IBR vs. ICR: Which Income-Driven Repayment Plan Is Right for You?

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The language around student loans gets confusing fast, but some of the most perplexing terms have to do with income-driven repayment plans.

“Income-driven repayment plan” is an umbrella term for four federal student loan repayment options:

  1. Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
  2. Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
  3. Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
  4. Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

If you’re struggling to make your monthly payments and you have federal student loans, one of these plans could help. In this article, we’ll focus specifically on Income-Based Repayment (IBR) and Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR).

Find out the similarities and differences of these programs, as well as how to decide which one is right for you.

IBR vs. ICR: How are they similar?

Income-Based Repayment and Income-Contingent Repayment are two income-driven plans for federal student loans. Both adjust your monthly payments based on your income, and both plans have annual requirements to recertify your income and family size.

IBR and ICR typically lower your monthly payments, but they also extend your loan repayment term to 20 or 25 years. If you still have a loan balance after that time, it will be forgiven. You won’t have to make any more payments, but you might have to pay income taxes on the forgiven balance.

Both plans are helpful if you need relief from your student loan payments. Though they share a lot of similarities, they also have some key differences in how they work and what types of loans qualify.

What’s unique about Income-Based Repayment?

IBR could be a better option for a lot of borrowers for four reasons:

1. Lower monthly payments

IBR typically lowers your monthly payment more than ICR does. It limits payments to 10 or 15 percent of your income, depending on the type of loan, whereas ICR caps them at 20 percent.

If you took out loans on or after July 1, 2014, IBR would lower your monthly payments to 10 percent of your discretionary income. If you took out loans before July 1, 2014, you’d pay 15 percent of your discretionary income.

2. Covers Direct and FFEL loans

The second reason many borrowers prefer IBR is that it covers both Direct Loans and Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL). Other income-driven plans such as ICR require you to consolidate FFEL Loans, a step you don’t have to take to get on IBR.

Federal loans for parents are not eligible for IBR, though they could be eligible for ICR.

3. Three years of interest benefits on subsidized loans

Depending on your loan type, IBR has a major advantage over ICR when it comes to student loan interest.

When IBR reduces your monthly payments, you might not pay enough to cover monthly accrued interest. If that’s the case and you have subsidized loans, the government will cover the difference between your payment and remaining interest for up to three consecutive years.

For unsubsidized loans, you still have to pay the interest that accrues. ICR has no such interest subsidy benefit for any loan type.

4. Payments will never exceed those of the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan

To qualify for IBR, you must prove your income is low relative to your debt. If your income goes up, your payments could increase, too. But they will never exceed the amount you’d pay on the Standard Repayment Plan.

Who should choose an IBR plan?

Because you pay a smaller percentage of your income with Income-Based Repayment than with Income-Contingent Repayment, IBR may be the superior choice for many student loan borrowers with financial need.

If one or more of these points describe you, you might benefit from choosing IBR over ICR:

  • You have Direct federal loans.
  • You have FFEL loans.
  • You don’t have any Parent PLUS loans.
  • You can demonstrate financial hardship.

You should also note that IBR forgives loans for “new borrowers” after 20 years. But if you took your loans out before July 1, 2014, you’ll have to wait 25 years for loan forgiveness.

What’s unique about Income-Contingent Repayment?

Income-Contingent Repayment has a few important differences from Income-Based Repayment. Here’s what you need to know:

1. No financial hardship requirement

You don’t need to demonstrate financial need to get on ICR. There’s no income requirement to get on the plan, but you will need to annually verify your income and family size to remain on it.

2. Two potential rules for monthly payments

ICR determines your monthly payments in one of two ways. For some borrowers, it caps payments at 20 percent of their discretionary income.

Alternatively, ICR could set your monthly payment equal to what you would pay on a 12-year repayment plan. If you don’t have great financial need, you might end up on this plan. A 12-year plan could offer some relief, but your monthly payment may not be that different from what you’d pay on the standard 10-year plan.

Your monthly payment will be set to the lesser of the two above options.

3. Your payments could exceed the Standard Repayment Plan

If your income increases over time, your monthly payments could be higher than what you’d pay on the 10-year plan. Unlike IBR, ICR doesn’t stop your monthly payments from increasing indefinitely along with your income.

4. Covers Parent PLUS loans

Another difference between IBR and ICR has to do with Parent PLUS loans. ICR covers any and all Parent PLUS loans, as long as they’re consolidated through a Direct Consolidation Loan first. This is the only income-driven repayment plan that will cover federal Parent PLUS loans.

Who should choose an ICR plan?

ICR doesn’t typically lower monthly payments as much as IBR, but this difference can be a positive one if you want to save money on interest. If you can pay off your loans sooner than 25 years, you might prefer to make higher monthly payments. The more you pay now, the less you’ll pay in interest in the long run.

Secondly, ICR is useful for borrowers with Parent PLUS loans. As mentioned above, IBR does not cover Parent PLUS loans.

And finally, you must be comfortable making payments based on your income. If your income rises over time, your payments could end up higher than they would be on the standard 10-year plan.

In a nutshell, you should consider ICR if:

  • You have Parent PLUS loans.
  • You can’t demonstrate financial hardship.
  • You don’t mind payments increasing with your income, even beyond what they would be on the 10-year plan.

Another option: student loan refinancing

Income-driven repayment plans can help you manage your student loans, but they also have a few major drawbacks. For one, they extend your repayment term by over a decade. You’ll be burdened with student loan payments for many years, significantly increasing the amount of interest you pay, too.

Furthermore, income-driven plans only apply to federal student loans. Since the federal student loan limit for undergrads is $31,000, many people also have a good deal of private student loan debt.

Refinancing your student loans could be useful if you have both federal and private student debt. It involves taking out one new loan with a private lender to repay your current student debt.

The new loan should have better terms, including a lower monthly payment and reduced interest rate. For the best terms, you need a steady income and a good credit score. If you qualify, student loan refinancing could help you better manage your student loan payments.

What you need to remember about IBR vs. ICR

If you’re overwhelmed by your student loan bills, explore options that can help. Income-driven repayment plans ease the burden and free up more of your monthly income.

It’s easy to get confused when sifting through the different student loan repayment plans. But by taking the time to compare, you can hone in on the option that’s best for you.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 8 lenders of 2019!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.20% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.89% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of December 13, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 12/13/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.


2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.46% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% APR (without AutoPay). Variable rates currently from 2.31% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% (without AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.31% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.31% plus 0.75% margin minus 0.25% for AutoPay. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your credit history and the term of the loan and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

3 Important Disclosures for Figure.

Figure Disclosures

Figure’s Student Refinance Loan is a private loan. If you refinance federal loans, you forfeit certain flexible repayment options associated with those loans. If you expect to incur financial hardship that would impact your ability to repay, you should consider federal consolidation alternatives.


4 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE (“APR”)
This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

FEE INFORMATION

There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.

LOAN AMOUNT

For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
For eligible Associates degrees in the healthcare field (see Eligibility & Eligible Loans section below), Lender will refinance up to $50,000 in loans for non-ParentPlus refinance loans. Note, parents who are refinancing loans taken out on behalf of a child who has obtained an associates degrees in an eligible healthcare field are not subject to the $50,000 loan maximum, refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for more information about refinancing ParentPlus loans.

ELIGIBILITY & ELIGIBLE LOANS

Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).

Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.

All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.

For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.

INTEREST RATES

The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.

DISBURSEMENT OPTIONS

The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.

POSTPONING OR REDUCING PAYMENTS

After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.

If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of November 8, 2019 and is subject to change.


5 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers.


6 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 1.76% effective November 10, 2019.


7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 12/07/2019 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% to 8.59% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.49% to 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


8 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

College Ave Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

1College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.

2All rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

3$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees.

4This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 12/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

1.99% – 6.89%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.31% – 7.36%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.99% – 6.75%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Figure

1.99% – 6.65%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.43% – 7.60%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.85% – 6.13%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.90% – 8.59%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.74% – 6.25%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit College Ave

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

Published in Student Loan Repayment

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