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Can I change my student loan repayment plan?
You can if you have federal loans, but it gets a bit tricky with private lenders.
Changing your student loan repayment plan can be a smart move if you’re struggling with repayments. It can lower how much you owe each month and lower your risk of default. It can also help you get out of debt faster if you choose a shorter term. But it’s not the right solution for everyone — and it’s not always an option.
Can I change my student loan repayment plan?
It depends on what types of student loans you have and your lender. If you have federal loans, you’re eligible to change your repayment plan as needed. But most private loans don’t come with the option to change your repayment plan — or at least not officially. If you’re at risk of defaulting and need to lower your monthly repayments, some private servicers might be willing to budge.
How to change your federal student loan repayment plan
Changing repayment plans on federal student loans is relatively straightforward. Most borrowers will follow a version of the following steps:
Step 1: Review your options.
You have eight repayment plans to choose from when it comes to federal student loans. These include:
- Standard Repayment Plan: Get out of debt faster by signing up for a 10-year loan term.
- Graduated Repayment Plan: Repayments start low and increase over time — ideally with your salary.
- Extended Repayment Plan: Lower your monthly repayments by lengthening your term to 25 years.
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan: Repayments based on your income, best for borrowers paying off undergraduate debt.
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Plan: Repayments based on income, best for single borrowers with a high DTI.
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan: Repayments based on income, best for borrowers who took out loans after July 1, 2014.
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan: Repayments based on income, best for consolidated Parent PLUS Loans.
- Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan: Repayments based on income for FFEL borrowers.
How to compare federal repayment plans
The easiest way to compare plans is to use the repayment estimator tool available on the Federal Student Aid (FSA) website. Log in with your FSA ID to quickly weigh the benefits and drawbacks of signing up for different plans. For each repayment plan, you’ll see:
- Total loan cost
- Monthly repayment range
- How many more payments you’d need to make
- How much income-driven forgiveness you’d receive
- How much Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) you’re eligible for under that plan
Step 2: Reach out to your servicer.
Got a new repayment plan in mind? Contact your servicer to let it know you want to make a change. The fastest way to reach out is to call customer service. Otherwise, you can often send an email, letter or even fax in some cases. Your servicer should tell you what steps to take to change your repayment plan.
Changing your repayment plan is free
If a company says it can change your repayment plan for a fee, stay away. Changing your federal student loan repayment plan is always free. Consider reporting the company to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) so other borrowers don’t fall prey to its scams.
Step 3: Fill out the application.
You need to fill out a form to switch your federal student loan repayment plan. You can get the forms on StudentLoans.gov or directly through your servicer. If you’re applying for a repayment plan based on your income, you might need to submit supporting documents along with the forms.
Step 4: Continue repaying your loans.
You’ll hear from your servicer when you’ve successfully made the switch to your new plan. Until then, continue making repayments according to your old plan. You can also check to see which repayment plan you’re currently on by logging in to your online account with your servicer.
Signed up for autopay? After you’ve switched plans, make sure you’re still enrolled. In some cases, you might have to sign up again after switching repayment plans.
How to change a private student loan repayment plan
Changing repayment plans on your private student loans is a little trickier since they typically only come with one standard repayment option. You make the same fixed repayment every month until your loan is paid off — usually over five to 20 years.
If you’re having trouble making these standard repayments and want to request an alternative plan, get together documents that can support your argument — such as bank statements and pay stubs. Then reach out to your servicer to explain the situation. If you’re in danger of becoming delinquent or defaulting, they’ll often work with you to extend your term or even offer income-driven repayments in some cases.
Should I change my student loan repayment plan?
You might benefit the most from changing your repayment plan in the following situations:
- You want to apply for federal forgiveness. You need to be on an income-driven repayment plan to qualify for most federal forgiveness programs, most notably PSLF.
- You’re struggling with repayments. Signing up for a longer term or getting repayments based on your income can provide a long-term solution that can prevent you from defaulting.
- You want to get out of debt faster. Rather than making extra repayments, switching to a shorter term can hold you to higher monthly repayments and eliminate the work of making sure additional payments go toward your principal.
Are there limits to how often I can change my repayment plan?
Generally, there are no limits to how often you can change your repayment plan. Federal loans have no limits. And since most private lenders don’t officially offer the option to change your repayment plan, they typically have no limits either.
What are my other options?
Changing repayment plans isn’t the only solution to your student loan woes — sometimes it’s not even an option at all. In these cases, you might want to consider:
- Deferment or forbearance. Put repayments on hold when you’re going back to school or have another temporary setback to your income.
- Loan repayment assistance. Many private organizations offer partial forgiveness to members of certain professions, usually in exchange for a service commitment. And some employers offer student loan repayment benefits as well.
- Federal loan consolidation. Consolidate your federal loans to move all your repayments into one place and have the option to switch your servicer.
- Refinancing. Take out a new loan with a private lender to change up the rates and terms. This is also the only way to switch servicers for private student loans.
Compare student loan refinancing offers
You can change your student loan repayment plan at any time if you have federal loans — and you could change your private student loan repayment plan under certain circumstances. But it might not always be the best choice for the problems you’re facing, so consider all of your options before making the switch.
You can check out our guide to student loan repayment plans to learn more about how they work.
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