Otherwise, a deferment or forbearance will also drive up your debt because interest continues to accrue. The exception is if you have a subsidized federal loan, which is when the government picks up the cost of interest while you're in school. The government will pick up the interest costs during deferment on such loans, but not during forbearance.
With private loans, it's up to the lender to decide whether to let borrowers postpone payments. And there's generally a lot less leeway. For example, Sallie Mae usually grants postponements in three-month increments. And unlike with federal loans, there's a $50 fee.
5. ENROLL IN INCOME-BASED REPAYMENT
One option for reducing monthly payments doesn't come with pricey consequences. With federal loans, strapped borrowers should check if they qualify for the Income-Based Repayment program. This program caps monthly payments at 15 percent of earnings above around $16,000; those who earn less may not have to make any monthly payments. Any debt remaining after 25 years is also forgiven.
Eligibility for the program is determined by weighing your debt level against your income. To figure out whether you qualify, check the calculator at www.ibrinfo.org .
There's no similar program with private student loans. But if you're struggling to make ends meet, it's worth calling your lender to discuss reworking the terms on your loan. Don't expect any big breaks, but you may be able to get a reduced interest rate that makes your debt more manageable.
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