Whether you’ve already started repaying your student loan debt or have plans to start paying it off soon, the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan is something every borrower needs to understand.
As the name suggests, this is the standard plan that all borrowers will be placed into if they do not choose another option. And while the Standard Repayment Plan minimizes the total amount of interest you will pay over the lifetime of the loan, remember that it’s not your only option.
Find out how the plan works before you decide if it is the right choice for you. Specifically, let’s look at:
- What is the Standard Repayment Plan?
- How the Standard Repayment Plan works
- How does the Standard Repayment Plan impact you?
- Alternatives to the Standard Repayment Plan
As noted, if you don’t specifically choose another plan, you’ll automatically be placed in the Standard Repayment Plan, and there you’ll stay until and unless you decide to switch. The Standard Plan is designed to pay off your loans in 120 payments over 10 years.
While the monthly payments on this plan may well be higher than with other options, paying off your loan in 10 years will lower the overall interest you pay, compared with some of the alternatives.
Standard Repayment Plan eligibility
All borrowers with the following loans are eligible for the Standard Repayment Plan:
- Direct Subsidized Loans
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans
- Direct PLUS Loans
- Direct Consolidation Loans
- Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans
- Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
- FFEL PLUS Loans
- FFEL Consolidation Loans
Note that the Standard Repayment Plan applies only to federal loans, not private student loans.
Setting up the plan
Though you may choose to stick with the Standard Repayment Plan, it’s worth a look at your other options first to see what’s the best choice for your loans.
The Department of Education recommends that you use its Repayment Estimator. This online tool will ask you for all of your loan balances and the interest rates they carry, along with your tax-filing status, income and family size.
You will also have to create a free online account in order to accurately use the repayment calculator. Based on the information you input, the Repayment Estimator will tell you:
- Which plans you’re eligible for
- When your first monthly payment is due
- When your last monthly payment is due
- The total amount paid
- Projected loan forgiveness (if any)
- Your repayment period
The options it gives you will include the Standard Repayment Plan, as well as any other relevant options. The two most important numbers to focus on are your monthly payments and the total amount paid. You need a monthly payment you can afford, but you also want to pay as little as possible in the long run.
The Standard Repayment Plan tends to be a good balance of both. However, specific repayment options can vary based on your own individual circumstances, so it’s always a good idea to check the Repayment Estimator, and maybe do some additional research, before defaulting into the Standard Repayment Plan.
When you’re set up on the Standard Repayment Plan, your monthly payments are generally calculated based on what it will take to pay off your balance within 10 years’ time. That said, the plan requires you to pay a minimum of $50 a month.
However, consolidated loans are the exception. If you have Direct Consolidation Loans or FFEL Consolidation Loans, your payment term may range between 10 and 30 years and the repayment calculator will display the consolidated loans in a separate table. The $50 monthly minimum still applies; however, the payment amount is determined not only by what you owe on the consolidated loans, but also any other student loan debt.
If you are having trouble making the monthly payment with the Standard Repayment Plan, you can choose to enroll in a different plan at any time, with no cost or penalty to you, providing you continue to make timely payments. Use the Repayment Estimator to get some idea of alternative options, and then contact your student loan servicer.
Remember, switching plans should always be free, and servicers can’t charge you for talking to you about your loans. If anyone tells you otherwise, it could be a debt-relief scam.
There are three key benefits to sticking with the Standard Plan:
- Your student loans will be paid off within 10 years, allowing you to free up cash to work toward other financial goals, like buying property, saving for retirement and travel.
- You’ll save on interest fees. For instance, although Income-Based Repayment plans offer lower monthly payments, that’s because they’re spread over a much longer period of time. As a result, the interest will cost you more in the long run.
- It’s just one of your federal repayment options, so you can switch anytime.
There’s really just one major drawback, but it may be very significant, depending on your financial situation. On the Standard Repayment Plan, your monthly payments will be higher than with most other federal options.
And that’s fine if you can swing it, but saving money over the life of the loan won’t do you any good when you’re barely scraping by today. If you can’t afford your daily necessities of life, you should talk to a loan servicer about a plan that works for you.
Note too that in some circumstances, the Standard Plan might not actually get you the lowest monthly payment amount. That’s why it’s really important to use the repayment calculator provided by the U.S. Department of Education in order to ensure it’s the best choice for you.
The Department of Education has seven other repayment plan options for federal loans:
- Graduated Repayment Plan
You’re on the same 10-year plan (or 30-year plan for consolidated loans), but your monthly payment starts out low and gets higher over time, increasing every two years.
- Extended Repayment Plan
Your monthly payments are either fixed or graduated for up to 25 years and are generally lower than with other plans
- Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE)
You pay 10% of your discretionary income. Any remaining balance is forgiven after 20 years for undergraduate loans or 25 years for graduate loans.
- Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE)
You pay 10% of your discretionary income, but no more than you would on the Standard Repayment Plan. Any remaining balance is forgiven after 20 years.
- Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)
You pay 10% of your discretionary income, with any remaining balance forgiven after 20 years for loans taken after 2014. Older loans require 15% of your discretionary income, with forgiveness after 25 years.
- Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR)
You pay whichever is lower: 20% of your discretionary income, or however much your monthly payment would be over a 12-year fixed payment period. Any remaining balance is forgiven after 25 years.
- Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan
You pay a fixed amount based on your annual income for a period of up to 10 years. Notably, though, this plan is only available to borrowers who have a Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL).
Note that for these plans, you may need to provide documentation of your income throughout your loan’s repayment period.
As you can see, there are a lot of similarities among these plans. It’s important that you learn about the alternative plans and their requirements. You can also use the Repayment Estimator to get an idea of which one will actually work for you.
Generally speaking, the Standard Repayment Plan will save you money in interest, making it a good option for those who can keep up with the payments. But if your finances need the breathing room and you’re willing to make the trade-off of potentially paying more in interest, then you might want to look at other options.
Chaunie Brusie contributed to this report.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 8 lenders of 2020!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.20% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.89% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of December 13, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 12/13/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
3 Important Disclosures for Figure.
Figure’s Student Refinance Loan is a private loan. If you refinance federal loans, you forfeit certain flexible repayment options associated with those loans. If you expect to incur financial hardship that would impact your ability to repay, you should consider federal consolidation alternatives.
4 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Disclosures
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
1College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.
2All rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
3$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees.
4This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
Information advertised valid as of 1/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
5 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE (“APR”)
There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.
For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
ELIGIBILITY & ELIGIBLE LOANS
Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).
Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.
All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.
For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.
The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.
The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.
POSTPONING OR REDUCING PAYMENTS
After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.
If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of November 8, 2019 and is subject to change.
6 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers.
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 1.76% effective November 10, 2019.
8 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 12/019/2019 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% to 8.59% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.49% to 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
|1.99% – 6.89%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.31% – 7.36%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.06% – 6.81%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.62% – 6.12%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 6.65%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 7.06%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.85% – 6.13%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.90% – 8.59%8||Undergrad & Graduate|