Millions of Americans have student loan debt. While some borrowers owe a few thousand in student loans, a whopping 500,000 are juggling balances of $200,000 or more. And they're hoping to pay off that $200,000 loan amount fast.
For those with $200,000 student loan balances, getting debt-free can seem like an insurmountable task. But Laurel Taylor, CEO and founder of student debt solutions company FutureFuel.io, proves it’s possible to pay off student loans — even in the six-figure range.
How to pay off $200,000 in student loan debt
Paying off six-figure debts is no easy feat, but getting serious about student loan repayment is the first step. Making additional payments is huge — whether that’s putting your tax refund toward your student loans or just a portion of your holiday bonus.
“Compound interest is working against you every month—and sometimes every day,” explained Taylor, who graduated from Texas State University and the MIT Sloan School of Management with around $150,000 in student loan debt.
There are quick steps borrowers can take to speed up repayment and get out of debt fast.
- Step 1: Refinance student loans
- Step 2: Ask a loved one to cosign a refinancing loan
- Step 3: Pay your loan bi-weekly instead of monthly
- Step 4: Ask your employer for help
- Step 5: Consider an income-driven repayment plan
- Step 6: Deduct your student loan interest on your taxes
1. Refinance your student loans
Student loan refinancing can help make repayment easier. There are several benefits, including:
- Lower interest rates
- Lower monthly payment
- Consolidating loans
- Saving money
- Federal benefits aren't affected
The majority of student loan lenders charge no upfront fees, because decades of interest payments and a new client is more valuable than a few hundred dollars in upfront fees.
Credible can help you compare prequalified student loan refinancing rates from up to 10 lenders without affecting your credit score. Plus, Credible offers a best rate guarantee.
You should also use a student loan refinance calculator to view your potential payment amounts and ensure the new loan’s payment is within budget.
Once you’ve determined the best deal, then you can apply for the loan. Make sure you have the following documents on hand before you start the loan application:
- Your driver’s license and Social Security card
- The most recent statements for your school loans
- Your two most recent paystubs
- Your most recent W-2 and tax return
After you’ve submitted your application, it’s just a waiting game.
2. Ask a loved one to cosign a refinancing loan
Not everyone qualifies for a student loan refinance. If you're one of these people, don't fear — you have options. You could get approved by adding a cosigner to your loan application, specifically someone with stable income and an excellent credit score.
You can easily add a cosigner to your loan application via Credible. With Credible, you can even compare multiple cosigners to see which one gets you the best loan rates and terms.
If your relatives don't want to cosign a refinancing loan, consider asking them if they would contribute to your monthly loan payment — every dollar helps.
“Student debt impacts the lives of entire households,” Taylor said. “You’re not alone, and your spouse, mom, or favorite auntie may be willing to throw you a bone when he or she discovers that just $25 a month can shave two years and a near $5K off of your student debt.”
3. Pay your loan bi-weekly instead of monthly
This reduces your interest and equates to an extra payment every year.
Reminder: Refinancing your student loans can help you lower your monthly payments. This essentially replaces your existing loans with a new one — ideally one with a lower interest rate. You can also refinance into a longer-term loan, which also lowers your payments.
Just keep in mind that rates vary greatly between lenders, so be sure to use a tool like Credible to shop around and view rates tables from several lenders before you refinance.
4. Ask your employer for help
The Employer Participation in Repayment Act (introduced in 2019) would allow employers to give up to $5,250 in tax-free student loan assistance to any worker annually.
While it hasn’t passed in Congress just yet, some employers still offer repayment benefits, with major companies like Aetna, Estee Lauder, Fidelity, New York Life and Staples among them. Be sure to ask your employer or workplace HR department what they can do (or would be willing to do) to help you pay off debt.
5. Consider an income-driven repayment plan
Deferment or forbearance options can be tempting, but income-driven repayment plans can be a much better long-term solution. These programs set your monthly payments based on your income and earnings, rather than your total student loan balance.
Though this makes it easier to make payments and stay afloat, there are some caveats: First, it will likely extend the time it takes to pay off your loan. Because of this, it may also increase the amount of interest you’ll pay in the long haul (though it depends on exactly what repayment plan you qualify for).
To see if you qualify for an income-driven repayment plan, submit an application online at StudentLoans.gov or send a request to your student loan servicer.
6. Deduct your student loan interest on your taxes
This can give you a larger tax refund, which you can then put toward your debts.