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So you’ve got a diploma — and debt. Here’s how to pay it off

Students celebrate their graduation at the 2014 commencement

Students celebrate their graduation at the 2014 commencement at Hofstra University, May 18, 2014. Graduates filled the David S. Mack Sports & Exhibition Complex at Hofstra for their commencement. Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

The good news for the class of 2016 is that they graduated from college. The bad news: On average, those that borrowed are taking home about $37,000 in debt along with that diploma.

The big test will be how to best pay for the college years.

  • Buckle down. “Young adults have something nobody else does — time. Focus on earning as much as you can to pay down debt. This means working a second job or hustling on the side,” says Robert Farrington, a student loan debt expert with TheCollegeInvestor.com.
  • Explore options. Some jobs qualify for student loan forgiveness or repayment help. “The best option for those who qualify is Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which forgives federal student loan balances after 10 years of payment. Teachers, doctors, nurses and others can find forgiveness and repayment assistance when assisting underserved populations or working in other capacities,” says Andrew Josuweit, CEO of Student Loan Hero, in Austin, Texas.
  • Consider refinancing loans with high interest rates. Borrowers can lower their rates and save thousands of dollars over the course of repaying their loans, says Josuweit.
  • Choose your repayment options wisely. “Be careful with income-driven repayment. While programs like Pay As You Earn can lower monthly payments, they often do not help you pay off your loans faster,” says Josuweit.

If possible, target loans with the highest interest rates to pay off first, he says. And adding an extra payment each year toward the loan principal can help pay off loans much faster.

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