Guide to Extending Student Loan Repayment Terms

By Melissa Brock · April 25, 2022 · 6 minute read

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Guide to Extending Student Loan Repayment Terms

Did you know that you may be able to draw out student loan repayment for 20 or 30 years? That means lower monthly payments (cool!) but more total interest paid (less cool).

But if your payments are a strain, consolidating and refinancing student loans are two ways to stretch out repayment terms and tame those monthly bills.

Federal student loans may be consolidated into one. Both federal and private student loans can be refinanced into one new loan, preferably with a lower rate. A guide of student loan refinancing could be a helpful read.

How Long Are Student Loan Repayment Terms Usually?

Federal student loan borrowers are placed on the standard repayment plan of 10 years unless they choose a different plan. They enjoy a six-month grace period after graduating, leaving school, or dropping below half-time enrollment before repayment begins.

You won’t see a standard repayment plan for private student loans, but the general repayment term for private student loans is also ​10 years.

In the case of both private and federal student loans, you may be able to extend your student loan payments.

For example, if you have federal student loans, you can explore the following options:

•   Graduated repayment plan: You’d start with lower payments, and payments would increase every two years for up to 10 years, or up to 30 years for Direct Consolidation Loans. Consolidation combines all of your current federal student loans into one, with a weighted average of the loan interest rates, and often extends your repayment time frame.

•   Extended repayment plan: With this plan, you can repay loans for up to 25 years, though you must have $30,000 or more in Direct or Federal Family Education Loan Program loans.

•   Income-driven repayment plan: The four income-based repayment plans allow you to make payments based on your income, particularly if your income is low compared with your loan payments. You can become eligible for forgiveness of any remaining loan balance after 20 or 25 years of qualifying payments or as few as 10 years if you work in public service.

Private student loans and federal student loans may be refinanced by a private lender to a long term.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Extending Repayment Terms?

Let’s take a look at three pros and three cons of extending your student loan repayment terms:



Allows for lower monthly payments You’ll pay more total interest
Gives you more flexibility Takes more time to pay off loans
Frees up cash for other things May have to pay a higher interest rate

Lower monthly payments can give you more flexibility and free up your money to go toward other things. However, you could pay considerably more interest over time. You’ll also spend more time paying off your loans.

Here’s an example of what extending student loan repayment can look like, using a student loan calculator:

Let’s say you have $50,000 of federal student loan debt at 6.28% on a standard repayment plan. Your estimated monthly payments are $562.16, the total amount you’ll pay in interest will be $17,459, and your total repayment amount will be $67,459.

•   Term: 10 years

•   Monthly payments: $562

•   Total interest amount: $17,459

•   Total repayment amount: $67,459

Now let’s say you choose to refinance. Refinancing means a private lender pays off your student loans with a new loan with a new interest rate and/or term. In this case, let’s say you opt to refinance to a 20-year term and qualify for a 5% rate. Your estimated monthly payments would be $329.98. You’d pay $29,195 in total interest, and the total repayment would be $79,195 over the course of 20 years.

•   Term: 20 years

•   Monthly payments: $330

•   Total interest amount: $29,195

•   Total repayment amount: $79,195

In this example, doubling the term but reducing the interest rate results in lower monthly payments — a relief for many borrowers — but a higher total repayment sum.

Can you achieve a 25- or 30-year student loan refinance with private lenders? Yes. It’s called consecutive refinances.

How Long Can You Extend Your Student Loans For?

You can extend your federal student loan repayment to 30 years on a graduated repayment plan if you consolidate your loans.

Most private lenders limit refinancing to a 20-year loan term, but borrowers who are serial refinancers may go beyond that.

Consecutive Refinances

You can refinance private or federal student loans as often as you’d like, as long as you qualify, for no cost. Doing so can benefit you when you find a lower rate on your student loans, but be aware of the total picture:



May save money every time you refinance Will lose access to federal programs like loan forgiveness, income-driven repayment, and generous forbearance and deferment if federal student loans are refinanced
May allow for a lower interest rate and lower monthly payments
No fees are required (such as origination fees or prepayment penalties)

How do you know when to refinance student debt? If you find a lower interest rate, you could save money over the life of the new loan.

You can use a student loan refinancing calculation tool to estimate monthly savings and total savings over the life of the loan.

Refinancing Your Student Loans to a 30-Year Term

You cannot directly refinance your student loans into a 30-year term because almost all refinance lenders offer a maximum of 15 or 20 years. But you could take advantage of consecutive refinances to draw out payments for 30 years.

Or you could opt for consolidation of federal student loans for up to 30 years.

Consecutive Refinance Approach

Since there’s no limit on the number of times you can refinance your federal and private student loans, as long as you qualify or have a solid cosigner, you can refinance as many times as you need to in order to lengthen your loan term.

Direct Consolidation Approach

If you have multiple federal student loans, you can consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan with a term up to 30 years. Because the loan remains a government loan, you would keep federal student loan benefits.

You’d apply on the Federal Student Aid website or print and mail a paper application form.

Other Ways to Reduce Your Monthly Student Loan Payments

One of the best ways to reduce your monthly student loan payments is to talk with your loan servicer to determine your options.

Some student loan servicers shave a little off your interest rate if you make automatic payments.

More employers are considering offering help with student loan payments as an employee perk.

And through 2025, employers can contribute up to $5,250 per worker annually in student loan help without raising the employee’s gross taxable income.

Ready to Refinance Your Student Loans?

Is a 30-year student loan refinance a thing? It can be, for serial refinancers. Then there’s the 30-year federal student loan consolidation option. The point of a long term is to shrink monthly payments.

SoFi refinances both federal and private student loans. Find out if one new loan with a new rate and term could help, again paying heed to the fact that refinancing federal student loans will remove access to federal programs like income-driven repayment plans.

It might be the right time right now to refinance student loans with SoFi.

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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended beyond December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since the amount or portion of your federal student debt that you refinance will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave unrefinanced the amount you expect to be forgiven to receive your federal benefit.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Photo credit: iStock/blackCAT

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