%8%6%
Starting my own business3%3%3%2%2%3%3%
Investing in the stock market4%3%4%4%5%6%4%
Saving for retirement7%6%6%8%8%8%7%
Repaying credit card debt3%5%4%4%12%9%4%
Starting an emergency savings fund7%7%5%7%10%8%6%
Something other than the above1%2%1%0%2%1%1%
None of theabove4%3%2%2%2%5%3%

16. Do you regret paying back your student loan debt in the amount of time it took you?

Time It Took to Repay (Years)1 to 56 to 910 11 to 1516 to 20Over 20Overall Results
No 87%80%54%51%54%52%74%
Not Sure5%4%10%11%8%26%7%

Observations & Analysis

Lump Sum & Large Monthly Payments Could Be Key to Quick Student Loan Repayment

In our survey of 1,000 U.S. respondents that successfully repaid their entire student loan debt balance of at least $15,000, the plurality of borrowers, 46 percent, were able to repay their debt within one to five years, while 26 percent of poll participants took six to nine years, and 21 percent took ten years, which is the standard federal repayment plan.

>> Read More: Federal student loan repayment guide 

The remaining respondents took longer than that, with 2 percent even taking more than 20 years. In LendEDU’s analysis, we broke out respondents according to how long repayment took them to uncover if significantly more effective repayment strategies exist. 

One repayment strategy that definitely separated itself in terms of effectiveness was borrowers making large one-time lump sum payments towards their student loan debt. Specifically, we asked if respondents had made lump sum payments of at least $5,000. 

You can see a clear pattern below:

As the above graphic depicts, there was a correlation between the time it took to repay student loan debt and the percentage of borrowers within each group that made at least one lump sum payment of at least $5,000. 51 percent of respondents that took just one to five years to repay their debt made at least one lump sum payment, the highest percentage. The next highest percentage of borrowers that made at least one $5,000 one-time payment, 41 percent, belonged to the group of poll participants that took the second shortest time to repay their student loan debt. 

In comparison, only 17 percent of student borrowers that took over 20 years made at least one lump-sum payment. The one group that interfered with the perfect correlation were those borrowers who took between 16 and 20 years, as only four percent of those folks made at least one lump-sum payment. 

Further, those respondent cohorts that repaid their student loan debt at a rather fast pace were also more likely to have a higher median lump sum payment amount. For example, respondents that took one to five years had a medium lump sum payment amount of $7,000, while the six to nine group’s median amount was $6,500, and the 10 year group’s was $7,250. In comparison, the 11 to 15 group’s median lump sum amount was $6,250, while the 16 to 20 group had a median amount of $5,000, and the borrowers that took over 20 years had a median lump sum payment amount of $5,120. 

The data we uncovered from this recent survey supports recent findings that came from a study by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection’s Office of Research. That study found that 94 percent of final payments exceeded the scheduled payment amount, while only six percent of loans were paid off with the final few payments equal to the scheduled payment.

Lance Beaudry was able to pay off $50,000 in student loan debt within four years of graduating from college. How did he do it? By making large monthly student loan payments and finishing off his debt with a large lump sum payment. 

Beaudry told LendEDU, “At one point, I put down $19,000 on the rest to pay it off, otherwise, I was able to consistently put $3,000 per month towards the debt.”

The results from our survey also seem to indicate that the larger the payments, the better off the borrower will be. 

When respondents were asked if they employed any strategies to help repay their student debt as quickly as possible, the two groups that repaid their debt the fastest (one to five & six to nine) were much more likely to answer that they “made more than the minimum payment” than the other groups.

In regards to the respondents that only took between one and five years to repay their debt, 19 percent of all answers revealed that one of the strategies they employed was making payments larger than the monthly minimum; 18 percent of those who took between six and nine years indicated the same. Contrarily, only the cohort that took between 11 and 15 years to fully repay their debt was anywhere close to those two groups, with 15 percent of them utilizing that same tactic.

The data from another question in this survey also reinforced the idea that making larger monthly payments will lead to a quicker student loan repayment period. The respondents that only took between one and five years to repay their student loan debt had the largest median monthly payment amount, $350. 

Marissa Chiechi graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2015 and had $38,000 in student loan debt to pay off, which she has since done. Chiechi too made larger than required monthly student loan payments and utilized a savvy strategy.

She explained, “​I paid off loans throughout my time in college, making at least double the monthly payment that was required, until they were paid off.”

“Ever since I’ve worked, I split my paycheck four ways: 1/4 for my car payment, 1/4 for my loan payment, 1/4 for my savings account, and 1/4 to keep on my card for use. Once my car was paid off, I put all of the money I had going in there into my loan payment for that month. At that time, I was easily putting 4x the monthly payment that was required of me,” Chiechi concluded. 

Private Student Debt Appears Tied to a Longer Repayment Period

Repaying federal student loan debt can be stressful enough, but having to worry about private student loan debt as well can make repayment seem downright impossible. 

For some however, private student loans are necessary as federal financial aid may not cover all of the expenses associated with college. Judging by the results of our survey, having private student loan debt will almost always increase the length of time it takes a borrower to fully repay their loans. 

Not only did a very low percentage of respondents within the groups that took either one to five years or six to nine years to repay their debt have private student debt, 20 percent and 26 percent respectively, but those that did have private debt had a very low amount. The median amount of private debt amongst respondents that took five years or less was $5,000, while the median amount for those who took between six and nine years was $9,000. 

Despite the median amount of private student loan debt being lower for the 10 year and 11 to 15 year groups than the aforementioned amounts, those two groups had a greater percentage of borrowers that had private student loan debt. 36 percent of borrowers that took ten years to pay off their student debt had private student loans, while 37 percent of those who took between 11 and 15 years had private student loans.

Finally, those poll participants that took between 16 and 20 years to repay their student debt had a median private student loan amount of $10,000, while folks who took longer than 20 years had a whopping median private student debt balance of $20,000. 

In short, having private student loan debt in addition to whatever federal debt one may have is likely going to lead to a longer repayment period until one can finally clear themselves of student loan debt. 

Receiving No Financial Assistance From Parents or Close Relatives Linked to Longer Repayment

When you are navigating your way through higher education expenses, it is no secret that having some help from other sources can go a long way. Parents or close relatives can do a lot to ease the burden of student loan debt. 

If one is lucky enough, parents, guardians, grandparents, or another close relative can simply foot the bill for college, debt-free. But, there are other ways that they can assist in affording college that are not so cut-and-dry. For example, parents can cosign on their child’s student loans, which makes them jointly responsible in repayment.

Or, parents can take out Parent PLUS Loans, which are student loans that are entirely the obligation of the parent that has taken them out. If guardians do not wish to worry about their dependents making timely student loan payments (which is the case for cosigning), they can simply take out PLUS loans and rest easy with the comfort of knowing that they have full control over the repayment of that debt.  ​

Our online survey revealed that those borrowers who took the longest to repay their student loan were also the least likely to receive financial assistance from their parents. Respondents that took over 20 years to repay their debt, the longest possible period provided, had the least amount of help with only 22 percent of them indicated that they received aid from their parents or other relatives. 

Poll participants that repaid their student loan debt in the second longest possible time frame, between 16 and 20 years, ​received the second least amount of help from parents or relatives in juggling college costs. Only 29 percent of those respondents stated that they received any sort of financial assistance from their parents or other relatives. 

Once Student Debt is Repaid, Other Personal Finance Goals Can Be Attained

During student loan repayment, many consumers are handcuffed in terms of accomplishing other important financial goals because, usually, there is simply not enough money to go around.

Once a monthly student loan payment, likely in the range of $250 to $500, is made, allocating one’s remaining financial resources can be a balancing act. There could be mortgage or rent payments, an auto loan that can’t be ignored, credit card and cable bills, and whatever else is thrown at a consumer on a daily basis. 

In a previous LendEDU study, we found that 30 percent of student borrowers have had to delay marriage due to student loan payments, while 31 percent had to put a hold on starting a family. Another 44 percent of respondents could not yet start saving for retirement, while 50 percent were also unable to purchase a house. Further, 19 percent of poll participants indicated that they could not yet achieve financial independence from their parents due to their student loan debt obligations.

We decided to revisit this theme, except we reversed it for this particular survey. In our survey, we sought out to gauge what respondents were finally able to start working on once their student loan debt was fully repaid. 

As it is displayed in the above pie chart, completing the student loan repayment process can open up a world of personal finance possibilities for the consumer. Amongst the most popular personal finance decisions that ex-borrowers indicated they were able to finally start focusing on including saving for retirement, contributing more towards an emergency savings fund, saving for a real estate investment, eliminating other forms of debt, purchasing new items, and spending more money on social gatherings. 

​The results of this particular question just go to show just how much personal finance real estate student loan debt occupies in one’s wallet. Student loan debt has been blamed time and time again for limiting the financial possibilities of Americans, especially younger ones, but it is also important to remember that taking on student loan debt also opens a world of possibilities because it enables one to receive college education. 

Ultimately, managing student loan debt by employing one of the many repayment strategies discussed here, like lump sum payments, can lead to a borrower finding a healthy balance between repayment and moving their finances forward. 


All results found within this report derive from an online poll commissioned by LendEDU and conducted online by polling company Pollfish. In total, 1,000 four-year college graduates from the United States were surveyed for this online poll. All respondents also had to have a bachelor’s degree from a four-year undergraduate institution as their highest level of education. Further, respondents had to have at least $15,000 in student loan debt when they graduated and that debt had to have been paid off entirely to participate in this online survey. Respondents were found via screener question and Pollfish’s education filtering feature. If a respondent fit the desired specifications, they were selected at random from Pollfish’s online user panel of over 100 million people. This survey was conducted over an 11-day span, starting on August 21, 2018 and ending on August 31, 2018. Respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities. 

See more of LendEDU’s Research