How much are student loan payments?

Many factors influence your monthly student loan payment, including which repayment plan you choose.

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The type of loan, loan term, interest rate, and repayment plan all affect student loan payments. (Shutterstock)

Whether you’re a new student or recent graduate, you may want an idea of how much your student loan payments will be when you have to begin repaying your student loans. Calculating your monthly student loan payments can be difficult, even when you know the interest rate and loan principal. 

Fees, the type of loan you have, and multiple other factors can influence the payment amount, adding hundreds or even thousands of dollars to your loan total. 

Let’s look at what the average student loan payment is, how to calculate yours, and how you could lower your student loans. If you have personal student loans, refinancing them into a lower interest rate or longer repayment term may help reduce your monthly payments. Credible makes it easy to see current student loan interest rates.

What’s the average student loan payment?

The average monthly student loan payment is around $460, based on Education Data Initiative analysis of information from federal education and other sources. Monthly payments range from $354 to $541 for a bachelor’s degree, and from $350 to $1,039 for a master’s degree.

Your monthly payment may fall in that range, or be more or less depending on your individual circumstances.

It takes most borrowers 20 years to repay their student loans, during which time they’ll rack up $26,000 in interest, according to Education Data’s analysis. 

What factors determine student loan payment amounts?

Monthly student loan repayment amounts can be different for every borrower, even for two borrowers who took out the same amount of loans at the same time. A number of factors influence your payments, some of which you can’t control and others that won’t be apparent until you receive your first repayment notice. 

Your average monthly student loan payment will depend on these five factors:

  • Type of loan — Your student loans may be federal, private, or a combination of both. Credit unions, banks, and other financial institutions provide private student loans. The U.S. Department of Education provides federal student loans, including Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and PLUS Loans.
  • Loan balance — The amount of the loan is the principal amount that you receive from a single loan. You may receive this disbursement in a lump sum or in installments per semester or quarter. Lenders often disburse funds directly to your school.
  • Interest rate — The interest rate is set when you take out an individual loan. Because rates are adjusted annually, an additional student loan that you take out later in your academic career may have a higher or lower rate.
  • Repayment term — Your repayment term is the length of time it’ll take to repay the full loan, plus interest and fees, by making equal monthly payments. For example, the Standard Repayment Plan’s 10-year term will require 120 equal monthly payments.
  • Repayment plan — The Standard Repayment Plan isn’t your only option for federal or private loans. Private student lenders typically offer multiple loan repayment terms. And for federal loans, other repayment plans include the Graduated Repayment Plan (up to 30 years), Extended Repayment Plan (up to 25 years), and income-driven repayment plans, which may qualify you for loan forgiveness after 10 to 25 years.

How to estimate your student loan payment

Once you take out a federal or private loan, your loan servicer will be able to provide you with your estimated loan repayment amounts. 

Before taking out a student loan, it’s a good idea to use a student loan calculator to get an estimate of your monthly payment. Simply enter the estimated amount you plan on borrowing, plug in an interest rate, and select a loan term. 

For instance, you’ll be able to see that a $10,000 loan with a 5% interest rate and a standard 10-year repayment term will result in an estimated $106 monthly payment. However, a 6% interest rate for the same loan will increase this amount to $111 per month. That extra $5 per month may not seem like a drastic difference, but over the course of 10 years, it’ll add nearly $600 in additional interest. This is why it’s important to always shop for the best student loan rates.

Ways to lower your federal student loan payment

If you’re struggling with your student loan debt or are concerned about any future financial hardship, you’re not alone. More than 11% of adult student loan borrowers said they missed at least one payment between January and July 2020, according to the Education Data Initiative. 

Thankfully, borrowers who are struggling with their federal student loan payments have multiple options for making them more manageable on a variety of budgets. Income-driven repayment plans, student loan consolidation, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness can lower your federal student loan payments.

Income-driven repayment plans

An income-driven repayment (IDR) plan is an option for most federal student loans. Four types of IDR plans are available, all aimed at setting your monthly student loan payment at an affordable level based on your income and family size. 

Student loan consolidation

If you have multiple federal student loans at varying interest rates, you can consolidate them into a single Direct Consolidation Loan. The interest rate on the new loan will be an average of the rates on the loans you’re consolidating, so it’s possible you could end up with a lower rate and more manageable payments. Although the new interest rate may be low, your loan term will be extended, which could increase your overall repayment costs.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program is designed to benefit borrowers who work for a qualified employer, such as a governmental office or not-for-profit organization. Multiple factors influence a borrower’s eligibility for this student loan forgiveness program, including their history of qualified payments and type of federal loans they selected. You can learn more about the PSLF Program at

How to lower private student loan payments

Some borrowers need to take out private student loans if their federal student loans, grants, and scholarships don’t cover all their expenses. Unfortunately, private student lower borrowers have fewer options for reducing loan payments. This encourages many borrowers to consider refinancing their private student loans. 

Private student loan refinancing is similar to loan consolidation. It allows you to combine multiple student loans into a new single loan. Ideally, you’ll qualify for a lower interest rate on the new loan, which could reduce your monthly payment. Although this may extend the repayment period, a lower monthly payment may make managing your repayment plan easier. 

Student loan refinancing has other advantages. You can refinance federal student loans and private student loans into a single refinanced loan, although you’ll lose federal student loan benefits, like access to IDR plans. Refinancing is also an opportunity to release an initial cosigner from the loan.

Before you refinance your student loans, it’s important to consider the long-term financial impact. You may pay less per month, but a longer repayment period will cause you to pay more interest over the life of the loan — even if the new interest rate is lower. 

You can easily research lenders, compare rates, and apply for a student loan refinance using Credible.