If you’re struggling to repay your student loans, deferment or forbearance may be available to you
Updated on November 15, 2019
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who struggle to repay their student loans, you may be able to get a deferment or forbearance. This could be available if you’re unemployed, underemployed, and/or struggling financially. This could reduce the amount that you have to pay each month, and in some cases, it could temporarily reduce your payments to zero. Not only that, but deferment or forbearance will keep you from defaulting on student loans, which can have a serious impact on your credit score.
What are the criteria for forbearance and deferment?
If the total amount of your loan payment is 20% or more of your income, you’ll be eligible for mandatory forbearance for three years if you have a Direct Loan, FEEL Program Loan, or Perkins Loan. There are other circumstances that may qualify you for a mandatory forbearance, such as serving in the National Guard or receiving a national service award for AmeriCorps service. You also may be able to get a forbearance under other circumstances at the discretion of your loan provider, which may be possible if you’re dealing with financial difficulties, a change in employment, or medical expenses.
You can get student loan deferment if you are enrolled in a college program at least half-time or are an active member of the military. Deferment is also available for up to three years during a period of unemployment, for individuals unable to find full-time work, and people who are serving in the Peace Corps. However, there’s an important difference between deferment and forbearance that you need to be aware of, which is that you’ll still have to pay the interest on the loan during deferment but not during forbearance.
What if you don’t qualify for deferment or forbearance?
If you do not qualify for either deferment or forbearance, you may want to consider applying for an income-driven repayment plan, which can allow you to avoid defaulting on student loans. In addition, you should look into student loan debt relief programs to see if you may qualify. If you’re facing a problem with student loan debt, it’s important to take action immediately to avoid defaulting on the loan(s).