Know Your Federal Student Loan Repayment Options

Your federal student loans have benefits that allow you to lower your payment amount, postpone your payments, or, in certain cases, have your loans forgiven. These options give you flexibility to change how you repay your loans as your life changes. This can be especially helpful if you’re ever faced with unemployment or a health or financial crisis.

Below are some financial situations case studies:

I can handle my payments: I make enough to afford my monthly payment at Standard/Level Repayment Plan. You’ll pay your loan off the fastest and pay the least amount of interest over time.

Emily got a job in her field right out of college. She is living in a studio apartment, making ends meet, and is able to pay her student loans on time. Standard repayment is the best plan for Emily.

I can’t afford my current payments: I am making money, but not quite enough at the Extended/Graduated Repayment Plan. Extended and graduated repayment plans allow you to pay less now and more later. Just remember that the longer you take to pay back your loan, the more interest it will accrue, costing you more in the long run.

Andy went to medical school. He’s a resident now and isn’t making a lot of money, but plans to make more in a few years when he’s finished with school and becomes a doctor. A graduated repayment plan will allow him to make smaller payments now and larger payments later on.

I’m not making enough to cover my monthly expense: Depending on your income, a payment that could be as low as $0/month might be the right option for you. Just remember that the longer you take to pay back your loan, the more interest it will accrue, costing you more in the long run.

Melissa has a lot of debt. She finished school and got a job, but has a family, a mortgage, and lots of expenses. She needs a lower monthly payment that takes her income and her family size into account. An income-driven repayment plan will help Melissa manage all of her expenses.

I’m not able to make paymentsI’ve missed a few payments and need help-Forbearance. If you’ve missed payments, you can recover and start over with forbearance. It will clear up your past-due status and can postpone your payments for a short time—giving you breathing room to make new payment arrangements.

Quinn got an internship after college, but it doesn’t pay as well as he hoped. His roommate just moved out, and he’s not sure how to afford his student loan payments. Postponing them with a forbearance for a few months will help him keep up on his other bills until he’s able to find a new roommate.

If you’re in a longer-term situation or providing service that affects your ability to earn enough money to make your payments, you may be able to postpone them with a deferment.

Claire got a job after she finished college, but decided to go into the Peace Corps instead. Since she won’t be earning much while serving, she wants to postpone her payments. A deferment will help her do that.

If you’re unemployed or working less than 30 hours a week you can postpone your payments for up to three years with an unemployment deferment.

Sarah graduated from college, but isn’t working full-time. She can’t make her student loan payments right now and doesn’t know when she’ll be able to. An unemployment deferment will help Sarah postpone her payments until she’s able to find a job.

If you don’t have any income, you can postpone your payments with an economic hardship deferment. It’s best to take advantage of this option before you miss any payments.

Aaron just got down-sized from his job, but he hasn’t missed any student loan payments yet. He’s not sure how long it will be before he has another job and is able to make his payments again. An economic hardship deferment will help Aaron make sure he doesn’t miss any payments.

I have too many payments: If you have multiple federal student loans with different monthly payments and due dates you can consolidate your loans. Consolidation combines multiple federal loans into a single loan with a fixed interest rate and a single monthly payment, and provides a longer repayment period, which can reduce your monthly payment.

Olivia got a good job out of college. She has the budget to make her student loan payments, but she has a hard time keeping track of the different due dates and amounts on top of her other monthly expenses. Consolidation will make things easier to manage.

Source: Great Lakes Educational Loan Services

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