With forbearance, you won’t have to make a payment, or you can temporarily make a smaller payment. However, you probably won’t be making any progress toward forgiveness or paying back your loan. As an alternative, consider income-driven repayment.
Talk to your student loan servicer about options for affordable payments before you use a forbearance to stop making payments. You have a limited amount of forbearance available. Save it for when you really need it.
Get Relief With Lower Payments on an Income-Driven Repayment Plan
If you’re having trouble repaying your loans due to circumstances that may continue for an extended period, or if you’re unsure when you’ll be able to afford to make your monthly loan payments again, a better option might be to change to an income-driven repayment plan. Income-driven repayment plans base your monthly payments on your income and family size. In some cases, your payment could be as low as $0 per month. They can also provide loan forgiveness if your loan is not paid in full after 20 or 25 years.
Always contact your student loan servicer immediately if you’re having trouble making your student loan payments.
If you’re seeking Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or income-driven repayment forgiveness, forbearance will not allow you to make progress toward forgiveness.
Be Aware That Interest Might Accrue During a Forbearance
If you are granted a forbearance, you are still responsible for paying the interest that accrues during the forbearance period.
How It Works
During a forbearance, you can either pay the interest as it accrues, or you can allow it to accrue and be capitalized (added to your loan principal balance) at the end of the forbearance period. If you don’t pay the interest on your loan and allow it to be capitalized, the total amount you repay over the life of your loan may be higher. Unpaid interest is capitalized only on Direct Loans and Federal Family Education Loan FFEL Program loans. Unpaid interest is never capitalized on Federal Perkins Loans.
Request a Forbearance
Most types of forbearance are not automatic—you need to submit a request to your student loan servicer, often using a form. Also, for some types of forbearance, you must provide your student loan servicer with documentation to show that you meet the eligibility requirements for the forbearance you are requesting. Learn more about requirements and how to access request forms.
Understand Eligibility for a Forbearance
There are two main types of forbearance: general and mandatory.
Your loan servicer decides whether to grant a request for a general forbearance. For this reason, a general forbearance is sometimes called a “discretionary forbearance.”
You can request a general forbearance if you are temporarily unable to make your scheduled monthly loan payments for the following reasons:
- Financial difficulties
- Medical expenses
- Change in employment
- Other reasons acceptable to your loan servicer
Loan Programs Eligible for General Forbearance
General forbearances are available for Direct Loans, Federal Family Education (FFEL) Program loans, and Perkins Loans.
Duration of a General Forbearance
For loans made under all three programs, a general forbearance may be granted for no more than 12 months at a time. If you’re still experiencing a hardship when your current forbearance expires, you may request another general forbearance. However, there is a cumulative limit on general forbearances of three years.
For more information, review the General Forbearance Request.
If you meet the eligibility requirements for a mandatory forbearance, your loan servicer is required to grant the forbearance. You may be eligible for a mandatory forbearance in the following circumstances.
Note: The mandatory forbearances discussed below apply only to Direct Loans and FFEL Program loans unless otherwise noted.
You are serving in an AmeriCorps position for which you received a national service award.
Department of Defense Student Loan Repayment Program
You qualify for partial repayment of your loans under the U.S. Department of Defense Student Loan Repayment Program.
Medical or Dental Internship or Residency
You are serving in a medical or dental internship or residency program, and you meet specific requirements.
National Guard Duty
You are a member of the National Guard and have been activated by a governor, but you are not eligible for a military deferment.
Student Loan Debt Burden
The total amount you owe each month for all the federal student loans you received is 20 percent or more of your total monthly gross income, for up to three years.
Complete the Mandatory Forbearance Request: Student Loan Debt Burden.
Note: This mandatory forbearance type applies to Direct Loans, FFEL Program loans, and Perkins Loans.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness
You are performing teaching service that would qualify you for teacher loan forgiveness.
Apply using this form: Teacher Loan Forgiveness Forbearance Request.
Duration of Mandatory Forbearances
Mandatory forbearances may be granted for no more than 12 months at a time. If you continue to meet the eligibility requirements for the forbearance when your current forbearance period expires, you may request another mandatory forbearance.
You MUST continue making payments on your student loan(s) until you have been notified that your request for forbearance has been granted. If you stop paying and your forbearance is not approved, your loan(s) will become delinquent and you may go into default.