How Long Does It Take the Average Borrower To Pay Off Student Debt?

Young Caucasian family having debt problems, not able to pay out their loan.
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How long does it take to repay student loans? GOBankingRates takes a look at the average amount of time it takes to repay student debt in 2022.

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Plus, we share strategies for repaying student loans and how these approaches help borrowers pay down and get out of debt.

How Many Years Will I Be in Student Debt?

Unfortunately, there is not an answer to this question involving a short timeline. CNBC reports findings from the Education Data Initiative stating the average borrower will take 20 years to pay back their student loans. Graduates from the class of 2022 are projected to take 10 years to pay back roughly $45k in student debt if they make monthly payments of $345.

Simply put, if a borrower owes a significant amount of student debt, it will take them longer to pay it off.

Common Repayment Strategies

While student loan borrowers may be hopeful for broad student loan forgiveness, it is still uncertain if this will come to pass. Even more uncertain is if federal and private loans would both be eligible for student loan forgiveness.

What borrowers can do right now is determine the best ways to repay their debt. Look into the following options to see where you may be eligible.

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Refinancing Debt

Borrowers may reduce student debt by refinancing student loans. Refinancing helps borrowers receive lower interest rates on their loans and take advantage of lower interest rates to potentially lower their total monthly payment. A lower payment means putting extra money towards savings or other aspects of your budget where the income may be needed, such as paying for groceries or gas.

Refinancing, however, comes with a few eligibility caveats. Borrowers must have a good credit score and steady income. While there are benefits to refinancing federal student loans, such as the ability to opt for an income-driven repayment plan, these benefits may not necessarily extend to individuals who want to refinance a private student loan. (Although they may potentially receive lower rates and monthly payments, similar to individuals refinancing federal loans.)

Consolidating Debt

If you are not eligible for loan refinancing, borrowers may consider consolidating their student debt. This combines all loans into one loan at a new interest rate. The rate is the weighted average of your previous loans, which allows borrowers to simplify their cash flow and payment process.

Keep in mind, however, consolidation may only be done with federal student loans. Private loans are not eligible. 

Other Repayment Methods

Borrowers not eligible for refinancing or consolidating their student debt may start eliminating their student loans by using the debt avalanche or debt snowball method. 

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Debt Avalanche Method

The debt avalanche repayment method targets debt with the highest interest rate first. As you target student debt with the highest interest rate, you continue to make minimum payments on any other loans. Once the debt with the highest interest rate is paid off, borrowers move on to pay off the next debt with the highest interest rate.

Borrowers who choose the debt avalanche method to repay student loans are able to save on interest payments in the long run. This method also minimizes the amount of interest paid by a borrower and lessens the amount of time it takes to get out of debt.

Using the avalanche method may help you speed up getting out of student loan debt because you are paying off loans with high interest rates first and not carrying, or paying for, this borrowed money over a longer period of time.

Debt Snowball Method

The debt snowball method starts from the bottom and works your way up. Borrowers begin by paying off student loans with the smallest balances first and putting minimum payments towards any other debts. Gradually, borrowers “snowball” their way up to paying off loans with larger balances.

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While the debt snowball method is considered a psychological attack on debt since it allows borrowers to earn financial wins and boost confidence about paying off debt, it is important not to lose momentum along the way. Keep the steady wins coming and don’t let fear of the loans with the highest balances or interest rates scare you from making full repayments.

When and if possible, consider using both the debt avalanche and debt snowball method to repay student loan debt. Keep your eyes peeled for “sore thumb” debt, such as debt with an unusually high interest rate or unusually low balance. Address the sore thumb first with targeted payments and work your way through any remaining loans.

Borrowers who do not have sore thumb debt or aren’t sure which method is best for repaying their student loans may reach out to a financial advisor for additional guidance.

Don’t Forget: Enroll in Autopay

If you are not already enrolled in autopay for your student loans, borrowers may enroll themselves. Enrolling in autopay ensures always making timely payments on student debt.

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About the Author

Heather Taylor is a senior finance writer for GOBankingRates. She is also the head writer and brand mascot enthusiast for PopIcon, Advertising Week’s blog dedicated to brand mascots. She has been published on HelloGiggles, Business Insider, The Story Exchange, Brit + Co, Thrive Global, and more media outlets. 

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