One huge benefit of paying your federal student loans under an income driven repayment plan (IDR) is student loan forgiveness. It can be appealing to pay and have the rest forgiven. However, there are certain conditions you need to meet in order to receive forgiveness under an IDR plan. Understanding these requirements can help you to decide whether an income driven repayment plan is the best option for you.
What is an IDR?
An IDR plan is a repayment option available to federal loan borrowers who may be struggling to make their student loan payments. If you are at risk of default or can foresee a scenario where you won’t be able to afford your normal monthly payments then an IDR plan may be a good option for you. In simple terms, under an IDR plan your payments are based on a percentage of your income discretionary income. While on an IDR plan your payments may increase or decrease when your income or family size changes.
There are currently 4 IDR options—REPAYE, PAYE, ICR & IBR.
How Do You Get Student Loan Forgiveness?
To have your loans forgiven under an IDR plan you’ll need to make payments for the term required under your specific repayment plan. Under all 4 plans any remaining loan balance will be forgiven at the end of the repayment period.
The length of your repayment period will vary depending on your plan. Here’s a summary of each of the 4 IDR options:
- REPAYE: Pay 10% of your discretionary income for 20 years, or 25 years if you have any graduate loans. No proof of partial financial hardship (PFH) is required.
- ICR: Pay the lesser of (1) what you would pay on a repayment plan with a fixed monthly payment over 12 years, adjusted based on your income OR (2) 20% of your discretionary income. After 25 years on ICR any remaining balance will be forgiven.
- IBR: Pay 10% or 15% of your discretionary income for 20 or 25 years, depending on when you took out your loans.
- PAYE: Pay 10% of discretionary income for 20 years and any remaining balance will be forgiven. To be eligible for PAYE you must show a partial financial hardship AND you must have had no outstanding balance on or before Oct. 1, 2007, and you must have received a Direct Loan on or after Oct. 1, 2011.
Is an Income Driven Repayment Plan Worth It?
When you get into an IDR with a plan to get student loan forgiveness, remember that it is a commitment you’ll have to make for a long time. If you believe you can pay your loan in less than 20 to 25 years, you won’t need IDR. If it will be difficult for you to do, then this is an option to consider.
You’ll have to commit to the IDR to qualify for forgiveness. The good news is that the payment adjusts based on your income, so you won’t have to worry about being short on money. For some, it’s not an option they can ignore because they need an IDR to avoid going into default. In those scenarios, an IDR is an appealing option.