How long does it take to repay a student loan?

The standard repayment term on a federal student loan is 10 years. The repayment term on private student loans vary from 5 years to 15 years.

Borrowers can choose alternate repayment terms which reduce the monthly loan payment by increasing the repayment term. These repayment terms range from 12 years to 30 years.

  • Income-contingent repayment (ICR) and income-based repayment (IBR) involve repayment terms of up to 25 years
  • Pay-As-You-Earn repayment (PAYE) and Revised Pay-As-You-Earn repayment (REPAYE) involve repayment terms of up to 20 years
  • Extended repayment (without consolidation) offers a 25-year repayment term for $30,000 or more in federal student loan debt
  • Extended repayment (with consolidation) offers repayment terms of 12, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years, depending on the amount of federal student loan debt

Generally, students should borrow no more than they can afford to repay in 10 years or by the time they retire, whichever comes first. If total student loan debt at graduation is less that the borrower’s expected annual starting salary, the borrower should be able to repay his or her student loans in 10 years or less.

When students graduate with too much debt, they usually choose a longer repayment term, so that the monthly payment represents about the same percentage of income as borrowers with less debt. For example, a borrower who graduates with one-third more debt than income might choose a 15-year repayment term instead of a 10-year term to keep the monthly loan payment about the same percentage of income. Thus, increases in debt are manifested in the length of the repayment term, not the percentage of income devoted to repaying the debt.

The next table shows the number of years until the student loans are repaid, assuming a 6.0% interest rate and monthly payments equal to 10% of monthly income. N/A indicates that the loan will never be repaid because the monthly payment is less than the new interest that accrues. The diagonal shows where total debt equals annual income.

Payment = 10% of income
Annual Income
Monthly Payment
$25,000
$208.33
$30,000
$250.00
$35,000
$291.67
$40,000
$333.33 
$45,000
$375.00 
$50,000
$416.67 
Debt vs. Years in Repayment


     
$25,000  15.3 11.6 9.4 7.9 6.8 6.0
$30,000 21.3 15.3 12.1 10.0 8.5 7.5
$35,000 30.6 20.1 15.3 12.4 10.5 9.1
$40,000 53.8 26.9 19.3 15.3 12.7 10.9
$45,000 N/A 38.5 24.7 18.8 15.3 13.0
$50,000 N/A N/A 32.5 23.2 18.4 15.3

This table is similar, but with a monthly payment equal to 15% of monthly income.

Payment = 15% of income
Annual Income
Monthly Payment
$25,000
$312.50
$30,000
$375.00
$35,000
$437.50
$40,000
$500.00 
$45,000
$562.50
$50,000
$625.00
Debt vs. Years in Repayment


     
$25,000  8.5 6.8 5.6 4.8 4.2 3.7
$30,000 10.9 8.5 7.0 6.0 5.2 4.6
$35,000 13.7 10.5 8.5 7.2 6.2 5.5
$40,000 17.1 12.7 10.2 8.5 7.3 6.4
$45,000 21.3 15.3 12.1 10.0 8.5 7.5
$50,000 26.9 18.4 14.2 11.6 9.8 8.5