Repayment Schedules and Options

Having trouble making your monthly federal student loan payments?  Don’t worry – you’ve got options!  Lots of options!  Between the various lower payment plans, deferments and forbearances, it’s very likely you can find something that will fit your situation and budget.  

Making even a minimal payment on your loans is always the best option rather than postponing the payment altogether.  Remember, the more you pay now, the less you pay in the long run. But, if you find it easier to pay less—or you cannot afford to pay anything—take advantage of these options. Do what’s best for you in the long run.  Paying your student loans is a marathon – not a sprint!

Repayment Schedules

There are several repayment schedules available for Stafford and Grad PLUS loan borrowers:

  • The traditional schedule—and the one in which you pay the least interest overall—is standard repayment.
  • If you need to lower your monthly payments, you can do so by stretching your repayment period with extended repayment.
  • You can also pay less now without extending your repayment period by using graduated repayment.
  • If your payments have become unmanageable because you have high student loan debt and/or a low income, you should see if you are eligible for one of the income-driven repayment plan options: Income-Contingent Repayment and Pay As You Earn (for Direct Loan borrowers); Income-Sensitive Repayment (for Federal Family Education Loan Program borrowers); and Income-Based Repayment(for both Direct Loan and Federal Family Education Loan Program borrowers).
  • Combine all your loans into a single loan—with a single payment—by consolidating your loan.

Parent PLUS loan borrowers can choose from any of the plans above except income-based repayment, income-contingent repayment and pay as you earn repayment. However, you can become eligible for income-contingent repayment by consolidating your Parent PLUS loans into Direct Loans.  

You generally can only change your repayment schedule once a year (unless you're switching to income-based repayment). Also, for all federal student loans, there is no penalty for paying off your loan before it is due.

Additional Options

If you are struggling to make any payment due to personal circumstances, you have other options.

Repaying Perkins Loans

Perkins loans have fewer repayment options.  

    • Perkins loans must be repaid within 10 years – excluding periods of deferment or forbearance.
    • The school that awarded you the Perkins loan determines your payment amount and the frequency of your payments – monthly, quarterly, or bi-monthly.
    • The minimum payment is $40 and the school can round all payments up to the nearest multiple of $5.
    • You may request permission from the school to repay the loan in graduated installments but the schedule requires final approval from the federal Department of Education. .
    • Perkins loans may be consolidated together with Stafford and PLUS loans, but the consolidation loan would lose all of the Perkins loan specific discharge and cancellation benefits.  
    • You may be able to work with your school to establish a different extended repayment plan if you are:
            • Experiencing a period of prolonged illness,
            • Experiencing a period of prolonged unemployment, or
            • Determined to be a low-income individual – your income does not exceed the Income Protection Allowance for your family size in the preceding year.  The repayment period can be extended for up to 10 years in this case.

You can postpone payments through Perkins-specific deferment options.

Repaying Institutional, Private, and State Loans

Repayment options vary for institutional, private, and state loans.

  • Institutional loans: Contact your school to learn about your repayment options.
  • Private loans: Contact your lender to find out your repayment options.
  • State loans: Contact your servicer or your state's office of education to find out your repayment options.

If you do not know if you have institutional, private, or state loans, review your free annual credit report.