Home > Students > 10 Ways to Reduce Your Student Loan Debt

Comments 0 Comments

Student loans are an enormous economic burden for Americans, coming in right behind mortgages as the largest kind of consumer debt. And although student debt is often used as a political talking point, you can rest assured that for now, your student loans aren’t going away.

There are, however, some ways you can reduce the burden of your student loan debt by pursuing better loan terms, shorter repayment periods or lower monthly payments. Here are 10 potential ways to improve your student debt scenario:

1. Ask for Employer Assistance

Government employers have long offered loan repayment assistance or tuition reimbursement programs. But more private companies are now initiating student loan assistance policies, in part to attract millennial talent.

If you’re hunting for a job, pay attention to the benefits offered by potential employers. Some offer student loan assistance as part of their benefits package. If you’re already employed, double check with your current employer on the possibility you’re missing out on a valuable policy.

2. Consolidate Your Loans

Most federal student loans are eligible for consolidation, a process in which multiple student loans are combined into one loan. The interest rate is then calculated using a weighted average of the collective interest rates. While this won’t necessarily save you money on interest, it can simplify your repayment by consolidating them into one bill.

Consolidation could alter your monthly payments by changing your repayment period. Choosing a longer repayment period would lower your monthly payment but increase the overall amount of money you repay. Choosing a 10-year standard repayment plan would result in the highest possible monthly payment but minimizes the time and money required to pay off your loan.

You may also become eligible for alternative repayment plans and potential loan forgiveness that may have been unavailable before consolidation (more on those in a minute).

3. Pay Ahead of Time

Some federal student loans, like Perkins Loans, do not accrue interest while you’re enrolled in school and during the grace period after graduation. If you start making payments before interest kicks in, you can reduce the overall interest you’ll pay. And while it may be extremely difficult to do, paying the balance in full ahead of time will render your loan interest-free.

4. Pay Extra

In the same vein, paying down the principle on your loan by paying extra each month will reduce your balance faster and save you money.

“I began a very aggressive savings fund to pay down my loans,” said Katrina McGhee, Life and Budget Coach at Katrina McGhee, LLC. “Pre-paying your principle on a loan is a great approach if you are able to make it work for you … Reducing your balance saves you a lot of interest in the long run.”

If you have multiple loans to pay, you may want to pay more money toward your higher-interest loans first to get them out of the way.

5. Apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

If you work for a government organization or a qualifying not-for-profit, you may be eligible for public service loan forgiveness. You will have to be employed full time and have the right kind of loans and payment type. Under this program, your student loan will be forgiven after a certain amount of payments. (You can read more about how to get student loan forgiveness here.)

“This plan enables those in public service … to potentially get forgiveness after 120 qualifying payments,” said Robert Farrington, Founder of TheCollegeInvestor.com. “There are restrictions, so educate yourself, but that program can get you tax-free loan forgiveness after essentially 10 years.”

6. Sign Up for Auto Pay

You could get a small reduction in your loan interest rate by signing up for online statements and electronic payments, where your lenders will automatically deduct your monthly payment from your checking or savings account.

“Many lenders and loan servicers will offer an interest rate discount of 0.25% for signing up for direct debit and/or online statements. This is an easy way to save a little on interest over the course of your loan,” said Farrington.

7. Roll Student Loan Into Your HELOC

If you have a mortgage with some available equity, you could roll your student loan into your home equity line of credit (HELOC). This could reduce your interest rate and result in tax benefits.

“With $40,000 left to pay off on my MBA loan, I decided to roll my student loan into my HELOC,” said McGhee. “This had two big benefits: it reduced my interest rate from 8% down to just 3% and it also meant any interest I paid was now tax deductible.” (Student loan interest is also tax deductible, as long as your income is below a certain threshold.)

8. Pick a Different Repayment Plan

There are many repayment plans available to borrowers, including income-based repayment (IBR), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) and income-contingent repayment (ICR). These plans will adjust your payment amount based on your income. Here’s what you need to know about some drawbacks to some income-based repayment plans.

“There are several different types of plans … but they all cap your monthly payment at a certain percentage of your discretionary income,” said Farrington.

There are also repayment plans that will adjust the repayment period (for instance, extend the lifetime of the loan) or restructure your payments (for instance, increase monthly payments over time).

Federal borrowers can change repayment plans at any time for free.

9. Apply for Deferment or Forbearance

Student loan deferments and forbearance let you temporarily pause or reduce your monthly payments. Deferment stops interest from accruing on certain types of loans during the deferment period, while loans in forbearance always continue to accrue interest.

You’ll have to work directly with your loan servicer to access these options. There are strict eligibility requirements, but they are wide ranging and could include financial hardship, unemployment, changing jobs, being deployed in the military or having medical expenses. Here’s a quick rundown on how deferment or forbearance can affect your credit.

10. Refinance Your Loan

You can refinance your federal student loans with a private lender to get a better interest rate, which could save you thousands of dollars in interest in the long run. To get the best interest rate, you’ll need good credit. Don’t know where your credit stands? You can check using Credit.com’s absolutely free credit report summary.

You’ll also probably want stable employment and financial security. That’s because refinancing to a private lender eliminates the access to federal repayment options like income-based repayment, deferment or forbearance and public service loan forgiveness. To give up these options, you should be reasonably confident you won’t lose your job or need access to alternative plans.

Here are some tips and guidance for refinancing your student loans.

Image: Jacob Wackerhausen

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other sponsored content on Credit.com are Partners with Credit.com. Credit.com receives compensation if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any financial products or cards offered.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team