Deferment and Forbearance | Federal Student Aid

A deferment or forbearance allows you to temporarily stop making your federal student loan payments or to temporarily reduce the amount you pay.

Find out if you qualify for a deferment or forbearance.

Deferment and Forbearance

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?


What are deferment and forbearance?

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.

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What's the difference between deferment and forbearance?

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

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. 

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How do I request a deferment or forbearance?

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.

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Girl in classroom taking notes at the end of a row of desks

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.

Am I eligible for deferment?

You may be eligible for a deferment on your federal student loan

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.

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Am I eligible for forbearance?

It depends on the type of forbearance. There are two types of forbearances:

  • General
  • Mandatory

General Forbearance

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.

Mandatory Forbearance

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

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.

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Is deferment or forbearance right for me?

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.

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