How to Pay Off $200k in Student Loans Fast

Abigail Eun
Abigail Eun

Abigail Eun is a freelance writer and personal finance expert. Through diligent research and continuous learning, she has honed her knowledge in budgeting, saving, investing, and debt management. Abigail is passionate about helping people get their finances in order. She believes that everyone should have access to the information they need to make sound financial decisions. Her goal is to provide clear and concise information that is easy to understand.

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February 20, 2023

If you owe more than 6-figures in student loans, you may feel overwhelmed by your debt. However, you’re not alone. In 2021, there were around 900,000 borrowers who owed $200,000 or more in student loans.

If you want to learn how to pay off $200k in student loans fast, you’re in the right place. Keep reading for the best strategies to wipe out your student loan debt balance.

Look for Student Loan Forgiveness Opportunities

Before finding ways you can pay off $200k in student loans using your hard-earned cash, you should always look for free money first. Exploring student loan forgiveness opportunities is key.

If you borrowed federal student loans, you may be eligible for student loan forgiveness. Here’s a few programs that you should explore:

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is for federal loan borrowers who work in the public sector. Whether you’re a volunteer, teacher, or nurse, you may be eligible for student loan forgiveness if you work for a qualifying U.S. federal, state, or local employer.

Here are some common professions that qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness:

  • Non-profit 
  • Government
  • Lawyers
  • AmeriCorps 
  • Peace Corps
  • Medical field

Loan Forgiveness Through Repayment Plans

Depending on your loan type, repayment plan, and the number of loan payments you’ve made, you may be able to have your student loans forgiven. If you have the Income-Based Repayment Plan, Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Plan, Income-Contingent Repayment Plan, or the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan, you can qualify for loan forgiveness if you have made on-time and in-full payments for a specified amount of time.

Occupation-Based Loan Forgiveness

If you are in the Army National Guard, AmeriCorps VISTA, AmeriCorps State, or AmeriCorps NCCC, you may qualify for specialized loan forgiveness. Military service members can qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, National Defense Student Loan Discharge, and more.  Reach out to your military organization to see what student loan forgiveness options you may have.

If you are a public school teacher who works for an eligible school, you may also be eligible for loan forgiveness. Generally, you need to have taught at a low-income school and made a minimum of 120 full and on-time payments. Some programs that you can look into are the Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Teacher Loan Forgiveness, and Perkins Loan Cancellation.

Borrower Defense

If you believe you were scammed or defrauded by your school and can prove it, you may be eligible to have your student loan balance wiped out entirely. You’ll need to file a claim with the Department of Education with evidence that you were deceived or misled by your school. 

Refinance to a Lower Interest Rate

Before looking into student loan refinancing options, double-check that you do not have any opportunities for student loan forgiveness. If you refinance your student loans, you may lose eligibility for loan forgiveness in the future. 

Loan refinancing is when you swap out your current loan with a new loan to pay off your debt. Generally, the new loan should have more favorable terms, such as a lower interest rate or monthly payment. This, in turn, can help you pay off your loans faster and save you money on interest.

Cut Back Expenses or Pick Up A Side Hustle

To pay off $200k in student loans, you can either increase how much you earn, reduce how much you spend, or do both. Generally, it is difficult for borrowers to cut back their expenses and pick up a side hustle, so don’t stress if that is you. Choose the strategy that works best for you.

If you’re hustling hard and looking for creative ideas to cut back on expenses or make more money, consider the following:

  1. Do you have any paid subscriptions you forgot about? Try using a software like Rocket Money to catch any subscriptions you might be paying for without knowing it.
  2. When was the last time you negotiated your bills? If it’s been more than a year, it’s time to call.
  3. When was the last time you discussed your salary with your boss? While it might be an awkward conversation to have, it’s definitely in your right to talk about a pay raise.
  4. Use Upside when purchasing gas. Not only will it tell you where the cheapest gas prices are, but it’ll give you cash back for purchasing gas (which is often a necessary expense for most individuals).

If you do not have any expenses to cut out, consider picking up a side hustle. Whether you decide to pick up a second job or explore freelance work, anything that brings an additional stream of income will help you.

Look at Your Company’s Benefits

Believe it or not, some employers will give you extra money to pay off your student loan debt. Reach out to your employer’s HR office and ask about any student loan payoff benefits they may offer. Or, if you’re applying for a new job, add in student loan repayment benefits when negotiating your salary and compensation package. 

Use the Debt Avalanche Method

The debt avalanche is a popular method to tackle student loan debt. When using the debt avalanche method, you:

  1. Pay the minimum payment for all of your outstanding debt, and;
  2. Use your remaining money to pay off your debt with the highest interest rate.

The idea behind the debt avalanche method is to target your debt with the highest interest rate so you can spend less on interest in the long run.

For example, let’s say you are currently paying off three student loans: one of them has an interest rate of 10%, one has an interest rate of 7%, and the last one has an interest rate of 5%. 

Using the debt avalanche method, you would pay off the minimum amounts for all of the loans, while directing any extra money to the loan with a 10% interest rate. 

After the student loan with the 10% interest rate is entirely paid off, you would begin directing all of your money to the loan with the 7% interest rate, while making minimum payments on both the 5% and 7% loan.

How Long Will It Take to Pay Off?

To calculate how long it would take you to pay off $200k in student loans, you can use a student loan calculator. Student loan calculators allow you to adjust your monthly payment in different scenarios, allowing you to see how long different repayment plans would take. 

Closing Thoughts From the Nest

While paying off $200k in student loans may seem like a daunting goal, it is definitely possible. By researching your options and being financially pragmatic, your student loan debt is something that you can overcome.

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