Whether you’re returning to school or struggling through financial hardship, deferring your student loans can help you get by when you’re strapped for cash.
An estimated 30 percent of all Federal Direct Loans are in deferment or forbearance, according to a 2015 report from think tank New America. That means you’re not alone.
Hopefully, you’ve done your research and weighed the pros and cons of deferment. If you’re ready to take the next step, here’s how to defer student loans, whether your debt was federally or privately funded.
How to defer federal student loans
Deferment allows you to pause your federal student loan repayment for as long as three years. If you are enrolled in school at least half-time, however, you can defer for as long as you need.
Deferment can give your finances some breathing room, but interest may still accrue on your debt.
If you are continuing your education, you may be automatically enrolled in deferment. Otherwise, you’ll need to apply. Here’s how:
- Log into your loan servicer’s website to ensure your eligibility, or call the customer service line.
- Follow your servicer’s member portal instructions.
- Fill out the appropriate deferral request form online, which is recommended for faster processing. You can also download and print a hard copy, filling in the blanks with a dark-ink pen.
Because there are eight types of federal loan deferment, you’ll need to find the appropriate form to fill out. You can download the appropriate deferment form below via Navient.
- Parent PLUS Borrower
- Graduate Fellowship
- Rehabilitation Training
- Economic Hardship
- Military Service and Post-Active Duty Student
- Health Education Assistance Loan (HEAL) Borrower
Learning how to defer student loans disbursed before July 1993 is easy. You’ll find four additional deferment options to select from below:
How to apply for student loan deferment
Applying for student loan deferment is easy. Most of the boxes you’ll fill out on a deferment form is for basic information, such as your name, address, and Social Security Number:
Some sections ask you to pair the form with supporting documentation. The Unemployment Deferment Request form, for example, asks you to attach proof of eligibility for unemployment benefits. In other cases, your servicer may ask you for additional documentation after it receives your initial application.
In certain cases, you may need help filling out the forms. The In-School Deferment Request form, for example, requires an authorized official to provide information regarding your enrollment status. In this case, you have three options to ensure this section is completed:
- Ask your school’s financial aid office to either complete a hard or digital copy.
- Leave the section blank but attach documentation from an official that includes the requested information.
- Have your school report your enrollment to the National Student Loan Data System.
Even after you’ve completed the form and taken the required application steps, keep making your regular loan payments. It’s important to stay up to date on payments until you’re notified that the deferment request has been granted. Being delinquent or in default on your loan could harm your eligibility for support.
How to defer private student loans
Deferring a private loan is similar. However, your options for deferment may be more limited. For American Education Services (AES) student loans, you may qualify under the following conditions:
- Enrollment in school
- Economic hardship
- Military deployment
If you are deferring student loan repayment while you’re in school, check with your loan servicer for any limitations on deferment. Wells Fargo, for example, says you’re in-school deferment period can last no more than seven years.
What else do you need to keep in mind before applying to defer private loans? Fees. Some private lenders charge fees that — coupled with capitalizing interest — can increase your loan balance.
Student Loan Deferment Calculator
Because there’s more variation among private lenders than among federal lenders, there isn’t a widely used set of instructions for requesting deferment.
Citizens Bank and LendKey, for instance, don’t allow borrowers to choose whether to defer payments until after the loan application is completed and approved. It’s a faster selection process at CommonBond and College Ave. All you need to do is click your computer mouse to choose deferment during the application process.
Once your loan is disbursed with College Ave, for example, you’re locked into that repayment method for the duration of the loan. Despite that, you can still make in-school payments without incurring a fee or penalty. Doing so also won’t take you out of deferment.
If you plan on taking out more private loans to finance your education, figure out how much flexibility your preferred lender offers; it could come in handy in the future.
Deciding whether to defer student loans
Is applying to defer payments the right choice for you? If the answer is yes, you now know how to defer student loans. So take control of your debt before it starts weighing on you.
If you’re still on the fence, you may want to consider the differences between deferment and forbearance.
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