How Much Does Student Loans Cost Per Month

Student loans are usually an afterthought when you’re in college. You have to have your student loans, otherwise no degree! But, they often seem like they should be free or cost nothing since you don’t get a bill until you graduate and start working. However, student loan interest rates can vary by individual loan type. And sometimes the cost of student loans can surprise you.

Student loans cost per month is a common question asked. The costs can vary depending on how long you have been in school, where you are enrolled, and what degree you are trying to achieve. Before we go any further you should know that student loans cost per month is based on a 10-year repayment plan. We will base our discussion today on – How Much Does Student Loans Cost Per Month. But, other resources which you can find on our website include some frequently asked questions such as: 70000 student loan monthly payment and 100k student loan monthly payment

How Much Does Student Loans Cost Per Month

Report Highlights. The average monthly student loan payment is an estimated $460 based on previously recorded average payments and median average salaries among college graduates.

  • The average borrower takes 20 years to repay their student loan debt.
  • The average student loan accrues $26,000 in interest alone over 20 years (at the rounded average interest rate of 6%).
  • Up to 67.1% of the average borrower’s total cost of repayment is generated interest.

With 45 million people now carrying $1.7 trillion in student loans in the United States, student loan payments are a major monthly debt obligation for a growing percentage of the nation.

According to the Federal Reserve, the median payment for student loan borrowers is $222 per month. But this doesn’t offer a true reflection of what people are actually paying each month since 38% of respondents said that at least one of their loans were in deferment (meaning they weren’t currently making any payments at all).

Among borrowers that are actively paying down their student loans, the average student loan monthly payment is much higher. This article explores the average student loan monthly payment in the US and what you can do to manage your own student loan debt.

student loan calculator

Before using the student loan calculator above, come prepared with a few pieces of information about your loan.

Loan amount

Loan amounts vary depending on whether you’re exploring a federal or private student loan. The loan amount you’re offered might also be limited based on your enrollment level (e.g., undergraduate versus graduate or professional student) or degree program.

Federal student loan amounts

Undergraduate students:

  • Direct Subsidized Loans: Up to $5,500 annually.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Up to $12,500 annually.

Graduate students:

  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Up to $20,500 annually.
  • Direct PLUS Loans: Up to the school’s reported cost of attendance, minus other financial aid received.

Parents of dependent undergraduate students:

  • Parent PLUS loans: Up to the school’s reported cost of attendance, minus other financial aid received.

Private student loan amounts

Loan amounts for private student loans can vary by lender. Each lender sets its own borrowing criteria, annual borrowing limits, interest rates and repayment terms. In general, private student loan lenders offer loan amounts that cover the gap between a school’s cost of attendance and any other financial aid a student receives. Some lenders also impose lifetime borrowing limits, which may be up to $150,000 or more for some degrees. Regardless of whether you borrow federal or private student loans, borrow only the amount you need per school year after exhausting all grant and scholarship options. If you must take out loans to finance educational gaps, consider maximizing federal student loan limits before turning to a private student loan, as federal student loans come with additional benefits like income-driven repayment plans and standardized hardship programs.

Loan term

Your loan term is the amount of time you have to repay the loan in full. For federal student loans under a standard repayment plan, the default loan term is 10 years. However, student loans that are under an alternative payment plan offer terms from 10 to 25 years. Like private student loan amounts, private student loan repayment terms vary by lender. Terms for private student loans can be as short as five years and as long as 20 years. A shorter loan term can help you save more money on interest charges during your repayment period but result in a larger monthly payment. Some lenders offer lower interest rates as an incentive for a short term length. On the flip side, a longer term for your student loans will lower your monthly payment but will accumulate more interest charges over time. Before borrowing student loans, make sure you know all of the term options your lender offers so you can choose the right path for your financial needs.

Interest rate

The interest rate you’re offered depends on the type of lender you’re pursuing and your financial picture. Federal student loans offer the same interest rate to all borrowers, regardless of credit score or income. Private student loans, on the other hand, will often do a credit check and set interest rates according to your creditworthiness. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rates. Keep in mind that the lowest interest rates advertised on lender websites may not be available to you. To find out what interest rates you’ll receive, take advantage of lenders’ prequalification features, if available. Prequalification allows you to input basic details about yourself and your desired loan in exchange for a snapshot of the rates and terms offered.

Additional factors to consider when calculating student loan interest

When calculating your student loan interest, keep in mind that there are a few other key factors at play:

  • Fixed vs. variable rates. Unlike federal student loans, which offer only fixed interest rates, some private lenders offer fixed or variable student loan interest rates. A fixed rate won’t change during your loan term, but variable rates can decrease or increase based on market conditions.
  • Term length. How short or long your student loan term is dramatically changes how much total interest you’ll pay. In addition to calculating your total interest paid, the student loan calculator above shows you how much of your monthly payment goes toward interest; to see this view, click on “show amortization schedule.”
  • Credit score. Private student loans require a credit check. The stronger your credit, the more likely you’ll be offered competitive, low interest rates. Borrowers shopping for bad credit student loans might be approved at a higher interest rate, which means more money spent on interest charges overall.

Student Loan Calculator

Add your existing student loan details to calculate monthly payments and your student loan amortization over time.

Average National Student Debt$28,400Total Monthly Payment$297

If you refinance your loans at a 3.66% rate then your loan payments will be $163 lower a year. See Refinance Rates

LOANLOAN AMOUNTINTEREST RATELOAN TERMMONTHLY PREPAYMENTMONTHLY PAYMENT
 Loan 1 years$297

Add A LoanRESET

The total lifetime costs of your student loans would be $35,583 paid over 10 years.

Loan Balance Over TimeYear$0$5k$10k$15k$20k$25k$30k20222029

 Loan 1$21,219
Loan Balance$21,219
in 2025

 Loan 1

Best Student Loan Refinance Rates

APR:
2.75% – 8.90%
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• Rates starting at 2.75%
• Easy application process
• No refinancing fees or pre-payment penalties
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APR:
3.24% – 8.24%
Loan Term:
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Get pre-approved in under 2 minutesReceive Quote
APR:Loan Term:
3 – 120 months
See if you can borrow up to $50,000 with help from NerdWallet. Instant results & rates as low as 5.40%Learn More

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Student Loan Calculator: How Long Will It Take to Pay Off?

It’s no secret that getting a degree has grown more expensive in recent years. For many students, the only way to stay atop this rising tide has been by taking on an increasing amount of student loans.

Photo credit: © iStock/fizkes

By looking at a student loan calculator, you can compare the costs of going to different schools. Variables like your marital status, age and how long you will be attending (likely four years if you are entering as a freshman, two years if you are transferring as a junior, etc.) go into the equation. Then with some financial information like how much you (or your family) will be able to contribute each year and what scholarships or gifts you’ve already secured, the student loan payment calculator can tell you what amount of debt you can expect to take on and what your costs will be after you graduate – both on a monthly basis and over the lifetime of your loans. Of course how much you will pay will also depend on what kind of loans you choose to take out.

Student Loan Payoff Programs

The federal government has a number of different student loan programs, described below, that offer low interest rates and other student-friendly terms. If you are able to use any of these programs to pay for part of your college tuition, your debt after graduation may be easier to manage.

You should note that in 2022, the federal government approved a targeted student loan debt relief program that will offer relief to more than 40 million borrowers and a complete cancellation for roughly 20 million. Savings can range from $10,000 to $20,000 in total forgiveness, depending on eligibility.

Types of Student Loans

Before getting into the different types of available loan programs, let’s do a quick refresher on how exactly student loans work. Like any type of loan (auto loan, credit cardmortgage), student loans cost some small amount to take out (an origination fee) and they require interest and principal payments thereafter. Principal payments go toward paying back what you’ve borrowed, and interest payments consist of some agreed upon percentage of the amount you still owe. Typically, if you miss payments, the interest you would have had to pay is added to your total debt.

The federal government helps students pay for college by offering a number of loan programs with more favorable terms than most private loan options. Federal student loans are unique in that, while you are a student, your payments are deferred—that is, put off until later. Some types of Federal loans are “subsidized” and do not accumulate interest payments during this deferment period.

Photo credit: © iStock/dusanpetkovic

Stafford Loans

Stafford loans are the federal government’s primary student loan option for undergraduates. They offer a low origination fee (about 1% of the loan), the lowest interest rates possible (4.99% for the 2022-2023 academic year), and unlike auto loans or other forms of debt, the interest rate does not depend on the borrower’s credit score or income. Every student who receives a Stafford loan pays the same rate.

There are two different types of Stafford loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized Stafford loans are available only to students with financial need. As long as you are in school, and for a six month “grace period” following graduation, you do not have to pay interest on subsidized loans, as the federal government takes care of that for you. All told, subsidized Stafford loans are the best student loan deal available, but eligible undergraduate students can only take out a total of $23,000 in subsidized loans, and no more than $3,500 their freshman year, $4,500 their sophomore year and $5,500 junior year and beyond.

For students who are ineligible to receive subsidized loans, unsubsidized Stafford loans are available. These offer the same low interest rate as subsidized loans, but without the government-funded interest payments. That means that interest accumulates while you are in school, and is then added to the amount you have to pay back (also known as your principal balance) once you graduate. While this may sound like a minor difference, it can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars of debt beyond what you borrowed. A good student loan repayment calculator takes into account the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

Along with the specific ceiling of $23,000 for subsidized Stafford loans, there is a limit on the cumulative total of unsubsidized and subsidized combined that any one student can take out. Undergraduate students who are dependent on their parents for financial support can take out a maximum of $31,000 in Stafford loans and students who are financially independent can take out up to $57,500 in Stafford loans. So, for a student who has already maxed out her amount of subsidized loans, she could take out an additional $8,000 to $34,500 in unsubsidized loans, depending on whether or not she is a dependent.

Graduate and professional students can no longer get subsidized loans. Since 2012, they are only eligible for unsubsidized options. They can take out $20,500 each year for a total of $138,500. It’s important to note that this total includes loans that were taken out for undergraduate study as well.

PLUS Loans

For graduate and professional students, the federal government offers a separate option, called PLUS Loans. There is no borrowing limit for PLUS loans—they can be used to pay the full cost of attendance, minus any other financial aid received, however, they have a higher interest rate and origination fee than Stafford Loans (as of 2022, the interest rate for PLUS loans is 7.54% and the origination fee is about 4.3%). They also require a credit check, so students with bad credit may not be eligible. PLUS loans can also be used by parents of undergraduate students to help pay for a son or daughter’s education.

Perkins Loans

Perkins Loans are another form of low-interest (5% in 2022) federal loan, but unlike Stafford and PLUS loans, they are offered directly through your college or university. They are available only to students with financial need, and only at schools that participate in the program—to find out if this is you, check with your school’s financial aid office.

At schools that do participate, eligible undergraduates can borrow up to $5,500 per year and $27,500 total in Perkins loans; and eligible graduate students can borrow up to $8,000 per year and $60,000 total. But keep in mind that funds for Perkins loans are limited, so in practice those ceilings may be lower at certain schools.

Private Loans

Once all federal loan options have been exhausted, students can turn to private loans for any remaining funding. Private loans generally offer far less favorable terms than federal loans, and can be harder to obtain. They can have variable interest rates, often higher than 10%. The interest rate, and your ability to receive private student loans, can depend on your credit record. While some do provide for the deferment of payments while you are in school, many do not. Private loans do not make sense for everybody, but for some students they can be helpful to bridge the gap between federal loans and the cost of college.

Applying for Federal Financial Aid

Photo credit: © iStock/Sadeugra

The process for obtaining federal financial aid is relatively easy. You fill out a single form, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and send it to your school’s financial aid office. Then they do the rest. The FAFSA is your single gateway to Stafford loans, Perkins loans and PLUS loans. Many colleges also use it to determine your eligibility for scholarships and other options offered by your state or school, so you could qualify for even more financial aid.

There is really no reason not to complete a FAFSA. Many students believe they won’t qualify for financial aid because their parents make too much money, but in reality the formula to determine eligibility considers many factors besides income. By the same token, grades and age are not considered in determining eligibility for most types of federal financial aid, so you won’t be disqualified on account of a low GPA.

Next Steps

If you think you’ll be using one or more of these loan programs to pay for college, it’s a good idea to determine ahead of time approximately what your payments will be after you graduate. A student loan calculator can help. The size of your monthly payments will vary depending on what types of financial aid you are eligible for and what school you attend. Although cost should not be the primary factor any student considers when deciding where to go to school, it could be one of several considerations, especially if you will need to use student loans to pay your tuition. You don’t want to miss out on enjoying your college experience because you’re worried about debt.

financial advisor can also help you create a financial plan for your education needs and goals. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now

Best Value Colleges Show 2022

SmartAsset’s interactive map highlights the best value colleges for each state in the U.S. The study compares schools based on a variety of financial factors and data sets, including starting salary, tuition, living expenses, student retention rate, and scholarships awarded. Zoom between each state and the national map to see the top ranking colleges and universities in the country and in each state.

RankSchoolCity, StateAvg. Scholarships and GrantsAvg. Starting SalaryCollege TuitionStudent Living CostsStudent Retention RateCollege Education Value – Index
1Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridge, MA$50,864$93,700$51,832$18,40898%100.00
2California Institute of TechnologyPasadena, CA$42,648$93,100$52,362$19,72294%87.27
3Harvey Mudd CollegeClaremont, CA$38,365$97,700$56,620$20,32792%85.11
4Georgia Institute of Technology-Main CampusAtlanta, GA$11,108$79,000$12,424$16,35297%83.57
5Stanford UniversityStanford, CA$53,346$87,100$51,354$20,23386%82.22
6University of Michigan-Ann ArborAnn Arbor, MI$22,021$70,200$15,262$15,03696%80.03
7Missouri University of Science and TechnologyRolla, MO$9,603$72,600$9,440$13,00085%79.50
8Colorado School of MinesGolden, CO$11,628$79,300$18,964$16,53492%76.91
9Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburgh, PA$36,928$84,000$55,465$16,81896%76.67
10Rice UniversityHouston, TX$43,615$77,900$47,350$17,80097%76.34
Nationwide$8,330$52,621$16,073$14,54571%

*   Where applicable, used in-state tuition (residents of the same state as a college, qualify for lower in-state tuition)

Methodology

SmartAsset determined the best value colleges and universities in the U.S. across five categories: tuition, student living costs, scholarship and grant offerings, student retention rate, and starting salary for new graduates.

Tuition (in-state where applicable), and student living costs (like room and board), books, supplies, transportation, and other personal expenses, were used to capture the general costs associated with attending each school. 

We then compared the factors that illustrate a student’s return on investment. Student retention rate shows the percentage of students that are re-enrolling at the institution from year-to-year. The average starting salary shows the potential financial earnings of new graduates when they enter the workforce. Additionally, scholarships and grants show the amount of financial backing colleges are endowing to their student body on a per-person basis. 

We applied 25% weighting to starting salary, tuition and living costs. We then gave 12.5% weighting to scholarships, grants and retention rate to come up with our ‘Best Value Colleges’ index. Schools were ranked in accordance with their score on the index, with the number one school receiving a score of 100 and each additional school’s index value representing how closely they compare.

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