Note that the situation for student loans has changed due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and relief efforts from the government and many lenders. Check out our Student Loan Hero Coronavirus Information Center for additional news and details.
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When it comes to your student loan repayment, it’s easy to feel like you’re stuck with what you’ve got. However, you may have a few more student loan repayment options than you realize. Perhaps you’ve wondered: “How do I change my student loan repayment plan?” Or even, “can you change student loan repayment plans?”
Well, look no further. Here’s what you need to know about getting the best student loan repayment plan for your particular situation — specifically:
First off, federal student loans are more flexible when it comes to modifying your payments. There are a few different ways you can go about it, from changing the number of years you have to repay to changing your monthly payment. You can even pause payments or consolidate your loans.
Therefore, choosing the right student loan repayment plan for you depends on the goal you have in mind. Do you want to pay off your loans faster? Or do you need to have lower monthly payments? Maybe you prefer to have all of your loans in one?
The answers to these questions will lead to different types of student loan repayment options. You need to understand your biggest pain point first and then go from there. Consider which of the following four scenarios applies directly to your situation:
There are a few options you can look into if you’re struggling to pay your bills:
- Income-driven repayment plans
Deferment and forbearance give you a temporary break on your student loan repayment. Both of these options enable you to pause your student loan repayment, although loans in forbearance always accrue interest during that time, while only some types of loans in deferment do.
Income-driven repayment plans, however, don’t pause your payments but do lower them. These plans include:
Income-Based Repayment plans (IBR)
- IBR plans apply to PLUS loans, federal Stafford loans, direct loans, FFEL or direct consolidation loans that don’t include direct or FFEL PLUS loans to parents.
- Payments are 10% or 15% of your discretionary income. You are eligible for forgiveness after consecutive payments for 20 or 25 years.
Revised Pay As You Earn plan (REPAYE )
- Direct loans and direct consolidation loans qualify for REPAYE plans.
- Payments are 10% of your discretionary income. You’re eligible for forgiveness after consecutive payments for 20 or 25 years.
Pay As You Earn plan (PAYE)
- PAYE plans are for Direct loans and Direct consolidation loans borrowed on or after Oct. 1, 2007, and received on or after Oct. 1, 2011.
- Payments are 10% of your discretionary income. You are eligible for forgiveness after consecutive payments for 20 years.
Income-Contingent Repayment plan (ICR)
- ICR plans are available for direct loans and direct consolidation loans.
- Payments will be calculated by whichever of the following is less: 20% of your discretionary income or the amount you’d pay on a fixed 12-year repayment plan, adjusted to your income. Eligible for forgiveness after consecutive payments for 25 years.
Income-sensitive repayment plan
- Income-sensitive repayment plans are available for federal Stafford loans, FFEL PLUS loans and FFEL consolidation loans.
- Your annual income is the basis for how much your payments are — the formula used will vary by lender. Ten years is the maximum repayment term.
Remember, you have to reapply for these repayment plans annually and the amount forgiven might be subject to taxes. Also, the above plans — except for the income-sensitive repayment plan — will keep you in debt longer unless you qualify for loan forgiveness.
If your loans are hard to track, thanks to a jumble of due dates, interest rates and balances, you have an option to consolidate them into a direct consolidation loan. And doing so can make your loans eligible for some of the income-driven repayment plans mentioned above.
The idea behind consolidation is to combine federal loans with various servicers and interest rates into one. Applying for direct loan consolidation is a free process.
However, keep in mind that once you consolidate your federal loans through direct loan consolidation, it restarts the clock on any progress you’ve made toward loan forgiveness.
Here are a few other pros and cons of direct loan consolidation, according to Federal Student Aid:
Pros of direct loan consolidation
- Simplify your repayment.
- Lower your monthly payment by lengthening your repayment plan.
- New access to income-driven repayment plans, getting rid of any variable rates if you have them.
Cons of direct loan consolidation
- Could be in debt longer and pay more if you increase the length of your repayment plan.
- Might lose access to options like interest rate discounts and other benefits.
- Lose credit for any payments you’ve made so far toward forgiveness.
If your main objective is to have your loans forgiven, then you’ll be happy to know that this option is available under the income-driven repayment plans mentioned above.
But first, a list of federal loan forgiveness options:
- Closed school discharge: Your school closes while you’re in attendance or within 120 days of your withdrawal.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness: Forgiveness for those who’ve made 120 qualifying payments while employed in certain nonprofits or government organizations.
- Teacher loan forgiveness: Teachers who’ve taught for five consecutive years in eligible schools can have up to $17,500 of their loans forgiven.
- Perkins loan cancellation and discharge: Perkins Loans holders of all kinds can have their loans forgiven, including nurses, teachers, firefighters and more.
- Total and permanent disability and discharge: Student loan forgiveness for various federal loan holders who’ve endured a permanent disability.
- Discharge due to death: Federal loans of the deceased can be discharged.
- Rare: Discharge in bankruptcy: Borrowers who can prove undue hardship might be able to have their student loans discharged.
- False certification of student eligibility or unauthorized payment discharge: Some federal student loans can be discharged if you were not truly eligible, if the loan was taken out without your knowledge or if you will never be able to qualify to work in the field you intend to study.
- Unpaid refund discharge: Your loans might be eligible for discharge if you withdrew in the proper time frame but your school didn’t send a refund to the government.
- Borrower defense discharge: Students of schools who misled them or violated specific laws might be able to have their student loans forgiven.
As you can see, most of these forgiveness plans are circumstantial. However, here are several that you can actively work to qualify for and how they work.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
- Applies to direct loans or direct consolidation loans.
- Full-time employees of governmental organizations, 501(c)(3) not-for-profits and other qualifying not-for-profits become eligible for forgiveness after making 120 qualifying payments on an income-driven repayment plan.
Teacher loan forgiveness
- Not available for PLUS loans or federal Perkins loans. (However, teachers with Perkins loans can go through Teacher Cancellation.)
- Full-time teachers working at qualifying schools for five years are eligible for up to $17,500 of forgiveness.
Forgiveness from Income-Driven Repayment plans
- Anyone on an Income-Driven Repayment plan can qualify for forgiveness after the required number of years of consecutive payments, usually 20 or 25 years.
All of these are subject to change as laws around student loans change. Also, remember that forgiven debt might be taxable, depending on the laws at the time you receive debt forgiveness.
If you’re wondering,“What are my student loan repayment options if I want to get out of debt faster?” consider the following three types of repayment plans that aren’t income-driven:
- Standard repayment plan
Fixed payments with a repayment plan of 10 years, or longer for Direct consolidation loans.
- Graduated repayment plan
Payments start small and gradually increase on a preset schedule. Repayment plan is 10 years, or 10-30 years for Direct consolidation loans.
- Extended repayment plan
Can be fixed or graduated payments. Repayment plan is up to 25 years.
If you want to switch to a different student loan repayment option, ask your servicer to do this for you. It’s a free service and can be done anytime.
There are other ways to pay your loans off faster besides switching your student loan repayment plan. For example, refinancing for a lower interest rate can be most effective. With a lower interest rate, more of your money can go to your principal balance.
However, keep in mind:
- If you choose a longer repayment plan, you could end up paying more on your loans (depending on the interest rate and the length of the plan).
- Refinancing federal loans turns them into private loans, thus removing federal student loan repayment options, such as income-driven repayment plans.
Other things you could do include switching to biweekly payments and applying extra money, such as tax refunds, to your loans so you can make even more progress quickly.
There is clearly a wide variety of student loan repayment options with federal student loans. Unfortunately, there are not as many options for private loans.
While it might seem like the lack of options is unfair, private student lenders have their hands tied and are often referred to as retail credit. Retail creditors are not allowed to offer programs that might substantially alter the terms of the loan.
That said, you’re not without options. So if now you’re wondering, “Can you change student loan repayment plans on private loans?” the answer is yes, sometimes you can. Here are repayment options for two of the most common pain points:
1. I can barely afford my monthly payments
If you’re struggling to make ends meet, there are some options available to you for your private loans. However, those options will depend on your lender.
For example, some private student loan lenders will offer short-term forbearance or even unemployment protection.
The best thing you can do if you’re struggling with your private student loan payments is to contact your lender immediately. Even if you can’t find options on their website, call and ask. You lose nothing by asking.
2. I want to get out of debt faster
If your main goal is to pay off debt faster, then refinancing for a lower interest rate is a great option. However, there are a few things to consider, as the terms you pick can make a big difference:
- Don’t accept a variable rate unless you’re very comfortable with knowing your interest rate (and thus payments) can go up at any time.
- If you can afford the payments on the shortest repayment plan, choosing that will help you get out of debt faster.
- Another choice could be selecting a term you’re more comfortable with and paying extra any time you have more room in your budget or you receive a windfall, such as a birthday gift or a bonus.
It can be hard to pick the right length of repayment because you want to be ambitious and pay off the debt faster. However, try not to squeeze your budget so tightly that you could end up going delinquent on your loans.
Try to strike the right balance — and remember, you can always make extra payments.
Student loans can be difficult to manage at times, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck. If you need to change your student loan repayment plan, tackle it head-on.
The more quickly you can change your monthly payments for the better, the sooner you’ll be able to get your loans back under control.
Christina Majaski contributed to this report.
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|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
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|1.89% – 5.90%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.09%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.64%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.98% – 8.55%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of October 1, 2020.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of September 9, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.79% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.64% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of July 31, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 7/31/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
5 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 10/15/2020 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.98% APR to 8.55% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.99% APR to 8.77% Fixed APR with AutoPay.