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How To Enroll In An Income-Driven Repayment Program: A Three-Step Guide

Income-driven repayment programs can help lower your monthly student loan bill.

CREDIT: Pexels.

Here at Generation Progress we know that your student loan payments are probably taking a huge chunk out of your holiday shopping funds this month. As we look to 2017, we’re making a renewed push to remind borrowers about the advantages of enrolling in an Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan through January 20th. IDR plans are designed to cap your monthly federal student loan payments at 10-15 percent of your discretionary income and forgive your outstanding loan balance after 20-25 years. If that means more money leftover for Netflix and car payments each month, we’re on board.

Step 1: Determine Your Eligibility

Almost all federal student loan borrowers have a right to repayment based on income, but the type of IDR plan you’re eligible for depends on what kind of federal loan you have, when you took it out, and how much money you earn in relation to how much money you owe in student debt.

If you’re already enrolled in Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), you can still apply for an income-driven repayment program. And if you’re interested in learning more about enrolling in PSLF, you can read more here.

Plug your student loan information into the Federal Student Aid Repayment Estimator to see roughly what you’d pay under each plan based on your income, outstanding loan balance, and interest rate.

Step 2: Contact Your Loan Servicer to Determine the Right Plan For You

Find your loan servicer’s contact information by logging onto your Federal Student Aid profile with your Federal Student Aid ID. Create an FSA ID if you don’t already have one.

If you’re still enrolled in college, you can request your loan servicer’s contact information directly from your school’s financial aid office.

Step 3: Sign Up

Review the Income Driven Payment Plan Request Preview Form in advance so you know which documents to have ready when filling out your application. You must fill out and submit the application in one-sitting, so block out 10-15 minutes to do so.

You can submit the form online or mail-in to your loan servicer. Processing your IDR application shouldn’t take longer than 2 weeks. If you’re experiencing unnecessary delays you can submit a complaint online or by calling (855) 411-2372.

Once your application has been submitted, your servicer will generally place your loans into forbearance for up to 60 days while processing your application. Interest will accrue on your loans, but you won’t need to make monthly payments during this period.

Lastly, once you have an IDR plan in place that you are making payments towards, make sure to re-certify your income every year to recalculate your payments based on your earnings. Remembering to re-certify can be hard, so consider adding a reminder to your calendar or completing it on the same day each year, like your birthday. And when you re-certify, watch out for scams trying to take advantage of you–your application will always be on studentloans.gov.

Making student loan payments affordable has never looked easier. Get started on your application today.

Senya Merchant is an Organizing Associate for Generation Progress.

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