You should assume when you take out a student loan that you will have to repay it at some point. However, this does not mean that you have to accept the payment plan that the lender gives you. Federal borrowers have choices, including different types of repayment plans, ways to postpone repayment, and even ways to get out of default through repayment. There are also ways to cancel loans in limited circumstances and raise defenses to repayment.
Repayment options are different depending on whether or not you are in default. If you have defaulted on your loans, the Collections section of this website has information about the consequences of default and ways to get out of default. If you are not in default, there are several pre-default repayment plans for federal loans. The repayment plans tied to your income are good options for many borrowers. You should review these programs and use these repayment calculators to get estimates of your monthly payments under different repayment plans.
In general, borrowers should try to repay loans in the shortest amount of time. However, not everyone can afford a ten year payment plan. You should not panic if this describes your situation. Most borrowers are entitled by law to choose a different plan that may require you to pay more in the long run, but keeps you out of default. The government has extraordinary collection powers that kick in only if you default. It is critical to avoid the consequences of federal loan defaults. One important way to do this is by choosing an affordable repayment plan.
Most of the strategies discussed here apply only to borrowers with federal student loans. Private lenders may offer similar programs, but they are not required to do so.