Aim to graduate faster According to the National Student Clearinghouse, it takes an average of five years to obtain a bachelor’s degree. But if you can finish in the traditional four years, you can enter the workforce sooner and possibly cut down on the amount you’ll owe in loans. Fifteen credit hours is the typical course load for a semester. Colleges generally charge by the credit hour, but also could have a range of credit hours that cost the same amount. For example, a university might charge the same flat rate for taking 12-18 credit hours. By taking a fuller course load, you can reduce the amount of tuition you’ll have to pay and the loans needed to pay for it. This might not be possible, particularly if you’re also working or participating in time-intensive extracurricular activities. But if you can swing it, you may be able to get a diploma ahead of schedule. Explore repayment options while in school You just graduated from high school, so it may seem absurd to consider the bills you’ll need to pay after graduating from college, but it’s a good idea to know the options. Federal loans won’t cover the full amount of projected student loans ($38,147 for a bachelor’s degree) the average incoming student will require, according to our analysis. Instead, federal loans are capped at $31,000 for undergraduate students. If you need more than that, you’ll need parent loans or private loans. Let’s assume you take out the full $31,000 in federal student loans and it’s unsubsidized (which means you’ll eventually have to pay the interest you accrue while in school). If you don’t opt for another repayment plan, you’ll automatically be funneled into the standard 10-year plan. But depending on your post-grad finances, you may want to look into an income-based program or an extended repayment plan.
Here are three repayment scenarios for $31,000 in unsubsidized federal student loans after graduation in 2026.
Based on maximum allowable annual and aggregate Direct loans for undergraduates. Assumes all loans are unsubsidized, interest rates average 2.75% (a conservative estimate based on 2021-22 federal student loan rates) and a static annual income of $61,902.
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