These days, finishing college or grad school with at least some student loan debt is common. The amount of debt you graduate with depends on the cost of your school, the amount of other aid you received and how much you paid out of pocket. The amount of time it'll take to pay off the loan depends on a variety of factors.
If you have a federal student loan, the basic repayment plan is the standard, most common plan. When you make payments on your loan following the standard plan, you will have it paid off in 10 years, or in 120 payments. The amount of each payment will be the same each month throughout the length of the plan. The 10-year plan does not include any time during which you might defer the loan, such as if you go back to school or enter forbearance. Another 10-year plan for federal loans is the graduate payment plan. Your payments start out lower, but increase over time.
Up to 25 Years
The federal student loan program has a few additional payment plans that give you up to 25 years to repay the loan. Under the extended repayment plan, you have between 12 and 25 years to pay back the loan. There are limitations for the extended plan: You need to have a high balance -- over $30,000 for a Direct Loan or Federal Family Education Loan. If you don't meet the requirements for an extended plan, you might meet the requirements for an income-based plan. Income-based plans base the monthly payment amount on your income, which can reduce your financial burden. The unpaid balance on the loan might be forgiven after 25 years.
You do have the option of reducing the length of time it takes you to repay a federal student loan by paying extra each month. Use a loan repayment calculator online to determine how much you need to pay each month to shorten the repayment term by a year, five years, or more. Paying your student loans off early will reduce the amount you spend on them over time, as you will pay less in interest.
The rules for private student loans are slightly differ than the rules for federal loans. You need to read all the loan documents carefully, as repayment rules vary from lender to lender. For example, you might be locked into a repayment plan with little flexibility, despite your income or ability to repay the loan. Some private loans might also have a penalty should you try to pay the loan off early. Unlike the income-based federal loan repayment options, most private loans don't offer any form of loan forgiveness.