Alert! The Department of Education Appropriations Act, 2019 includes a provision that allows individuals diagnosed with cancer to have their federal student loans placed in a deferment status while they undergo cancer treatment. The U.S. Department of Education is assessing the newly enacted law and will explain the new deferment conditions to customers on this page as soon as more details are available. We encourage you to check back periodically. If you need assistance in the meantime, contact your federal loan servicer.
Under certain circumstances, you can receive a deferment or forbearance that allows you to temporarily stop making your federal student loan payments or to temporarily reduce the amount of your federal student loan payments. Stopping or reducing your payments may help you avoid default.
You’ll need to work with your loan servicer to apply for deferment or forbearance; and be sure to keep making payments on your loan until the deferment or forbearance is in place. Your loan servicer will notify you if further information is needed or if you do not qualify.
What are deferment and forbearance?
What's the difference between deferment and forbearance?
How do I request a deferment or forbearance?
Am I eligible for deferment?
Am I eligible for forbearance?
Is deferment or forbearance right for me?
If you meet certain eligibility requirements, deferment or forbearance allows you to temporarily stop making payments or to temporarily reduce your monthly payment amount for a specified period.
The main difference is that with a deferment, you may not be responsible for paying the interest that accrues on certain types of loans during the deferment period.
During deferment, you are generally NOT responsible for paying the interest that accrues on the following loan types:
During deferment, you ARE responsible for paying all interest that accrues on the following loan types:
Direct Subsidized Loans
Direct Unsubsidized Loans
Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans
Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
Federal Perkins Loans
Direct PLUS Loans
The subsidized portion of Direct Consolidation Loans
Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) PLUS Loans
The subsidized portion of FFEL Consolidation Loans
The unsubsidized portion of Direct Consolidation Loans
The unsubsidized portion of FFEL Consolidation Loans
However, during a forbearance you are responsible for paying the interest that accrues on all types of federal student loans.
When you are responsible for paying the interest on your loans during a deferment or 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 deferment or 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 FFEL Program loans. Unpaid interest is never capitalized on Perkins Loans.
Most deferments and forbearances are not automatic, and you will need to submit a request to your loan servicer, often on a form. For most deferments and some types of forbearance, you must also provide your loan servicer with documentation to show that you meet the eligibility requirements for the deferment or forbearance you are requesting. Read about eligibility for deferment and eligibility for forbearance to learn more about the requirements and how to get deferment and forbearance request forms.
If you are enrolled in an eligible college or career school at least half-time, in most cases your loan will be placed into a deferment automatically, and your loan servicer will notify you that the deferment has been granted. If you enroll at least half-time but do not automatically receive a deferment, you should contact the school where you are enrolled. Your school will then send information about your enrollment to your loan servicer so that your loan can be placed into deferment.
You MUST continue making payments on your student loan until you have been notified that your request for deferment or forbearance has been granted. If you stop paying and your deferment or forbearance is not approved, your loan will become delinquent and you may default on your loan.
You may be eligible for a deferment on your federal student loan
- while you are enrolled at least half-time at an eligible college or career school, and if you received a Direct PLUS Loan or FFEL PLUS Loan as a graduate or professional student, for an additional six months after you cease to be enrolled at least half-time (In-School Deferment Request);
- if you are a parent who received a Direct PLUS Loan or a FFEL PLUS Loan, while the student for whom you obtained the loan is enrolled at least half-time at an eligible college or career school, and for an additional six months after the student ceases to be enrolled at least half-time (Parent PLUS Borrower Deferment Request);
- while you are enrolled in an approved graduate fellowship program (Graduate Fellowship Deferment Request);
- while you are enrolled in an approved rehabilitation training program for the disabled (Rehabilitation Training Program Deferment Request);
- while you are unemployed or unable to find full-time employment, for up to three years (Unemployment Deferment Request);
- while you are experiencing economic hardship or serving in the Peace Corps, for up to three years (Economic Hardship Deferment Request);
- while you are on active duty military service in connection with a war, military operation, or national emergency (Military Service and Post-Active Duty Student Deferment Request); or
- if you were on active duty military service in connection with a war, military operation, or national emergency, for the 13 month period following the conclusion of that service, or until you return to college or career school on at least a half-time basis, whichever is earlier (Military Service and Post-Active Duty Student Deferment Request).
The Parent PLUS Borrower deferment is available only to parents who received Direct PLUS Loans or FFEL PLUS Loans. All of the other deferments described above are available to Direct Loan, FFEL Program loan, and Perkins Loan recipients.
If you received a Perkins Loan, you may also be eligible for a deferment while you are working towards cancellation on your Perkins Loan. Find out whom to contact for more information about your Perkins Loan.
In most cases, Perkins Loan recipients who receive a deferment will receive a six-month postdeferment grace period that begins on the date they no longer meet the deferment eligibility requirements. No payments are required during the postdeferment grace period.
If you are a Direct Loan borrower who had a balance on a FFEL Program loan that was made before July 1, 1993 at the time you received your first Direct Loan, or if you are a FFEL Program loan borrower who received loans before July 1, 1993, you may be eligible for additional deferments or your deferment options may be different from the deferments described above. For more information, contact your loan servicer.
It depends on the type of forbearance. There are two types of forbearances:
Your loan servicer decides whether or not 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
General forbearances are available for Direct Loans, FFEL Program loans, and Perkins Loans. For loans made under all three programs, general forbearances may be granted for no more than 12 months at a time. If you are still experiencing a hardship when your current forbearance expires, you may request another general forbearance. For Perkins Loans, there is a cumulative limit on general forbearance of three years. There is no fixed cumulative limit on general forbearance for Direct Loans and FFEL Program loans, but your loan servicer may set a limit on the maximum period of time you can receive a general forbearance.
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 if
- you are serving in a medical or dental internship or residency program, and you meet specific requirements (Direct Loans and FFEL Program loans only; Mandatory Forbearance Request: Medical or Dental Internship/Residency, National Guard Duty, or Department of Defense Student Loan Repayment Program);
- the total amount you owe each month for all the student loans you received is 20 percent or more of your total monthly gross income, for up to three years (Direct Loans, FFEL Program loans, and Perkins Loans; Mandatory Forbearance Request: Student Loan Debt Burden);
- you are serving in an AmeriCorps position for which you received a national service award (Direct Loans and FFEL Program loans only; request an AmeriCorps forbearance);
- you are performing teaching service that would qualify you for teacher loan forgiveness (Direct Loans and FFEL Program loans only; Teacher Loan Forgiveness Forbearance Request);
- you qualify for partial repayment of your loans under the U.S. Department of Defense Student Loan Repayment Program (Direct Loans and FFEL Program loans only; Mandatory Forbearance Request: Medical or Dental Internship/Residency, National Guard Duty, or Department of Defense Student Loan Repayment Program); or
- you are a member of the National Guard and have been activated by a governor, but you are not eligible for a military deferment (Direct Loans and FFEL Program loans only; Mandatory Forbearance Request: Medical or Dental Internship/Residency, National Guard Duty, or Department of Defense Student Loan Repayment Program).
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.
If you are struggling to repay your loans due to a temporary circumstance, deferment or forbearance may be a good short-term solution.
If you are having trouble repaying your loans due to circumstances that may continue for an extended period, or if you are unsure when you will be able to afford to make your monthly loan payments again, a better option may be to consider changing to an income-driven repayment plan. Income-driven repayment plans base your monthly payments on your income and family size, and in some cases your payment could be as low as $0 per month. They can also provide loan forgiveness if your loan is not repaid after 20 or 25 years.
Always contact your loan servicer immediately if you are having trouble making your student loan payments.