According to the Federal Student Aid site, before you leave school, graduate, or drop below half-time enrollment, you must complete “exit counseling,” which is a mandatory information session that explains your responsibilities and when repayment begins.
You can contact your school’s financial aid office to learn how to book a session.
During this time, you should gather all the pertinent information about your loans:
Original amount borrowed
Date when repayment begins
Projected payoff date (so you can move it closer)
Where/how to make payments
It’s important to collect this information because you’re responsible for your loans even if you don’t receive a bill from your servicer.
Here’s a cool tip I didn’t know before researching this article: Split your monthly payment in two, paying biweekly, as opposed to monthly.
So, if you owe $300 at the end of every month, pay $150 in the middle of the month and the remaining $150 at the end of the month.
Not only is this easier for you, since you’re probably paid biweekly, but it also helps you pay off your student loans faster, because “paying half every two weeks equals one extra payment made each year without even noticing the difference.”
Well, because, a monthly schedule would come out to 12 payments per year, while splitting payments among 26 weeks (52 weeks in the year, divided by two), you end up with 13 months’ worth of payments over the same time period.
And on the typical 10-year repayment plan, this tip could shave off one whole year of payments AND interest—talk about major savings.
3. Set up automatic payments
If you allow your student loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from your account, make sure you ask if they offer a discount for doing so.
While the discount is minimal—about .25 percent—it’s still a discount, which means less time to pay off those pesky loans.
4. Negotiate student loan repayment assistance from your employer
As of 2019, about four percent of U.S. businesses offer student loan assistance as a company benefit, including IBM, Staples, Peloton, Penguin Random House, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Here’s a list of employers that currently offer student loan repayment assistance. And just because a company doesn’t offer this in black-and-white print in your offer letter, doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate it.
Check out this list of unique ways employers are helping their employees pay off their student loan debt faster. It may just give you some inspiration on what to propose in your negotiations.
5. Stick with the standard repayment plan
If you can’t afford to make higher or more frequent payments, the 10-year standard repayment plan is the fastest route to paying down your student loan debt.
Of course, there are two alternatives to the standard repayment plan, and those include income-driven repayment plans and/or student loan consolidation.
An income-driven repayment plan will likely put off your payoff date by 20 or 25 years, while consolidating your loans could stretch out your repayment plan by a maximum of 30 years.
While the last two may sound awesome now, it won’t feel awesome later, never mind the fact that you’ll pay a lot more in interest over the lifetime of the loan.
TLDR: Stick to the standard repayment plan to get out of debt the fastest.
6. Pay off capitalized interest
Aside from federal student loans, all student loans accrue interest while you’re in school, during your grace period, and during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The interest capitalizes once you begin repaying your debt, so if your balance increases, you’ll pay interest on a bigger amount.
NerdWallet recommends making monthly interest payments while accruing interest to avoid capitalization.
Alternatively, you could make a lump-sum interest payment before your grace or deferment period ends, which won’t immediately speed up the payoff process, but it will mean a smaller balance to get rid of, in the end.
7. Get other people to pay your student loan debt
Some states will pay your student loan debt
States like Maine and Ohio are incentivizing young residents to live and work there by offering to pay some of grads’ student loan debt.
The Live + Work in Maine program’s details vary based on when you graduated and whether or not you’re originally from Maine, but basically, recent grads can subtract their total student loan payments made over the year from their state income liability tax.
For example, say you owe Maine $2,000 in state income taxes, and you made $1,800 worth of student loan payments for that year, you’ll only owe Maine $200.
A small city in Ohio is another place offering relief for student loan borrowers. If you graduated from a four-year accredited university, and purchase a home in Newburgh Heights that’s worth $50,000 or more within five years of graduating, the city will pay half of your student loan debt, up to $50,000.
You’ll receive two payouts—80 percent of the total after 10 years and the remaining 20 percent after 15 years. Regardless of whether you’ve paid off your student loans by then, you’ll still receive the total amount of what you owed when you first enrolled in the city’s program.
Givling is a free game that crowdfunds the payoff of student loan and mortgage debt.
All you have to do is play the Givling game twice a day to compete for large cash awards. Each time you play, you join a three-person team, and answer true-and-false statements until you lose or reach the statement limit. The more you answer correctly, the higher your score.
If your team scores the highest when the competition ends, then you split the cash award amongst the three of you.
ChangeEd automatically pays down your debt by rounding up your everyday purchases.
For example, if you spend $2.45 on coffee, the app will automatically put 55 cents toward your student loan.
Everytime you reach $100 in your account, the app automatically makes a payment toward paying down your student loan debt.
Gift of College
Crowdfund your student loans with Gift of College. To get started, register your student loan account with Gift of College, and then share your profile with friends and family, who can contribute money to help you pay down your debt.
8. Join Shared Harvest Fund
Shared Harvest Fund is a platform that just launched this year. It connects professionals looking to freelance on the side to pay down their student loan debt with non-profits looking for help on a variety of projects.
Create a profile, and list the social causes you’re most passionate about. If you land a project with a participating non-profit, you can expect to receive a monthly stipend between $250 and $1,000, which is automatically applied to your student loan balance.
Soon, there will be remote opportunities, but for now, only those in LA, Chicago, and New York can join. Projects range from legal work to administrative tasks.