How to tame your student loans (told in fewer than 350 words)

We’d keep it to 35 words if we could, but student loans aren’t that simple.

Mel Evans/AP/File
Students embrace as they arrive for the Rutgers graduation ceremonies in Piscataway, NJ.

We’d keep it to 35 words if we could, but student loans aren’t that simple.

So we’ll aim for 350 instead, boiling it down to the four main options for dealing with student debt. And since there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, we call out who will benefit most from each approach. Which best matches you?

Ditch some debt through loan forgiveness.

(For public service workers.)

Certain lucky humans, including government and nonprofit employees, qualify for federal loan forgiveness after they make payments for a certain amount of time. You can also get forgiveness if you pay on an income-driven repayment plan for 20 or 25 years.

Lower your payments with an income-driven repayment plan.

(For people struggling to make ends meet.)

When you’re living paycheck to paycheck or somewhere close to that, these federal repayment plans can be a godsend. They cap your monthly payment at a percentage of your income and sometimes offer loan forgiveness. In return, you pay more interest than you otherwise would.

Stick to the standard 10-year plan.

(For basic borrowers.)

It may be the least flashy option, but it’s also the easiest. The standard 10-year repayment plan is your best choice if you have federal loans and don’t qualify for forgiveness. You’ll pay less in interest than you would on an income-driven plan.

Refinance your loans to get a lower interest rate.

(For people with stellar credit scores.)

You have nothing to lose by refinancing if you have private loans. If you have federal loans, triple-check that the forgiveness or repayment paths aren’t for you, because you’ll lose those options when you refinance. To qualify for refinancing, you typically need a high credit score and more than an entry-level salary.

That’s as concise as we could get without resorting to emojis. To dive deeper, check out NerdWallet’s guide to getting out of student loan debt.

Teddy Nykiel is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: teddy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @teddynykiel.

This story originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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