The Student-Debt Playbook

Are you or your adult children carrying a big load of student debt? Your family may well feel like the federal deficit is sitting on your shoulders.

Total student debt has climbed past $1 trillion, but that's only part of the story. Among 2010 graduates who took out loans, the average debt at graduation was $25,250, an amount that can feel daunting even if you can afford to pay.

In the last Getting Going column, we outlined ways to use debt judiciously. But what options are there for people already saddled with it?

Take heart. Experts say there are a number of ways to reduce, rework or even get rid of your federal loans, depending on your circumstances and what kind of work you're willing to do. Here are some ideas.

Change your payment plan. If your monthly loan bill is more than you can comfortably pay, the government offers federal-loan holders a number of different repayment plans. They include paying on a graduated scale, where payments increase every two years, or calculating your monthly payment based on your annual income.

Each has trade-offs. The longer it takes to repay the loan, for instance, the more you will pay in total interest costs.

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