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How the federal Standard Repayment Plan works

Though monthly repayments may be high, it has the lowest overall cost.

Updated

Fact checked
The Department of Education recommends signing up for the Standard Repayment Plan if you can afford it. While it might come with the highest monthly repayments, it has the lowest overall cost. This is thanks to the short term, which gets you out of debt faster than any other plan.

Standard Repayment Plan at a glance

Eligible federal loansHow much you payRepayment termWho it’s best for
  • Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans
  • Parent and Graduate PLUS Loans
  • Direct Consolidation Loans
  • Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • FFEL PLUS and Consolidation Loans
Make the same fixed repayment each month — with a minimum monthly payment of $50
  • 10 years for most loans
  • 10 to 30 years for Direct or FFEL Consolidation Loans
Borrowers with job stability and enough income to comfortably afford the repayments.

How does the federal Standard Repayment Plan work?

The federal Standard Repayment Plan is the simplest repayment plan available for federal student loans. It works by breaking up your student loan repayments into equal monthly repayments over a 10-year term.

The two exceptions are Direct and FFEL Consolidation Loans, which come with longer terms depending on how much you borrow:

Consolidated loan amountTerm
$7,500 or less10 years
$7,500 to $10,00012 years
$10,000 to $20,00015 years
$20,000 to $40,00020 years
$40,000 to $60,00025 years
$60,000 and up30 years

This plan comes with some of the highest monthly repayments of any federal student loan repayment plan. But it also gets you out of debt faster if you go with the 10-year term, potentially saving you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest.

How the Standard Repayment Plan works for different loan amounts

Let’s take a look at a few examples of how much you can expect to pay on the Standard Repayment Plan for 10 years:

Loan amountMonthly repayment*Total interest payments
$10,000$103.78$ 2,453.97
$20,000$207.57$ 4,907.94
$30,000$311.35$ 7,361.91
$40,000$415.13$ 9,815.88
$60,000$622.70$ 14,723.82
$100,000$1,037.83$ 24,539.70

*Repayments are based on a Direct Subsidized Loan at the current rate of 2.75% for undergraduate students.

Am I eligible for the Standard Repayment Plan?

You can qualify for the Standard Repayment Plan as long as you have eligible federal student loans. Even if some of your loans aren’t eligible, they can become eligible if you consolidate them with a federal Direct Consolidation Loan. There are no other eligibility requirements.

Can I qualify for forgiveness on the Standard Repayment Plan?

It’s possible, though it depends on the program. While loans on the Standard Repayment Plan are technically eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), your term will be up by the time you’re eligible for forgiveness. It’s only useful in combination with an income-driven repayment plan.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness and other loan repayment assistance programs may also be available if you’re on the Standard Repayment Plan. Keep in mind that any loan forgiveness you receive is treated as taxable income, so you might not save as much as you think.

Is forgiveness worth it on the Standard Repayment Plan?

It might not be, though it depends on the program and how much debt you have. Most forgiveness programs act as incentives for highly qualified professionals to work at low-paying public service jobs for a certain number of years.

Taking on a low-paying job might make monthly repayments on the Standard Repayment Plan difficult to afford. You might be able to save more by choosing a plan that comes with lower monthly repayments while you complete your required work commitment.

Pros and cons of the federal Standard Repayment Plan

This plan isn’t right for everyone. Weigh the benefits and drawbacks to help you decide.

Pros

  • Save on interest. This repayment program has the lowest total cost out of any other federal repayment option.
  • Get out of debt faster. This not only builds your credit but also frees you up to take on other milestones, like buying a car or a home.
  • Predictable repayments. You won’t ever be surprised by how much you owe with this plan.

Cons

  • Higher monthly repayments. Your wallet will feel the biggest pinch with this repayment plan compared to your other federal repayment options.
  • Not ideal for forgiveness. While this plan qualifies you for most forgiveness programs, you likely won’t save as much as you would with IDR.
  • Less flexibility. You might need to apply for deferment or forbearance — or even switch plans if your financial situation changes. This is less likely to happen with other repayment plans.

Is the Standard Repayment Plan right for me?

You might want to consider the Standard Repayment Plan in the following situations:

  • You have a small amount of debt. If your debt is small enough to comfortably afford standard repayments, this option might be the best choice for you.
  • You have a secure, high-paying job. Even if you have a large student debt load, this option still might be the most cost-effective choice as long as the monthly repayments are affordable.
  • You aren’t interested in forgiveness. Student loan forgiveness might not be worth it with this repayment plan.

How to apply for the Standard Repayment Plan

If you’re making repayments for the first time, your servicer should send you an email with instructions on how to set up an online account and pick a repayment plan.

Already have a plan? You can typically change your repayment plan online, over the phone or even by mail.

How to apply for the Standard Repayment Plan online

Follow these steps to sign up for the Standard Repayment Plan:

  1. Log in to your servicer’s website or app. Use the same login credentials you use when you want to make a repayment or check your loan balance.
  2. Select the option to adjust repayments. There’s often an option to explore or adjust repayment plans on your dashboard.
  3. Answer any required questions. Your servicer might want to know why you’re interested in switching plans before you get started.
  4. Follow the directions to select the repayment plan. Some servicers might require you to fill out a form. Others might have a list of options that you can select.
  5. Review any changes in cost. Your servicer might give you the cost of your new estimated monthly repayments — make sure you can comfortably afford them before signing up.
  6. Submit your request. Once you’ve reviewed the changes to your plan, follow the directions to submit your request.
  7. Review the next steps. After submitting your request, keep an eye on your account to monitor your approval. And continue to make repayments on your current plan until your servicer approves your application.

Do I need to reapply each year?

No. You only need to sign up for Standard Repayment Plan once. The only time you’d need to reapply is if you want to switch to another repayment plan.

3 alternatives to the Standard Repayment Plan

Not sure you can afford to pay off your loans on the Standard Repayment Plan? You might want to consider one of these alternatives:

  • Extended Repayment Plan. Make the same fixed repayments over a longer term of up to 25 years for a lower upfront cost.
  • Extended Graduated Repayment Plan. Make repayments that slowly increase over 25 years.
  • Graduated Repayment Plan. Pay off your loans over 10 years with repayments that start low and increase over time. Or take 30 years if you consolidate your loans. Check out our side-by-side comparison of the Standard versus Graduated Repayment Plan to decide which is right for you.

Interested in refinancing instead? Compare your options

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Min. Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR
Discover Private Consolidation Loan
Good to excellent credit
$150,000
2.80% to 12.49%
Splash Financial Student Loan Refinancing
660
None
Starting at 1.89%
Save on your student loans with this market-leading newcomer.
Credible Student Loan Refinancing
Good to excellent credit
None
1.99% to 9.24%
Get prequalified offers from top student loan refinancing providers in one place.
Education Loan Finance Student Loan Refinancing
680
None
2.39% to 5.99%
Lower your student debt costs with manageable payments, affordable rates and flexible terms.
Earnest Student Loan Refinancing
650
$500,000
1.99% to 5.64%
Get a tailored interest rate and repayment plan with no hidden fees.
SoFi Student Loan Refinancing Variable Rate (with Autopay)
650
Full balance of your qualified education loans
2.25% to 6.09%
A leader in student loan refinancing, SoFi can help you refinance your loans and pay them off sooner.
Purefy Student Loan Refinancing (Variable Rate)
620
$300,000
2.27% to 7.49%
Refinance all types of student loans — including federal and parent PLUS loans.
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Bottom line

The federal Standard Repayment Plan gives you the highest upfront cost, but the lowest total cost out of any repayment plan available. It could be a good choice if you have a secure job with enough income to comfortably afford the monthly repayments.

You can find out how it compares to other plans by reading our guide to student loan repayment programs.

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