Which Student Loan Repayment Plan Should You Choose?

If you graduated from college within the last six months, you have probably been contacted by one of the U.S. Department of Education’s loan servicers, reminding you that it’s almost time to begin repaying your student loans.

Your loan servicer will automatically enroll you in our Standard Repayment Plan unless you tell them otherwise. Under a Standard Plan, your payments will be fixed over a 10-year period of time.

But, this isn’t your only option. Did you know that the Department offers several different repayment plans? You can read more about that below or you can  try our repayment estimator to find out which repayment plan is best for you. Just log in, and the tool will pull your federal student loan information and allow you to compare our different repayment plans side by side:

Here are the details on each repayment plan we offer:

Repayment Estimator Graphic

Standard Repayment Plan

The most basic type of repayment plan is the Standard Repayment Plan. This is the default plan for most types of student loans. It breaks down your loan balance into monthly payments of at least $50 for up to ten years. In general, this is the plan that will cost you the least amount of money in interest payments.

Graduated Repayment Plan

Under the Graduated Repayment Plan, monthly payments start out low and increase every two years during the 10-year repayment period. This plan is best for borrowers whose income may start out low but is expected to increase. One downside is you will pay more in interest than you would under the Standard Repayment Plan.

Extended Repayment Plan

The Extended Repayment Plan allows borrowers with more than $30,000 in debt to extend the repayment period from ten years to up to twenty-five years. Payments under the Extended Repayment Plan can be either standard or graduated. This plan is best for borrowers whose loan burden is too large to bear the standard monthly payments over the course of just ten years.

Income-Based Repayment Plan

The Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan allows borrowers with a demonstrated financial hardship to limit their monthly loan payments to 15 percent of their discretionary income (that is, the difference between their adjusted gross income and 150 percent of the poverty guideline for their individual situation). Under this plan, if the balance of the loan has not yet been paid off after 25 years of payments, it can be forgiven. Under IBR, borrowers will pay more in interest over the life of the loan. This plan is best for borrowers who are struggling to afford their monthly payments under other repayment plans.

Pay As You Earn

The Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan allows new borrowers with a demonstrated financial hardship to limit their monthly loan payments to 10 percent of their discretionary income. Under this plan, if the balance of the loan has not yet been paid off after 20 years of payments, it can be forgiven. However, borrowers will pay more in interest over the life of the loan than under the Standard Repayment Plan. 

Income-Contingent Repayment Plan

Under the Income-Contingent Repayment Plan, a borrower’s monthly payment amount is calculated based on annual income and family size as well as his total loan amount. If a loan balance remains after 25 years of payments, it may be forgiven. Unlike the IBR and Pay As You Earn Repayment Plans, borrowers need not be facing financial hardship to qualify for this plan. However, a borrower will likely pay more in interest than in other repayment plans. This plan is best for borrowers who are not facing demonstrated financial hardship, but whose financial situation is insufficient to bear the monthly payments under other repayment plans.

Remember that these are for federal loans only. If at any point, you need advice or have questions about your federal student loans, don’t hesitate to contact your loan servicer. If you have private loans as well, be sure to check with your lender to see what repayment options they have available.

For more information on student loans and federal financial aid, visit StudentAid.gov.

4 Things You Need to Know About Repaying Your Student Loans


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When it comes to repaying your federal student loans, there’s a lot to consider. But, by taking the time to understand the details of repayment, you can save yourself time and money. This should help you get started.

When do I begin repaying my federal student loans?

You don’t have to begin repaying most federal student loans until after you leave college or drop below half-time enrollment. Many federal student loans have a grace period. The grace period is a set period of time after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment before you must begin repaying your loan. The grace period gives you time to get financially settled and to select your repayment plan. Note that for most loans, interest will accrue during your grace period.

Your loan servicer or lender will provide you with a loan repayment schedule that states when your first payment is due, the number and frequency of payments, and the amount of each payment.

Whom do I pay?

The U.S. Department of Education uses several loan servicers to handle the billing and other services on federal student loans. Your loan servicer will work with you to choose a repayment plan and will assist you with other tasks related to your federal student loans. It is important to maintain contact with your loan servicer and keep your servicer informed of any changes to your address, e-mail, or phone number.

How much do I need to pay?

Your bill will tell you how much to pay. Your payment (usually made monthly) depends on

    • the type of loan you received,
    • how much money you borrowed,
    • the interest rate on your loan, and
    • the repayment plan you choose.

You can use our repayment estimator to estimate your monthly payments under different repayment plans to determine which option is right for you. Just remember, if you would like to switch repayment plans, then you must contact your loan servicer.

What should I do if I’m having trouble making my student loan payments?

Contact your loan servicer as soon as possible. You may be able to change your repayment plan to one that will allow you to have a longer repayment period or to one that is based on your income. Also, ask your loan servicer about your options for a deferment or forbearance or loan consolidation.

Still have questions?

If you need assistance with your federal student loan, it is best to contact your loan servicer. They can help you choose or change your repayment plan, and learn about other options to make your monthly payments more affordable. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact your loan servicer.

Helpful Social Media Tools to Promote FAFSA Completion

Helpful Social Media Tools to Promote FAFSA Completion

For us at the U.S. Department of Education, the start of a new year provides a fresh opportunity to  remind parents, students and educators about the importance of submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) provides more than $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds each year to help pay for college or career school. Completing the FAFSA is the primary step for determining eligibility for federal student aid and subsequently accessing these funds. With the 2013-14 FAFSA application having gone live on January 1st, FSA’s Digital Engagement Group is requesting your assistance in promoting FAFSA completion.

We are asking for your help in getting the message out through your social media channels about the importance of completing the FAFSA early in the year.  To help you do that, we have developed some resources for you to use:

In addition, over the next few months, the Federal Student Aid Digital Engagement Group will be actively managing our own presence on social media with a strong focus on FAFSA completion. We highly encourage you to use and repost our content whenever applicable. Here are the places you can find us:

Thanks for your support and commitment to advancing the higher education goals of students and families across

3 Things to Do During Your Student Loan Grace Period

Student Loan Grace PeriodYour student loan grace period is a set amount of time after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment, but before you must begin repayment on your loan. The grace period gives you time to get financially settled and to select your repayment plan. Not all federal student loans have a grace period. Note that for many loans, interest will accrue during your grace period.

Here are three things you can do during your grace period to prepare for repayment:

1. Get Organized

Start by tracking down all of your student loans. There is a website that allows you to view all your federal student loans in one place. You can log in to www.nslds.ed.gov using your Federal Student Aid PIN to view your loan balances, information about your loan servicer(s), and more.

Note: Don’t forget to check to see if you have private student loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a great Student Debt Repayment Assistant to help you learn about the repayment process, whether you have federal loans, private loans or both.

2. Contact Your Loan Servicer

loan servicer is a company that handles the billing and other services on your federal student loan. Your loan servicer can help you choose a repayment plan, understand loan consolidation, and complete other tasks related to your federal student loan, so it is important to maintain contact with your loan servicer. If your circumstances change at any time during your repayment period, your loan servicer will be able to help.

To find out who your loan servicer is, visit nslds.ed.gov. You may have more than one loan servicer, so it is important that you look at each loan individually.

3. Explore Your Repayment Plan Options

Although you may select or be assigned a repayment plan when you first begin repaying your student loan, you can change repayment plans at any time. Flexible repayment options are one of the greatest benefits of federal student loans. There are options to tie your monthly payments to your income and even ways you can have your loans forgiven if you are a teacher or employed in certain public service jobs. Work with your loan servicer to determine which repayment plan is right for you.

 

Five Things to Know About Your Student Loans

Over the next few months, many students who graduated or left school in the spring of 2012 will reach the end of their grace period and start repaying their student loans. Now is a great time to brush up on the basics of student loans.

student loans logoFinancial aid comes in many forms. Grants and scholarships are often called “gift aid” because they don’t have to be repaid. Another form of financial aid is work-study.  Federal Work-Study provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses.

Student loans are the other major form of financial aid. A loan is money that a student borrows and must pay back, so it is important that you understand your options and responsibilities.

Here are five things you should know about your student loans:

1.     Federal vs. Private Loans

Federal loans are managed and backed by the U.S. government.  These loans are designed to provide students with fair treatment.  Because they offer the best terms for borrowers, federal loans are the best option for students.

Private loans are managed and backed by private banks.  These banks are not subject to the same rules and regulations of federal loans, and may feature higher (or variable) interest rates, stricter repayment plans and penalties, or other terms that may make them more expensive.

You also may encounter other, less common types of loans, such as state loans (managed by your state) or institutional loans (managed by your college or university).  In all cases, carefully read and understand the loan terms before deciding to accept.

2.     Unsubsidized vs. Subsidized Loans

Federal loans can be either subsidized or unsubsidized.  A subsidized student loan means that the government pays the interest for you while you’re in school, as long as you’re enrolled at least half time.  That means that if you take out a $5,000 subsidized student loan to pay for your freshman year, and graduate in four years of full-time classes, you’ll still owe $5,000 when you graduate.  Interest will only “accrue,” or be added to the repayment amount, after you stop being a student.

An unsubsidized student loan means that interest “accrues” even while you’re in school.  Some federal loans and nearly all private loans are unsubsidized.  You don’t always have to pay the interest while you’re a student, but the total amount you’ll need to repay is still growing.  If you have an unsubsidized student loan, it’s a good idea to pay the monthly interest while in school, even if you don’t need to.

3.     Loan Interest Rate

The interest rate is a percentage that determines how much your loan balance increases each year.  Consider it the price that you pay for being able to borrow money from the lender.  For example, if you have a $5,000 loan with a 5 percent interest rate, your annual interest will be $250 (5% x $5,000), which means at the end of the year you will owe $5,250.

4.     Loan Length of Repayment

When you start repaying a loan, you have a set amount of time to repay your loan known as the length of repayment.  A longer length of repayment means a lower monthly payment, but it also means a higher total amount repaid over the life of the loan.

Federal loans typically follow a ten-year repayment plan schedule, but depending on the type of repayment plan, your length of repayment could last as long as thirty years.  One key benefit of Federal loans is the ability of the borrower to switch repayment plans without penalty.  If you find a given repayment plan too difficult, research your options regarding extended repayment plans to determine if one is right for you.

5.     Monthly Loan Payments

The principal, interest rate, and length of repayment of a loan determine your monthly loan payment.  This is the amount you’ll need to pay each month.  Each loan has a separate monthly loan payment, so if you have more than one loan, you will have to pay several loan payments each month.  If you prefer to have a single loan payment, you should consider researching the Federal Loan Consolidation program to see if it’s right for you.

You may find that the monthly loan payments are too high and that you cannot pay them all.  If this occurs, seek help.  Research options such as income-based repayment, the public service loan forgiveness program, loan deferment, or loan forbearance to determine if one is right for you.  Remember, however, that options designed to decrease your monthly loan payments may increase the total amount you have to repay over the life of the loan.

Loans have many different characteristics, but they don’t have to be confusing.  Always carefully read and understand a loan’s features before accepting it. Your loan servicer or financial aid counselor can be great resource if you need help understanding the terms of a loan. Additionally, The Department of Education offers a number of tools, such as our repayment calculators and the Financial Awareness Counseling Tool (FACT), to help you research your options. By educating yourself, you will be prepared to make the best decisions for your own future.

#AskFAFSA Office Hours with Secretary Arne Duncan

On October 12th at 4pm ET, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan will join @FAFSA to answer your financial aid questions during the October edition of #AskFAFSA Office Hours. Maybe you have a question about completing the FAFSA or understanding your loan repayment options? Maybe you want to know more about the new resources we just launched? If you have a financial aid question for Secretary Duncan, now’s your chance to ask!

AskArneEvent_PosterHere’s how it works:

  • Have questions for @ArneDuncan You can start submitting your questions on Twitter and Facebook today. Be sure to include the #AskFAFSA  hashtag in your tweets. We will be monitoring for questions on Facebook and Twitter from now through Friday.
  • On Friday, October 12th, at 4pm ET, follow @FAFSA or the #AskFAFSA hashtag on Twitter to join the conversation. Arne will be answering your questions live. Don’t use Twitter? You can also follow along using the Twitter app on our Facebook page.
  • Can’t make the live session? A summary of #AskFAFSA Office Hours, including the full Q&A, will be posted on Storify following the event.