5 practical student loan repayment options
by Lynnette Khalfani-Cox

Student loan debt can feel overwhelming for many young adults in America.
However, carrying student loan debt doesn't have to be a burden when you create a realistic payoff plan.
Here are five practical ways to help pay off your student loans:
1. Choose the shortest student loan repayment program you can afford
If you have federal student loans, you can choose from four general repayment plans:
  • The 10-Year Standard Repayment Plan, where you repay your college debt in equal installments starting six months after you've graduated or left school.
  • The 10-Year Graduated Repayment Plan, where your payments start out very low and then increase every two years.
  • The Extended Repayment Plan, where you stretch out your student loan payments for as long as 25 years, and you can make fixed or graduated payments.
  • An Income-Related Repayment Plan, where you have a variety of loan repayment options, each of which has a payment term ranging anywhere from 10 to 25 years.
 
The shorter the time frame you select, the less interest you'll pay and the quicker you'll repay those student loans.
2. Talk to your employer
Some employers offer student loan payoff programs as a benefit to employees. This might be conditional, in that you agree to work for that employer for a certain number of years to be eligible for the full benefit.
If your company offers student loan assistance, and you qualify, you might be able to pay off your loans just by being a loyal employee.
3. Investigate the federal student loan repayment program
If you have federal student loans and work for a federal agency, find out if you are eligible for the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program that is administered by the Office of Personnel Management.
The program allows employees of a federal agency to have federal loans paid off up to $10,000 per year, up to a maximum of $60,000. Visit the Office of Personnel Management website at www.opm.gov to learn about your options.
4. Seek out a loan deferment, forbearance, or cancellation if you can't make payments
When you face economic hardship, you may qualify for a loan deferment or forbearance. In some cases, you can have your loans canceled altogether.
For instance, Sallie Mae offers deferments for nearly 20 different types of life situations that have left the borrower in a state of economic hardship or financial distress.
If you become unemployed, are a new mother re-entering the workforce, volunteer for a non-profit, are a military enlistee, or meet other eligibility requirements, you might also qualify for a loan deferment.
5. Consider the extra benefits of volunteering and your career path
If you volunteer at AmeriCorps, VISTA, or the Peace Corps, or you volunteer for any organization that helps people in under-served communities, you may be eligible to have your student loans canceled completely.
Police officers, doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, and healthcare professionals may also qualify for loan forgiveness programs and outright cancellations.
Use these five tips and your student loans can be paid off before you know it.
Lynnette Khalfani-Cox
Lynnette Khalfani-Cox is a co-founder of the free financial advice site, AskTheMoneyCoach.com.
Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA) has sponsored this post for information purposes only. Lynnette Khalfani-Cox is unaffiliated with TIAA, College Retirement Equities Fund, and their affiliates and subsidiaries (collectively TIAA-CREF), and TIAA makes no representations regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information in this post or otherwise made available by her. Ms. Cox's statements are solely her own and are not endorsed or recommended by TIAA. TIAA is not responsible for the content or privacy policies of third-party sites to which you may link.

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