Repaying Your Loans
After you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment, you have a period of time before you have to begin repayment. This “grace period” will be
- six months for a Federal (FFEL) or Direct Stafford Loan.
- nine months for Federal Perkins Loans
The repayment period for all PLUS loans begins on the date the loan is fully disbursed, and the first payment is due within 60 days of the final disbursement. However, a graduate student PLUS loan borrower (as well as a parent PLUS borrower who is also a student) can defer repayment while the borrower is enrolled at least half time, and, for PLUS loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2008, for an additional six months after the borrower is no longer enrolled at least half-time. Interest that accrues during these periods will be capitalized if not paid by the borrower.
Parent PLUS loan borrowers whose loans were first disbursed on or after July 1, 2008, may choose to have repayment deferred while the student for whom the parent borrowed is enrolled at least half-time and for an additional six months after that student is no longer enrolled at least half-time. Interest that accrues during these periods will be capitalized if not paid by the borrower.
For your convenience you may click here to complete the Loan Exit Interview session online.
Get Your Loan Information
The U.S. Department of Education's National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) allows you to access information on loan and/or federal grant amounts, your loan status (including outstanding balances), and disbursements made. Go to www.nslds.ed.gov.
No Prepayment Penalty
All Federal education loans allow prepayment without penalty. For loans that are not in default, any excess payment is applied first to interest and then to principal. However, if the additional payment is greater than one monthly installment, you must include a note with the payment telling the processor whether you want your prepayment to be treated as a reduction in the principal. Otherwise, the government will treat it as though you paid your next payment(s) early, and will delay your next payment due date as appropriate. (It is best to tell them to treat it as a reduction to principal, since this will reduce the amount of interest you will pay over the lifetime of the loan.)
Due to the way the income contingent repayment plan treats interest, it is not advisable to prepay a loan in the income contingent repayment plan.
Can Switch Repayment Plans
If you want to switch from one plan to another, you can do so once per year, so long as the maximum loan term for the new plan is longer than the amount of time your loans have already been in repayment. (In other words, if you are in year 26 of a 30-year extended repayment plan, you cannot switch to the income contingent repayment plan and have the remaining balance written off.)
Paying Back Your Loan
You have a choice of repayment plans if you received a FFEL or a Direct Loan. Federal Perkins Loans don't have repayment plan choices; you generally have up to 10 years to repay, however. Your monthly payment will depend on the size of your debt and the length of your repayment period.
Click here to use our calculator to determine your repayment amounts under each of the different repayment plans.
Note to parents: Generally, Direct PLUS Loan borrowers can choose all but the Income Contingent Repayment Plan. FFEL PLUS Loan borrowers usually can choose from among all the FFEL repayment plans. Contact your loan holder for details.
If you don't repay your student loans on time or according to the terms of your promissory note, you might go into default, which will affect your credit rating. There is assistance for borrowers having difficulty repaying their education loans, including deferment and forbearance. Click here for more details.
Loan Discharge (Cancellation)
In certain circumstances, your loan can be discharged/canceled. Read about cancellation provisions here. Click here for more details.
Cancellation, Deferment and Loan Forgiveness Options for Teachers
If you're a teacher serving in a low-income or subject-matter shortage area, it may be possible for you to cancel and defer your student loans. Click here for more details.
Loan Forgiveness for Public Service Employees
The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 established a new public service loan forgiveness program. This program discharges any remaining debt after 10 years of full-time employment in public service. The borrower must have made 120 payments as part of the Direct Loan program in order to obtain this benefit. Only payments made on or after October 1, 2007 count toward the required 120 monthly payments. (Borrowers may consolidate into Direct Lending in order to qualify for this loan forgiveness program starting July 1, 2008.) Click here for more details.
The Higher Education Act (HEA) provides for a loan consolidation program under both the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Programs and the Direct Loan Program. Under these programs, a borrower’s loans are paid off and a new consolidation loan is created. These programs simplify loan repayment by combining several types of Federal education loans (that may have different terms and repayment schedules or may have been made by different lenders) into one new loan. The interest rate may be lower than on one or more of the underlying loans. In addition, the monthly payment amount on a consolidation loan is usually lower and the amount of time to repay may be extended beyond what was available in the separate loan programs. These features should result in more manageable debt, and make borrowers less prone to default. Loan consolidation is a debt-management strategy that can benefit both student- and parent-borrowers. Before deciding whether loan consolidation is the best strategy for you, it is very important that you read and research all your options carefully. Click here for more details.
Income-Based Repayment Plan
Income-Based Repayment (IBR) is a repayment plan for the major types of federal student loans that caps your required monthly payment at an amount intended to be affordable based on your income and family size. Click here for more details.
If you default, it means you failed to make payments on your student loan according to the terms of your promissory note, the binding legal document you signed at the time you took out your loan. In other words, you failed to make your loan payments as scheduled. Your school, the financial institution that made or owns your loan, your loan guarantor, and the federal government all can take action to recover the money you owe. Here are some consequences of default:
- National credit bureaus can be notified of your default, which will harm your credit rating, making it hard to buy a car or a house.
- You would be ineligible for additional federal student aid if you decided to return to school.
- Loan payments can be deducted from your paycheck.
- State and federal income tax refunds can be withheld and applied toward the amount you owe.
- You will have to pay late fees and collection costs on top of what you already owe.
- You can be sued.