The average 2016 graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt, 6 percent higher than the year before. On a national level, America owes around $1.44 trillion in student loans, which applies to over 44 million Americans.
Of the 21 million students enrolled in 2016, around 8 million received federal loans from the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. This is around $17,040 per student, which comes to $136.3 billion overall.
Types of Student Loans
There are two types of student loans: federal and private; they come in many shapes and sizes, and even more regulations. Stafford and Perkins loans are federal loans, funded by the government, that are given directly to the student. Usually, this means low interest and decent repayment options. There’s also no collateral or credit check necessary for these.
PLUS loans, also known as Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students, were meant to help parents who want to help pay their child’s education. Parents can take out Parent PLUS loans and students can take out Grad PLUS loans.
Depending on your credit score, there are also private loans and health professional loans, which will depend on both credit scores and area of study.
How to Pay Off Your Student Loans
There are several ways to pay off your student loans, but some strategies are certainly faster than others. Here are a few ways to pay off your loans in an efficient and effective manner.
1) Pay more than the minimum payment.
One of the best ways to reduce debt is to pay more money per month than the minimum. Anything you pay above the minimum should go directly to the principal, so if you pay that off sooner, you’ll reduce the overall amount and interest sooner. No matter what, go ahead and start paying off something each month.
If you ever receive a “cash windfall,” consider applying it all to your student loan. This is an act of willpower, but it could include receiving an inheritance, a lottery win, or lawsuit settlement, among other unexpected cash lump sums. This can also apply to raises at work where you pay the excess money to your loans.
2) Determine your payoff date.
This might not be as effective as paying more money per month, but it will inspire you to pay off the debt sooner. If you do the math, you can also determine how to pay off the debt sooner as you calculate earnings, by paying more per month.
3) Consider loan consolidation and refinancing.
Refinancing and consolidating student loans is one of the better ways to pay off student loans sooner, especially if it results in lower interest rates. When you refinance, you can get a new rate from a new lender. Rates are as low as 2% for very qualified individuals. The savings can really add up for people with high interest student loans.
According to a report from earlier this year, the average graduate saves about 2% on their loan after consolidating with a private lender. Did you know that some graduates in the Class of 2016 have student loan interest rates as high as 15%? When you refinance, even small savings can really add up over the course of 10 to 15 years. Unlike refinancing a mortgage or an auto loan, when you refinance student loans you will not be charged an origination fee.
4) Find a job that offers forgiveness.
Teaching or public service jobs may offer part or full student loan forgiveness. Taking this type of government job is essentially a way of earning free money. Some states will require a certain amount of years served, but being debt free while working a job will likely be worth it for you.
Surefire Methods to Save Money
In addition to the methods listed above, the truth is that you’re going to have to trim your budget and closely analyze your repayment program. Many repayment programs are meant to help those struggling with debt, so paying the minimal amount each month doesn’t help you pay off the loans any faster.
To pay off your debts quicker, you’re going to need to either make more money or save more money and apply it to the loans. Some people will find that they can pay off their student loan debts faster by moving into a less expensive apartment, skipping restaurant meals, cutting cable bills, or even dropping a hobby.
Once you’ve found out how to make more money, it’s time to be strategic about your debts. Add more money to your loan repayment and focus on saving money whenever you get a chance.
For student loans, it’s also important to pay off higher interest loans first, which is often referred to as a “debt avalanche.” While paying off the larger amount, pay the minimum on the other loans and then move on to the second highest loan.
Patty Moore writes for Working Mother Life, where she shares her story, struggles, and successes of balancing being a single mother of a beautiful daughter while working over 40 hours a week.