Student Loan Calculator – NerdWallet

Pay Off Your Student Loans

Pay Off Your Student Loans

NerdWallet’s Student Loan Calculator

Loans, Student Loans

NerdWallet’s Student Loan Calculator

Loans, Student Loans

Plug your student loan information into the calculator below to see how much you owe — or would owe — each month based on your interest rate and term length. Then, read on to find out how to save money in interest and pay off your loans faster.

How to use this calculator

Loan amount

Enter the total amount you borrowed. If you don’t know how much you owe, search for your federal loans in the National Student Loan Data System or look for private student loans on your credit report.

If you’re like most borrowers, you may have a mix of federal and private loans or have several federal loans disbursed during various semesters. To get the most precise estimate of your monthly payments, enter your loans into the calculator individually and add the monthly payments together for your total. To get a rough estimate, you can use the sum of all your student loans.

Annual interest rate

Your student loan interest rates will vary depending on whether they’re federal or private, the year you borrowed and, in some cases, your credit score. Check with your federal loan servicer or your private lender to find out your interest rate.


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Again, you’ll get the most accurate results if you enter your loans separately with their precise interest rates. But if you want a quick estimate, you can use an average interest rate.

Loan term

The loan term is the amount of time you have to repay your loan. For federal loans, the standard term is 10 years, but you can extend the term to 20 or 25 years with an income-driven repayment plan. Income-driven plans lower your monthly loan payments but increase the total interest you’ll pay throughout the life of your loan.

Regardless of the repayment plan you’re on, you can pay more than your monthly minimum to pay off your loan faster. The quicker you pay off your loans, the more you’ll save in interest.

Understanding your results

Monthly payment

Each of your loans has a monthly minimum you have to pay to stay current. If you can’t afford the minimum payment, you may be able to lower it by signing up for an income-driven plan or, if you have private loans, talking to your lender.

Total interest paid

This number represents the total amount of interest you’ll pay throughout the life of your loan. You’ll save money in interest if you can pay more than your monthly minimum, but contribute to a retirement account and emergency savings fund before you pay extra on your student loans.

You can also lower the total by refinancing your student loans to get a lower interest rate. You can refinance private or federal loans, but if you refinance federal loans, you lose the ability to sign up for income-driven plans and take advantage of federal loan forgiveness programs.

Total principal paid

Your loan principal is the amount you originally borrowed. If it’s higher than that initial amount, it’s likely because some of your interest was capitalized, or added to your loan balance at the end of a grace period or deferment.

Total payment

This number is equal to your total interest plus your total principal. You can lower this amount by paying your loans off faster, refinancing and avoiding capitalized interest.

More calculators from NerdWallet

Student loan refinance calculator
Budgeting calculator

Teddy Nykiel is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: teddy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @teddynykiel.

Pay Off Your Student Loans

Student Loan Repayment Plans: Find The Best One For You

Loans, Student Loans

Student Loan Repayment Plans: Find The Best One For You

Loans, Student Loans
student-loan-repayment-plans-2-story

If you’re repaying federal student loans, your best bet is to keep it simple: Stick with the standard plan.

This is the plan all federal borrowers start with — on it, you’ll make equal monthly payments for 10 years. If you can afford the standard plan, you’ll pay less in interest and pay off your loans faster than you would on other repayment plans. You can go a step further and refinance your student loans to get a lower interest rate and, perhaps, pay off your loans even faster.

But all that is often easier said than done.

If you have federal loans and can’t afford your monthly payment on the standard plan, the government offers six alternative repayment plans to make your payments more manageable. These plans fall into two categories: income-driven and basic.

In this post:

How to choose the best student loan repayment plan for you

What to know about income-driven repayment plans

Understanding basic student loan repayment plans

How to choose the best student loan repayment plan for you

You don’t necessarily need to understand the nitty-gritty details of every federal student loan repayment plan to choose the best one for you.

You can plug your student loan information into the government’s repayment estimator to see exactly what you’d pay under each plan based on your income, outstanding loan balance and interest rate.

If you know you’re interested in an income-driven plan, you can apply and let your loan servicer put you on the income-driven plan with the lowest monthly payment you qualify for. Simply select “recommended” on the income-driven application instead of selecting a particular plan.

Still, understanding the basics of the various plans can help you make an informed decision. Here’s what you should know.

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What to know about income-driven repayment plans

Income-driven plans cap your monthly payment at a percentage of your income, and increase your loan term from the standard 10 years to 20 or 25 years. They also forgive any remaining loan balance at the end of that term, but you’ll have to pay taxes on the amount that’s forgiven. Although IDR plans typically give you a lower monthly payment than the standard plan does, you’ll end up paying more in interest.

One scenario in which switching to an income-driven plan is smart is if you’re eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, a federal program available to government and nonprofit employees. If eligible, you have to make payments for 10 years before the government will forgive your remaining student loan balance. You’ll get more of your loan forgiven if you make payments on an income-driven plan for those 10 years.

There are four income-driven plans. The particular plan that’s best for you depends on when you first borrowed, your income and family size. Click on the names of each plan for more details.

Plan nameTerm length (Years)Monthly payment cap (% of income)
Nerd Note
Income-based repayment
20 or 2510% or 15%Need to have a certain income (based on your family size) to qualify.
Income-contingent repayment 2520%The only income-driven plan available for PLUS loan borrowers.
Pay As You Earn2010%Only a small group of borrowers qualify.
Revised Pay As You Earn20 or 2510%Open to all borrowers with federal direct loans.

You apply for IDR plans on the Department of Education’s website or through your loan servicer. You have to reapply for IDR plans each year with updated information about your income and family size; if something changes, your monthly payment could change too.

Your federal student loan servicer will inform you of your deadline for reapplying; if you miss that deadline, any unpaid interest will be capitalized, or added to your principal balance. To avoid capitalization, which will increase the amount of interest you’ll ultimately pay, make sure you reapply on time.

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Understanding basic student loan repayment plans

Basic repayment plans don’t depend on your income and include the standard, graduated and extended repayment plans. Unless you elect otherwise, you’ll automatically be on the standard plan; contact your loan servicer to switch to a graduated or extended plan.

Plan nameTerm length (years)Nerd Note
Standard repayment10You'll save the most money on this plan.
Graduated repayment10Your payment will start low and gradually increase every two years.
Extended repayment
25You'll have lower monthly payments but pay more in interest with this plan.

Though the graduated and extended plans are typically not the best options compared to the income-driven plans, they can be right for some borrowers — especially those who don’t want to deal with reapplying for an IDR plan each year, says Diane Cheng, a senior research analyst at the Institute for College Access and Success.

Regardless of which repayment plan you’re on, you can always pay extra toward your federal student loans. Just remember to tell your student loan servicer to apply the extra payment to your balance instead of counting it toward your next monthly payment; that will help you pay off your debt faster.

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Teddy Nykiel is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: teddy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @teddynykiel.

NerdWallet Staff Writer Brianna McGurran contributed to this report.

This article was updated on Feb. 14, 2017


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Pay Off Your Student Loans

5 Facts About REPAYE, the New Student Loan Repayment Plan

Loans, Student Loans

5 Facts About REPAYE, the New Student Loan Repayment Plan

Loans, Student Loans
5-must-read-facts-about-repaye-the-new-student-loan-repayment-plan-story

Five million student loan borrowers have yet another way to pay back their loans.

On Dec. 17, the U.S. Department of Education launched a new student loan repayment plan called Revised Pay As You Earn, or REPAYE. It’s an extension of the existing Pay As You Earn (PAYE) plan, which maxes out monthly loan payments at 10% of your income; to be eligible for that program, you must meet some specific requirements.

REPAYE, on the other hand, is available to all grads with federal direct loans. Consider it if your income may drop in the future or you can’t count on a steady paycheck. And if you first took out loans before October 2007 — which excludes you from using the PAYE plan — then REPAYE opens a door for you as well.

As useful as REPAYE will be to those who take part, its release might confuse borrowers who already have a lot to consider when choosing a student loan repayment plan. The Obama administration’s 2016 budget request suggests replacing all the current income-driven repayment options — there are now four of them, including REPAYE — with a single program, making things far less complicated for grads who take out their first loan on or after July 1, 2016. That plan hasn’t yet been finalized, however.

“In the meantime, we thought that it was important to create a plan that sort of closed the last gap and made coverage of one income-driven plan or another universal,” says Ted Mitchell, undersecretary of education at the U.S. Department of Education.

Here’s what you need to know about REPAYE and how to opt in if it’s a good fit for you.

1. Grads of all income levels can participate

The government already offers three other plans that tie loan payments to income. They include:

You can’t sign up for the most generous plans, IBR and PAYE, unless you demonstrate that the 10-year standard repayment plan is unaffordable for you. REPAYE removes that requirement, so no matter how much you make, your payments will never be more than 10% of your income based on your family size.

“It removes a barrier to entry,” says Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), a nonprofit. “You don’t have to wait until your debt-to-income ratio hits a certain point to qualify.”

Like the other plans, though, only direct loans qualify for REPAYE. You can consolidate other types, like Perkins or Federal Family Education Loans, into a direct consolidation loan to make them eligible. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of consolidation before you take that step.

Read more: NerdWallet’s Guide to Consolidating Federal Student Loans

2. Your eligibility doesn’t depend on the year you borrowed

Other income-driven plans base your eligibility, or how much you pay, on the year you borrowed. REPAYE removes these obstacles. There’s no time requirement to participate, and everyone receives the same benefit. Here’s how it’s different from the other plans:

All PAYE participants pay a maximum of 10% of their incomes and receive forgiveness after 20 years of payments. But you can’t sign up if you had any outstanding loan debt before Oct. 1, 2007.

With IBR, your monthly payments are capped at 15% of your income and your remaining balance is forgiven after 25 years if you took out your first loan before July 1, 2014. New borrowers as of July 1, 2014, receive a 10% cap and forgiveness after 20 years.

REPAYE is a good option for anyone who couldn’t sign up for PAYE and would have only qualified for the less-generous 15% cap on payments on IBR. REPAYE gives those borrowers the opportunity to limit their loan bills to 10% of their incomes.

3. Your loans will be forgiven after 25 years if you have any grad school debt

REPAYE treats forgiveness differently for undergraduate and graduate student borrowers.

The other plans offer the same forgiveness timeline regardless of the course of study you borrowed loans for: All borrowers on PAYE get forgiveness after 20 years, for instance, whether the loans are from undergrad, grad school or a mix.

Under REPAYE, if you took out any loans for grad school, all your loans will be forgiven after 25 years. If you only have undergrad loans, those will be forgiven after 20 years.

Keep in mind that borrowers who work in a public service job can have the remainder of their loans canceled after just 10 years through Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Perkins loans also offer loan cancellation programs.

Read more: NerdWallet’s Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness

4. The government will pay more of the accrued interest on your loans

Many grads’ payments on income-driven plans are so low that they only chip away at the interest that’s accruing, not the original loan balance. Your payments can be zero if you have no income, which means your balance doesn’t decrease while you’re in repayment.

Interest accumulates fast that way, so the government offers a subsidy to borrowers on IBR and PAYE. For three years it will cover unpaid interest that accrues each month, but only for subsidized loans.

REPAYE improves upon the current system. The government offers the same subsidy the first three years in repayment, plus it will cover half the accruing interest after that, on both subsidized and unsubsidized loans. You can look up your federal loans in the National Student Loan Data System if you’re not sure whether your loans are subsidized.

“Your balance will grow more slowly under REPAYE than it would under all the other plans,” says Diane Cheng, senior research analyst at TICAS. “If you end up getting forgiveness, you will have a smaller balance forgiven.”

Current IRS rules require you to pay taxes on the forgiven loan amount, so that keeps your balance from growing so large the taxes would be untenable.

5. Sign up on studentloans.gov (and remember to renew every year)

Participation in REPAYE doesn’t happen automatically. Here’s how to sign up:

  • Log in to studentloans.gov with your Federal Student Aid ID. Create an FSA ID if you don’t have one yet.
  • Click on “Complete Income-Driven Repayment Plan Request.” Look through a preview of the form in advance so you know what documents to have ready.
  • Choose “REPAYE” in the “Income-Driven Repayment Plan” column on the form.
  • Enter your family size and income information.
  • Submit the form online or, if you’d rather fill out a paper version, do so and mail it to your loan servicer.

Like the other income-driven plans, you must recertify your income every year, even after you’ve signed up once. You’ll fill out the same form on studentloans.gov with your updated information, and your payments will be recalculated if your earnings are different. But your bill will always be 10% of your income. Knowing you’ll never fall behind is worth that extra work each year.

Brianna McGurran is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: bmcgurran@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @briannamcscribe.

Pay Off Your Student Loans

How 3 Grads Are Getting Rid of Their Student Loans — and How You Can, Too

Loans, Student Loans

How 3 Grads Are Getting Rid of Their Student Loans — and How You Can, Too

Loans, Student Loans

When winning last year’s $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot was still a (very, very slim) possibility, people took to Twitter to tell the world how they’d spend their fortune. There were numerous tweets like this one:

student-loans-tweet

Funny, yes. But the tweet articulates a sentiment shared by the 44 million Americans with student loan debt; they’re overwhelmed by their loans and want to get rid of them.

You don’t have to win the lottery to reduce or eliminate your student debt. Here’s how three borrowers are paying down their debt and how you can get rid of your student loans, too.

If you have good credit and a steady income: Student loan refinancing

You can potentially get a lower interest rate and save money on your federal or private student loans by refinancing your student loans. You’ll likely be eligible if you have good credit and make at least $24,000 a year.

However, federal student loans become private loans when you refinance. That means you’ll lose the option to take advantage of federal forgiveness programs and income-driven repayment plans. If you don’t qualify for those benefits or if you have private student loans, you’re probably a good candidate for refinancing. Click on the button below to see if you qualify to refinance through NerdWallet’s partner, Credible.

Baltimore-based art teacher Zac Lawhon began saving more than $150 a month after refinancing a private loan through Credible and switching to an income-based repayment plan for his federal loans.

Zac Lawhon

Zac Lawhon  

Refinancing lowered Lawhon’s private loan interest rate from 11.5% to 8.5%. He chose not to refinance his federal loans because he wants to be eligible for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program in the future.

“These savings are what helped me qualify for a mortgage,” says Lawhon, who owes around $200,000 between federal and private loans. “So it seems small, but it was significant.”

If you work for the government or a nonprofit: Student loan forgiveness

Depending on your career, you may be eligible for one of the federal government’s student loan forgiveness programs. Teachers can be eligible for forgiveness after five years of working in a qualifying school district (while making consistent loan payments), and nonprofit and government employees can be eligible after they’ve worked and made payments for 10 years. For more details about these federal forgiveness programs, what it takes to qualify and other forgiveness options, check out our guide to student loan forgiveness.

Julia Westbrook, a family and consumer science teacher in Lincoln City, Oregon, got $17,500 of her federal student loans forgiven through the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. But she still has more than $30,000 in outstanding student debt. Since she works for a public school district, she’s also eligible for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which would forgive her remaining debt. However, borrowers cannot overlap forgiveness programs, so Westbrook has to work an additional 10 years on top of the five she’s already worked to qualify.

Julia Westbrook

Julia Westbrook   

Another thing to keep in mind: Forgiveness programs can change as government budgets shift, so you shouldn’t rely on them to absolve you from debt, says Betsy Mayotte, director of regulatory compliance at American Student Assistance, a nonprofit focused on helping students pay for college.

“Borrowers should never take on debt with the expectation that they’ll be able to get their loans forgiven,” Mayotte says.

If you don’t earn enough to make your monthly payments: Income-driven repayment

If you’re struggling to make your monthly payments, consider an income-driven repayment plan for your federal loans. There are four such plans — including the new Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan — that allow you to cap your monthly payments at between 10% and 20% of your income. The plans also extend your term from 10 years to 20 or 25 years, depending on when you first borrowed. 

Although you’ll have smaller monthly payments with an income-driven plan, you’ll end up paying more in interest in the long run. But income-driven plans also offer forgiveness on any remaining balance after 20 or 25 years.

Carl Wiley  

When he began paying back his student loans, Chicago-based social worker Carl Wiley immediately switched to an income-based plan to lower the monthly payments on his $50,000 federal loan. His federal loan payments are now $365 a month, which he estimates saved him hundreds of dollars a month compared to the standard repayment plan, to which most grads are automatically assigned.

That amount is still a lot for his budget; Wiley also has $70,000 in private loans, which aren’t eligible for income-based repayment. In total, he owes $730 a month, or about one-third of his monthly income.

Despite the burden of his debt, Wiley has hope: He works for a nonprofit, so he’ll be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program if he continues working in the public sector for about nine years.

“There’s at least some light at the end of the tunnel,” he says.

Next steps

If student loan refinancing is the route you choose, NerdWallet’s partner, Credible, lets you compare offers from several lenders at once. Follow the link below to fill out a brief form on Credible’s website. If you qualify, you’ll get immediate, personalized offers from multiple lenders without affecting your credit. If you continue with the process, the lender you choose will perform a credit check later on.

NerdWallet writer Brianna McGurran contributed to this report.

Teddy Nykiel is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: teddy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @teddynykiel.