The Versatile Student Loan Calculator: Loan Simulator

Loan RepaymentTips for Success4 minutes

Many students and their families get federal student loans to pay for higher education. But how much should you borrow, and which repayment plan is best for you? Use the student loan calculator from the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid called Loan Simulator to find out.

Loan Simulator can also help current loan borrowers estimate payments and simulate certain scenarios.

Planning Ahead for Repayment

Let’s say you’ve completed your first year of college and have some loans under your belt. You want to visualize how your potential loan debt relates to repayment after you graduate or leave school. Using Loan Simulator, you can get an idea of your typical loan balance based on national data by school type:

In Loan Simulator, you can pull in national loan data to estimate your potential loan balance.

Or based on a specific school:

You can also pull loan data from a specific state and school to estimate your potential loan balance.

With this information, you can see what repayment could look like.

If you use Loan Simulator to find your best repayment option, you’ll get useful info about your estimated monthly payment, total to be paid, paid off date, and more.

To get even more options (income-driven repayment options, for example), you can use our built-in College Scorecard salary estimator.

College Scorecard uses your school and state to estimate your median earnings 6 years after enrollment.


Nearing Repayment or in Repayment

What if you’re finished with school and in the thick of repayment? When you log in, Loan Simulator uses your loan information to recommend repayment strategies that work best for your income and repayment goal.

To find the best repayment strategy for you, Loan Simulator asks you to confirm what kinds of loans you have and how much you owe for each loan.

Loan Simulator uses the options you select and information you enter to recommend a repayment plan that meets your needs. It can also calculate your adjusted gross income (AGI), which is used to calculate monthly payments under some repayment plans. Without an AGI, you might be missing out on some repayment options.

Loan Simulator asks you for specifics about your situation, such as whether you have a job, whether you filed taxes in the last two years, and whether you’re married.

You can skip guided questions and use the sidebar to enter information quickly and experiment with changing your repayment goals and other options.

On the results page, you can add or update your AGI under “Personal Information.”

Note: It’s important to include your AGI to be considered for income-driven repayment plans. These plans are based on a borrower’s income and family size and may result in payments as low as $0. They are also good options for those seeking Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

Personalized results also allow you to compare multiple repayment plans to see which best fits your needs. You can select up to three repayment plans:

For example, you might select the Consolidated Graduated Repayment plan, the Income-Based Repayment plan, and the Income-Contingent Repayment Plan to compare.

To compare them side by side:

The comparison shows estimates of each plan’s starting monthly payment, max monthly payment, total paid, paid off date, and forgiveness amount.

Loan Simulator also offers “Other Options to Consider” to help you further explore different repayment goals.

The other options can help you change your results if, for example, you want to pay off your loans faster, can’t afford the payment plan shown, or want to pay less in interest.

You can use the slider bar on the “Want to Pay Off Your Loans Faster?” option to see how an extra amount per month or an extra one-time payment can reduce the total amount paid and bring the payoff date closer.

For example, you could estimate how your total to be paid and paid off date would change if you pay an extra $50 per month.

Considering or Already Tracking for PSLF

Do you work in the public sector? Loan Simulator asks whether you are considering PSLF:

If you say you’re interested in PSLF, Loan Simulator will ask what type of organization you work for or plan to work for.

Then Loan Simulator uses this information to select the repayment plan that meets your goal and qualifies for PSLF. It also shows the potential loan amount to be forgiven.

Struggling With Payments

When you are struggling to make payments, Loan Simulator can help you by estimating payments under an income-driven repayment plan and suggesting which deferment and forbearance options you might choose to temporarily stop payments on your student loans.

You can compare which options stop payments, which have interest benefits, which count toward loan forgiveness, and which are a long-term or short-term solution.

Loan Simulator also shows you the impact of deferment or forbearance on your overall loan balance.

For example, you can see how much interest you’ll accrue, how your principal balance changes, and how much your monthly payment will go up if you defer payments for one year.

Check out the video below for a visual summary of what Loan Simulator can do!