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What should I do if I can't afford my student loan payment?

Contact your servicer to learn about student loan deferment, student loan forbearance, or affordable repayment plans to postpone or reduce or your monthly payment.

If you are having trouble making your loan payments, contact your servicer to explore all the options that might help to make your student loan payments more affordable.

Federal Student Loans

For federal student loans, you may be able to lower your monthly payment by enrolling in a payment plan based on your income or a plan that extends the amount of time you will have to repay your loan. There are several Income Driven Repayment plans available that may lower your monthly payment, possibly as low as $0, because your payment amount is tied to 10% – 15% of your income.

You may also be able to postpone your payments under deferment or forbearance.

If there has been a change in your income, you should contact your loan servicer to see if they can reduce your loan payment based on your new income.

Private Student Loans

Unlike federal student loans, there are no standard options to lower your monthly payments on a private student loan. Every lender is different. Some lenders will offer modified repayment plans that are similar to the federal programs, particularly graduated repayment.

If you are worried about missing payments, the most important thing to do is to contact your servicer or visit the servicer’s website to see if you have any options. If you think you will definitely miss a payment, call the loan servicer as soon as possible to discuss the situation.

If you don’t make your student loan payments, there could be serious consequences, including:

  • Your lender or servicer will report the missed payments to credit reporting companies, hurting your credit score.
  • If your loan goes into default, your lender or servicer may attempt to collect on your debt directly or through a collection agency.
  • Your lender or servicer may take legal action against you or against your co-signer or may take payments through garnishing your wages or withholding your tax refund to pay a federal student loan.
  • If you have a co-signer, the co-signer’s credit will be harmed and the co-signer may be called upon to make your payments, face debt collection, or be sued.

Note that some of the above consequences may not apply for federal student loan borrowers whose loans were eligible for the COVID-19 payment pause, because of the Department of Education’s temporary on-ramp transition period through Sept. 30, 2024. Please read more information about this on-ramp transition period, which is designed to prevent the worst consequences of missed, late, or partial student loan payments for federal borrowers.

See more options and tips for if you’re having trouble paying federal loans, private loans, or both.