Students and families invest heavily in higher education. Many students rely on student loans to finance their educations. In fact, students amassed $1.56 trillion in student loan debt by 2020.

According to Forbes, American student loan debt is now the second-highest consumer debt category, exceeded only by mortgage debt. The Institute for College Access and Success says the average student loan debt is $32,731, while the median student loan monthly payment is $222.

Some students feel like paying off student loan debt is impossible. Many loan repayment schedules kick in shortly after graduation, and certain borrowers may not yet be making enough money to afford even the minimum payments on their student loans. Thankfully, there are ways to get out from under student loan pressure.

♦ Investigate income-driven repayment. IDR will lower student loan payments based on your income, and some plans even promise to forgive any remaining balance once the repayment period is up. That period can take between 20 and 25 years.

♦ Make a move. The Rural Opportunity Zone program encourages Americans to move to rural Kansas to help discourage population decline and to give others the benefits of a lower cost of living. Seventy-seven Kansas counties have been authorized to offer student loan payment incentives.

♦ Work in public service. A Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, or PLSF, enables student loan forgiveness in exchange for working for a nonprofit or working in government.

♦ Refinance the loans. Graduates may not be aware that they can refinance their student loans at a lower rate or choose new loan terms, including variable or fixed rates. Maturity dates can even be renegotiated in certain instances. It’s possible to save thousands of dollars in interest by refinancing, particularly if borrowers have a credit score of at least 650.

♦ Make more than the minimum payment. Financial advisor Dave Ramsey says making the minimum payments on student loans will not get them paid off fast, and the interest could pile up as well. By paying more than the minimum payments, you can pay down the principal more quickly. Designate tax refunds and salary increases to pay down student loan debt.

♦ Ask for help. Speak with your boss about whether he or she can help pay off student loans. Some employers offer conditional student loan repayment to employees.

These are some of the ways that student loan debts can be repaid quickly, efficiently and creatively.

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