Did you know that you may be able to draw out student loan repayment for 20 or 30 years? That means lower monthly payments, but you’ll pay more total interest over the loan term.
But if your payments are a strain, consolidating or refinancing your student loans may allow you to stretch out repayment terms and tame those monthly bills. If you have federal loans, you may also consider an Extended Repayment Plan that increases the term of your loan from 10 to 25 years. While it may make your monthly payments lower in the short term, in the long term, you’ll pay more interest with any of these options.
Ahead, we look at how student loan repayment terms work, the pros and cons of extending your loan term, and other options that might help you make your monthly payments more affordable.
How Long Are Student Loan Repayment Terms Usually?
Federal student loan borrowers are automatically 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.
There isn’t a standard repayment plan for private student loans, but the general repayment term 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 start with lower payments, and payments increase every two years for up to 10 years, or up to 30 years for Direct Consolidation Loans. Consolidation combines all of your 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 extend your loan term 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-driven repayment plans – including the newest plan, SAVE – allow you to make payments based on your income. This is a good option if you’re struggling to pay your monthly bill because your income is low compared with your loan payments. You may be 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 or use the SAVE Plan.
If you have private student loans, you may be able to refinance your loans for a longer term. You can also refinance federal loans, but you’ll lose access to many of the benefits including the chance to consolidate and receive a longer loan term.
💡 Quick Tip: Enjoy no hidden fees and special member benefits when you refinance student loans with SoFi.
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 may 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 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, and you receive 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. You’ll pay nearly double in interest charges over the life of the loan.
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. With consecutive refinances you can stretch a private loan term to 25 to 30 years.
You can refinance private or federal student loans as often as you’d like, as long as you qualify. Refinancing can benefit you when you find a lower interest 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||If you choose a longer loan term, you may pay more interest over the life of the loan|
|Most student loan providers don’t charge fees for refinancing such as origination fees or prepayment penalties)||You may not qualify for the best rates if you have a poor credit score|
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 calculator 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-year terms. 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 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 and may even qualify for loan forgiveness after 20 or 25 years.
While extending your loan term may reduce your monthly payments in the short-term, it’s likely it will cost you more in interest in the long term. If you are struggling to make your federal loan payments, you might be better off choosing an income-driven repayment plan instead of extending your loan term.
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 longer term is to shrink monthly payments. To reiterate, though, you may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.
Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.
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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.
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.