Student loan borrowers are under growing pressure.

In 2016, 1.1 million Federal Direct Loan borrowers defaulted, according to a new analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education.

More than $137 billion in federal loans originated by financial institutions and the U.S. Department of Education was in default, a 14 percent increase from 2015, said the Consumer Federation of America’s analysis. The average amount owed is $30,650 per federal student loan borrower, up 17 percent since 2013.

The statistics are none too pretty. What’s key to successfully managing student loans?

  • Avoid loans

“Use a tuition installment plan, instead of long-term loan debt. Tuition installment plans split the college bills into 9 to 12 equal monthly installments for a nominal up-front fee and no interest,” says David Levy, editor of Edvisors, a Las Vegas company specializing in helping students and their families plan and pay for college.

  • Graduate on time

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Each additional year of study adds an extra year of debt.

  • Pay attention to rates

Target the highest-rate loans for quicker repayment. “There are no prepayment penalties on federal and private student loans,” Levy says.

Furthermore, sign up for automatic payments and your lender may shave your interest rate 0.25-.0.50 percent.

Take the student loan interest deduction, which allows up to $2,500 in federal and private student loan interest to be deducted on federal income tax returns.