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Income-Sensitive vs. Income-Based Repayment Plans

Do you want to pay less now or qualify for forgiveness?

Updated

Fact checked
The Income-Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan and Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan are your two main options for unconsolidated FFEL loans. The ISR Plan might be a better choice if you have FFEL loans and a low-paying job, but expect your income to increase — like a medical resident. But the IBR Plan makes more sense if you’re looking for forgiveness or have Direct Loans.

How these federal repayment plans compare

Income-Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan
Best for... Parent and student borrowers with FFEL Loans who want income-driven repayments for a few years Student borrowers looking for income-driven repayments on FFEL Loans that haven’t been consolidated
Eligible loans
  • Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • FFEL Graduate PLUS Loans
  • FFEL Parent PLUS Loans
  • FFEL Consolidation Loans
  • Direct Subsidized Loans
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans
  • Direct Graduate PLUS Loans
  • Direct Consolidation Loans — can't include Direct or FFEL Parent PLUS Loans
  • Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • FFEL Graduate PLUS Loans
  • FFEL Consolidation Loans — can't include FFEL Parent PLUS Loans
  • Federal Perkins Loans*

*Only qualify if consolidated with a Direct Consolidation Loan.

How much you pay
  • 4% to 25% of your gross monthly income
  • 10% or 15% of your monthly discretionary income — depending on when your loan was first issued
  • Never more than what you'd pay on the Standard Repayment Plan
Repayment Term
  • Up to 10 years
  • 20 or 25 years — depending on when your loan was first issued
Eligibility requirements
  • Eligible loans
  • Eligible loans
  • High-enough debt-to-income ratio that repayments are lower than what they'd be on the Standard Repayment Plan
Eligible for forgiveness at the end of the term
Eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Required to reapply each year

Yes

Yes

Pros
  • Open to parent borrowers
  • All FFEL Loans are eligible
  • Repayments adjust with your income
  • Save on interest compared to other plans
  • Repayments adjust with your income
  • Cap on monthly repayments
  • Spousal income won't count if you file taxes separately
Cons
  • No Direct Loans
  • Potentially high repayments
  • More paperwork annually
  • Limited information available
  • Not open to parent borrowers
  • Longer term and higher monthly repayments for older loans
  • More paperwork annually
Learn more
Learn more

If you’re not sure if either of these are right for you, compare other options with our guide to student loan repayment plans.

Interested in refinancing instead? Compare your options

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Min. Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR
SoFi Student Loan Refinancing Variable Rate (with Autopay)
650
Full balance of your qualified education loans
2.25% to 6.09%
A leader in student loan refinancing, SoFi can help you refinance your loans and pay them off sooner.
Purefy Student Loan Refinancing (Variable Rate)
620
$300,000
2.27% to 7.49%
Refinance all types of student loans — including federal and parent PLUS loans.
Credible Student Loan Refinancing
Good to excellent credit
None
1.99% to 9.24%
Get prequalified offers from top student loan refinancing providers in one place.
Splash Financial Student Loan Refinancing
650
None
1.89% to 6.66%
Save on your student loans with this market-leading newcomer.
Education Loan Finance Student Loan Refinancing
680
None
2.39% to 6.01%
Lower your student debt costs with manageable payments, affordable rates and flexible terms.
Earnest Student Loan Refinancing
650
$500,000
1.99% to 5.34%
Get a tailored interest rate and repayment plan with no hidden fees.
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Compare up to 4 providers

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