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 loans
How much you pay
Who 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 amount
$7,500 or less
$7,500 to $10,000
$10,000 to $20,000
$20,000 to $40,000
$40,000 to $60,000
$60,000 and up
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:
Total interest payments
*Repayments are based on a Direct Subsidized Loan at the current rate of 2.75%
for undergraduate students.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Select the option to adjust repayments. There’s often an option to explore or adjust repayment plans on your dashboard.
Answer any required questions. Your servicer might want to know why you’re interested in switching plans before you get started.
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.
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.
Submit your request. Once you’ve reviewed the changes to your plan, follow the directions to submit your request.
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
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.
Private student loan standard repayment plans work a lot like their federal counterpart. You make the same monthly repayment until your loan is paid off — but there are a few differences.
It’s usually the only option for private student loans, though it tends to come with more loan terms to choose from — usually ranging from seven to 25 years. A standard repayment plan can also sometimes mean you’re choosing to make repayments right away.
The main difference is that the Standard Repayment Plan usually comes with a 10-year term, while the Extended Repayment Plan comes with a 25-year term. And you must have at least $30,000 in either FFEL or Direct Loans to qualify for extended repayments.
Yes, you must pay at least $50 a month on the Standard Repayment Plan.
Anna Serio is a trusted lending expert and certified Commercial Loan Officer who's published more than 1,000 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. A former editor of a newspaper in Beirut, Anna writes about personal, student, business and car loans. Today, digital publications like Business Insider, CNBC and the Simple Dollar feature her professional commentary, and she earned an Expert Contributor in Finance badge from review site Best Company in 2020.
How likely would you be to recommend finder to a friend or colleague?
Very UnlikelyExtremely Likely
Thank you for your feedback.
Our goal is to create the best possible product, and your thoughts, ideas and suggestions play a major role in helping us identify opportunities to improve.
finder.com is an independent comparison platform and information service that aims to provide you with the tools you need to make better decisions. While we are independent, the offers that appear on this site are from companies from which finder.com receives compensation. We may receive compensation from our partners for placement of their products or services. We may also receive compensation if you click on certain links posted on our site. While compensation arrangements may affect the order, position or placement of product information, it doesn't influence our assessment of those products. Please don't interpret the order in which products appear on our Site as any endorsement or recommendation from us. finder.com compares a wide range of products, providers and services but we don't provide information on all available products, providers or services. Please appreciate that there may be other options available to you than the products, providers or services covered by our service.