How to pay off $100K in student loans

Paying off $100K or more in student loan debt can feel overwhelming, but it’s possible to reduce your overall loan balance or even have it forgiven.  (Shutterstock)

If you owe $100,000 or more in student loan debt, you’re not alone. Six percent of borrowers owe more than $100,000, according to the College Board. A standard 10-year repayment plan may sound like a quick way to pay down your debt, but your monthly payment could be as high as $1,000 or more. 

These six strategies can help you pay your student loan debt down as quickly as possible.

Visit Credible to learn more about student loan refinancing and compare rates from multiple private student loan lenders.

  • Consider student loan forgiveness if you’re eligible
  • Refinance your student loans
  • Pay off the highest-interest loan first
  • Find a cosigner
  • Start a side hustle
  • Stick to a budget

1. Consider student loan forgiveness if you’re eligible

Before attempting to pay off your loans faster, check if you’re eligible for any student loan forgiveness programs. A variety of student loan forgiveness programs are available, including: 

  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness for qualified educators with federal loans
  • Income-driven repayment plans for eligible federal loan borrowers
  • Military personnel eligible for special repayment options
  • AmeriCorps participants eligible for a repayment award

Another popular loan forgiveness program is the Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, which is only for federal student loan borrowers employed full-time by a government or not-for-profit organization. You must be making loan payments under an income-driven repayment plan and make 120 qualifying payments toward your Direct Loans to be eligible. 

Although federal borrowers pursuing Teacher Loan Forgiveness may qualify for loan forgiveness in as little as five years, borrowers working toward forgiveness under the PSLF Program may be eligible for some forgiveness after 10 years of repayments. Federal borrowers on other income-driven repayment plans don’t qualify for forgiveness for 20 to 25 years.

2. Refinance your student loans

Refinancing your student loans, which is different from consolidating them, allows you to combine multiple private and federal student loans into one large loan through a single private lender. This is a good option for borrowers who are having trouble juggling multiple loans that have high interest rates or high monthly payments. Refinancing into a single loan could lower your monthly payment or overall interest rate.

For example, if you’re trying to pay off $100,000 in 10 years with a combined interest rate of 6.8%, your monthly payment would be approximately $1,151. If you refinanced to a new 10-year loan for $100,000 with a 4.25% interest rate, you’d have a monthly payment of $1,024. This would equate to a monthly savings of $126 and a lifetime savings of $15,171.

One downside to refinancing your student loans is that refinancing federal loans into a private loan will cause you to lose all federal benefits and protections, now and in the future. For example, if legislation is passed to forgive federal student loans after you’ve refinanced them into a private loan, you wouldn’t be eligible for this benefit. If you want access to potential federal loan forgiveness in the future, it might be more beneficial to only refinance your private student loans.

STUDENT LOAN REFINANCING CAN POTENTIALLY SAVE BORROWERS $5K WHILE FIXED RATES ARE LOW

3. Pay off the highest-interest loan first

To eliminate your loan balances sooner, consider using the debt avalanche method, which focuses on paying off your highest-interest student loan first. Paying off these loans eliminates the debts which cost you the most interest over the lifetime of your loans. Keep in mind that you’ll still make your minimum monthly payment on all your other loans; you’ll just make larger payments toward the higher-interest loans.

Alternatively, you could also try the debt snowball method, which involves paying off the lowest-interest student loans first and working your way up. This might cause you to pay more interest in the long run but it helps you completely pay off more of your individual loans faster, alleviating that debt from your credit report.

DEBT SNOWBALL METHOD VS. DEBT AVALANCHE: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

For example, let’s say you have two $50,000 student loans on 20-year terms, one with a 4% interest rate and one with a 6% interest rate.

If you started paying these amounts in August 2022, you’d pay off each loan by August 2042. Now let’s assume that you want to pay off your loans faster by paying a minimum of $500 per month on one of them. 

If you increased your payment by $197 monthly on a $50,000 loan at 4%, you’d pay $500 a month and pay off your loan by October 2032. Similarly, if you increase your payment by $142 monthly on a $50,000 loan at 6%, you’d pay $500 a month and pay off your loan by March 2034.

While you’d pay the 4% off loan earlier, you’d only save around $12,000 overall. However, paying off the 6% loan faster would save you around $16,000 overall. That’s a savings of $4,000 that you can either put toward the remaining loan balance or put into savings. 

If these methods don’t apply to you, you can always refinance. You can easily compare prequalified rates from multiple lenders using Credible.

4. Find a cosigner

If you plan on refinancing your student loans, consider adding a cosigner with a good to excellent credit score to your loan. Adding a cosigner to your application can encourage a lender to offer lower refinance interest rates because you’ll seem like less of a risk. 

A cosigner doesn’t need to be a family member, though you should remember that they’ll be legally and financially responsible for the loan if you make payments late, miss payments, or default on the loan. 

5. Start a side hustle 

You have endless opportunities to make additional income through side hustles, like driving for rideshare companies, providing digital services like copywriting, or selling products like art, collectibles, or other goods online. 

For example, if you found a side hustle paying $25 an hour, you could make an extra $1,000 per month working as little as two hours extra per day during a five-day work week. Working this one side hustle for 10 hours each week would double the amount of money you’re putting toward your loans each month. 

6. Stick to a budget

Whether you choose to refinance or continue to pay off your loans in earnest, one of the best ways to achieve this goal is to create a budget and stick to it. This can ensure that you have enough to make your monthly student loan payments and help identify areas where you can cut spending and pay more toward your loans instead. 

The benefit of a budget is that it’s as flexible as it needs to be, which means you can readjust your plan on a daily basis if necessary. You can use a spreadsheet, tracking data provided by your financial institution, or a number of other free online resources that teach you how to make a budget. As you budget, be sure to limit unnecessary spending and cut down on credit card usage.

To get started on refinancing your student loans, visit Credible and compare prequalified rates from multiple lenders.

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