How to pay off $100K in student loans

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Are you looking for a way to pay off your massive student loan debt? You’re not alone. Many college graduates — and even some students who never complete their degrees — graduate with $100,000 in student loan debt.

Facing such an enormous financial challenge can seem overwhelming at times. But don’t worry — it is possible to successfully tackle your hefty student loan balance with the right plan of attack. Consider these 10 strategies.

  • 1. Look into forgiveness and repayment assistance
  • 2. Refinance your loan
  • 3. Make extra payments
  • 4. Enroll in autopay
  • 5. Pay off capitalized interest
  • 6. Stick to the standard repayment plan for federal loans
  • 7. Get help in unexpected places
  • 8. Get help right under your nose
  • 9. Get a side hustle — or a raise at your current one
  • 10. Keep your same job, deflate your lifestyle

How much is $100K in student loans?

Student loan debt has increased significantly over the past several years, according to data compiled by U.S. News.

Bachelor’s degree recipients from the class of 2021 took out an average of $29,719 in student loan debt, up nearly $6,000 from 2009. This represents an increase of 25% in a little over a decade.

When it comes to a six-figure student loan debt, $100,000 of debt is high — but it’s not unusual. As of the fourth quarter of 2022, roughly 2.4 million borrowers owe $100,000 or more in federal student loans, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. With interest, these borrowers will end up paying much more than they initially borrowed.

How much will you pay? To find out, plug your loan balance, interest rate, and loan term into a student loan repayment calculator.

For example:

But if you increase your monthly payment by $100, you would pay off your loans 13 months faster and save $4,534 in interest.

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When you run the numbers, don’t let the result stress you out — just follow the tips below to pay off your debt faster and reduce your total cost of borrowing.

1. Look into loan forgiveness and repayment assistance

Your first step should be looking into loan forgiveness and repayment assistance programs. These programs can help reduce the amount of money you owe or even provide an avenue for student loan debt cancellation. These options should be your priority, as they can affect other choices, such as refinancing or making extra payments.

Several types of student loan forgiveness programs are available, including:

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness: For borrowers employed by a government or nonprofit organization
  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness: For educators who work in a low-income elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency
  • Closed School Discharge:For students whose school closed while they were enrolled or soon after they withdrew

Some student loan forgiveness programs require borrowers to enroll in a repayment assistance program, such as an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan.

On an IDR, your monthly payment is based on your income. These plans also extend your loan repayment period to 20 or 25 years. Any remaining balance on your loans will be forgiven at the end of your repayment term.

Related: Today’s Student Loan Refinance Rates

2. Refinance your loan — with a cosigner

A great way to pay off your $100,000 loan faster and save money on interest is to refinance your student loans. This involves taking out a new loan with lower interest rates and/or more favorable terms than the original loan. Refinancing could save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Refinancing is a good option for a borrower with an excellent credit score and a steady income. If you don’t qualify to refinance your student loans on your own, you may be able to qualify with the help of a cosigner.

A cosigner agrees to repay your loan if you cannot. If you have a willing and able cosigner with strong credit, their credit score may help you qualify for refinancing at a lower interest rate.

Keep in mind:

3. Make extra payments

One of the quickest ways to pay off your $100,000 loan early is to make extra payments on your loan. There are two primary strategies for making extra debt payments.

  • Debt avalanche: This strategy involves making extra payments towards the loan with the highest interest rate first while continuing to make minimum payments on your other loans. Once you pay off the loan with the highest interest rate, you move on to the next highest rate.
  • Debt snowball: This strategy involves paying off your smallest loan amount first and then focusing on the second-smallest balance after that. All the while, you’ll continue to pay minimum payments on your other loans. This strategy is often used by borrowers who want to see progress in their debt repayment and need more motivation to keep going.
Read more  9 tips for paying off student loans fast

Either strategy can be effective if you have extra money available to make payments toward your $100,000 loan balance. However, it’s essential to ensure you aren’t putting too much strain on your budget.

You should also make sure that any extra payments are applied to the principal, rather than fees or prepaid interest, to maximize the benefit of your additional payments.

4. Enroll in autopay

Many student loan servicers offer a small discount — usually 0.25 percentage points — on the interest rate when you sign up for autopay.

When you sign up for autopay, your payment will be automatically deducted from your account each month. As an added benefit, this can help ensure you never miss a payment, which could result in late fees or other penalties.

5. Pay off capitalized interest

Capitalized interest is added to your $100,000 loan balance while you’re in school or while your loans are in a deferment or forbearance status, causing your balance to grow over time.


6. Stick to the standard repayment plan for federal loans

Keeping to the standard repayment plan on your federal student loans is one of the best ways to pay off your debt faster. This is because a standard repayment plan offers a shorter repayment term than an extended repayment plan.

While your monthly payments will be higher, more money will go to your principal balance each month, which will help you pay off your loans faster.

Ask your employer about repayment assistance

Many employers now offer student loan repayment assistance as a benefit for their employees. This type of assistance is an increasingly popular way to help people pay off their student loans quicker and save money on interest.

With this program, the employer will directly pay the employee’s student loan servicer to reduce the loan’s principal balance.

Currently, employers can provide up to $5,250 in student loan repayment benefits per employee per year without having it count toward the employee’s taxable income.

If you’re interested in this option, check availability with your employer and see how much assistance they can provide, or seek employment with a company that already offers this perk.

Some companies that offer student loan repayment assistance include:

  • Carhartt
  • Chipotle
  • Fidelity Investments
  • Google
  • Home Depot
  • PwC
  • UPS
Good to know:

7. Get help in unexpected places

A cash windfall is a sudden influx of money you can use to pay off $100,000 in student loan debt. It can come from various sources, including inheritances, legal settlements, employer bonuses, or unexpected tax refunds.

As another tax route, you may be able to deduct up to $2,500 in student loan interest payments when you file your federal income tax return. This deduction is designed to make it easier for borrowers to pay off their student loans faster and become more financially secure.

To determine whether you qualify for the student loan interest deduction, use the IRS’ Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA) or consult a tax professional.

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8. Get help right under your nose

Sometimes, getting the help you need is right around you — it might even be in one of your pants pockets right now. Found money can be described as money that has been “found” after being forgotten or abandoned by the owner. In this case, found money can refer to money you find around the house or in the pocket of a jacket you haven’t worn in a long time.

Additionally, every state has an unclaimed property agency that deals with returning funds to their owners. Funds can include:

  • Bank deposits
  • Uncashed payroll checks
  • Undisbursed retirement funds
  • Old bonds

You can check with your local state agency using, a government endorsed website.

If that miraculous inheritance still hasn’t landed in your lap, family may still be able to help in another way. Whether that be a spouse, a parent, or another family member you really trust, your relatives may be able to help you pay back some of your student loans. Just be sure to reach out to a relative with the financial means (expendable income or a lucrative job) to do so.

9. Get a side hustle — or a raise at your current one

Side hustles and getting a raise at work are two great ways to increase your income and pay more toward your student loans. Extra income can provide you with the financial flexibility needed to make larger payments towards your student loans, helping you pay them off faster and save on interest over time.

These are just a few ways you can pay off student loans faster. With dedication and discipline, anyone can become debt free and achieve financial freedom. It’s important to stay motivated and focused on paying off your loans, as this will help you make progress faster and reduce the amount of interest you pay over time.

10. Keep your same job, deflate your lifestyle

You don’t necessarily have to change jobs to pay off your $100,000 student loan. You may just need to try changing your spending habits first – and use your current job as your financial headmaster or benchmark. Meaning, if you are now in your first full-time, salaried position, still think in the mindset of the student on a budget that you once were with your new, bigger paychecks.

For example, if you lived off of $40,000 per year while you were in college, see if you can do the same during your first few years in the professional world. Pretend you don’t make $65,000 per year from your new post-graduate career, hold off on buying that first home, and you’ll have saved up 25,000 in that first year for your loan balance.

Regardless of your income level, if you spend less than you earn for a set stretch of time, you’ll have cut away at your loan balance.