How to Pay College Debt

by A. Elizabeth Freeman, Demand Media

    One thing many students headed off to college don't worry about is repaying their loans once they earn their degree. Now that you're out of college, though, those loans are looming over your head, potentially preventing your from reaching your other financial goals, such as buying a car or a house. You have several options when it comes to paying off college debt, including paying them off within 10 years, making smaller payments for a longer period of time or paying more than you owe each month.

    Step 1

    Select a repayment plan for your student loans that fits your current budget and income level, particularly if you have a loan from the United States federal government. Choose the standard repayment plan to pay off the loan within 10 years and pay the least amount of interest. An income-based or income-contingent plan will determine the amount you owe each month based on how much you earn. It will most likely take longer to pay off the loan, but you will not have to struggle from month to month and in some cases, your loan will be forgiven after 10 or 25 years.

    Step 2

    Set up automatic payments with your lender so that you make on-time, monthly payments. In most cases, lenders will automatically withdraw the payment amount from your checking account. Make sure you always have enough money in your bank account to cover your loan payments. You can also send a check to your lender each month.

    Step 3

    Pay more than the minimum payment each month on any credit card debt you have left over from college. Focus on paying off your credit card debt before student loan debt, since credit card interest is usually much higher than the interest on your student loans and doesn't come with the promises, such as loan forgiveness after a certain period, that some student loans have. You may need to cut out some other expenses, such as eating out or buying things you want but do not need. Also, refrain from using your credit cards at all while paying them off, and only use them for expenses you can pay in full at the end of the month once the debt is paid.

    Step 4

    Pay more than you owe on your loans each month. After you've paid off your credit cards, use the money that was directed towards the card payments to pay off your student loans faster. If you add $100 a month to your payment on a $20,000 loan, you will pay it off in 6 years rather than 10. Use an online repayment calculator to see how long it will take you to pay off your loan based on the interest rate, principal and monthly payment you can afford (see Resources).

    Tips

    • If you sign up for a program such as Americorps or Teach for America, you will be eligible for an education grant that you can use to pay off your student loans.
    • Under the Income Based Repayment plan for federal student loans, you are eligible for loan forgiveness after working in a public service job for 10 years.

    About the Author

    Based in Pennsylvania, A. Elizabeth Freeman has been writing professionally since 2007, when she started writing theater reviews for OffOffOnline.com and Theater Talk's New Theater Corps blog. Since then, she has written for Phillyist, TheNest, ModernMom and "Rhode Island Home and Design" magazine, among others. Freeman has an Master of Fine Arts in dramaturgy/theater criticism from CUNY/Brooklyn College.

    Photo Credits

    • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images