Income-Based Student Loan Repayment: Your Guide to IBR

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Looking for a way to get a better handle on your federal student loan payments? Then you might want to consider enrolling in the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan.

IBR is a type of income-driven repayment (IDR) plan and can lower your monthly student loan payments. If your payments are unaffordable due to a high student loan balance compared to your current income, an IBR plan can provide much-needed relief.

But before signing on the dotted line, you’ll want to be sure you understand IDR plans and how they can affect your finances and student debt. This complete guide to the IBR plan will demystify this option and help you figure out if it is right for you.

What is IBR?

The term “Income-Based Repayment” is often misused as a catchall for the various IDR programs available today.

But IBR is just one of the four IDR plans offered by the Department of Education. And like other IDR plans, IBR can assist students who can’t afford their monthly federal student loan payments under the Standard Repayment Plan.

Since income-based student loan repayment falls under IDR plans, let’s first take a look at what these options have in common.

How IDR plans lower your monthly costs

The 10-year standard repayment schedule is the default for student loan borrowers, but it’s not always affordable.

High student loan balances will mean high monthly payments, which can be challenging to keep up with. Lower incomes relative to debt can also make it a struggle to cover monthly payments under the Standard Repayment Plan.

In such situations, IDR plans can be just the break you need. Instead of setting payments according to your student loan balance, the amount due each month is tied to your income. According to Federal Student Aid, such a plan is intended to make your payments affordable while taking income and family size into account.

Specifically, IDR plans set payments at a percentage of your discretionary income. For example, IBR sets payments at 10% to 15% of your discretionary monthly income, depending on when your loans were disbursed.

Your discretionary income is calculated by finding the difference between your adjusted gross income and 150 percent of the annual poverty line for a family of your size and in your state. This means your student loan payments are individualized to match your specific income, costs of living, and family size under IDR plans.

Enrolling in IBR or other IDR plans

Only federal student loans are eligible for IDR plans — not private student loans. The types of federal student loans you have might also determine the IDR plans in which you’re eligible to enroll.

Additionally, you’ll need to apply and get approved for an IDR plan before you can access these lower payments. To enroll in IBR or another IDR plan, contact your student loan servicer or request an IDR plan at StudentLoans.gov. Your servicer can direct you through its specific process of switching your loans over to an IDR plan.

Since your income is central to how your payments are set, you’ll also need to certify your income upon initially enrolling in an IDR plan. Your payments are re-evaluated and recalculated each year, so you’ll need to recertify your income annually to stay on the plan.

You can also recertify your income at will should your income suddenly change, such as after a job loss.

Comparing IDR Plans

IBR

For new borrowers on or after July 1, 2014, IBR caps payments at 10% of your discretionary income. These borrowers will also receive forgiveness after 20 years of repayment.

For borrowers who were issued their first loans before July 1, 2014, IBR limits payments to 15% of discretionary income. These borrowers will be eligible for loan forgiveness after 25 years of repayment.

To qualify, your monthly student loan payments under the IBR plan can’t equal or exceed what your payments would be under the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan.

Federal student loans eligible for IBR include:

  • Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans
  • Direct Graduate PLUS loans
  • FFEL Consolidation Loans
  • Direct Consolidation Loans

Federal student loans not eligible for IBR:

  • Parent PLUS Loans
  • Any other type of federal loan made to parents
  • Direct Consolidation Loans that repaid loans made to parents
  • Private student loans

Student loan borrowers with FFEL Program loans should note that the IBR plan is the only IDR option for which these loans are eligible.

Pay As You Earn

Pay As You Earn (PAYE) was introduced in 2012 to help borrowers better manage their student loan debt payments.

Your prospective monthly payments must be smaller than your standard payments to qualify for the PAYE plan, which is calculated at 10% of your discretionary income. The PAYE plan offers student loan forgiveness after 20 years of repayment.

To qualify for PAYE, there are specific requirements you must meet:

  • You must have not have taken out a federal student loan before Oct. 1, 2007.
  • You must prove that you need assistance in repaying your student loans and have received disbursement of a Direct Loan after Oct. 1, 2011.

Revised Pay As You Earn

The Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan was introduced in December 2015 and is the newest option for income-driven repayment plans. Direct Loans, Stafford Loans, and Graduate PLUS Loans are eligible for REPAYE, as well as other non-parent federal student loans that are consolidated into Direct Loans.

Monthly payments are set at 10% of your discretionary income. (And note that there’s no upward limit on how much those payments might be.)

Additionally, REPAYE offers student loan forgiveness after 20 years for loans originated for undergraduate studies, and 25 years for loans taken out for graduate studies.

REPAYE also includes a student loan interest subsidy that can be a huge benefit for borrowers with monthly payments that don’t cover interest charges. If they are on REPAYE, 100% of unpaid interest each month is paid for on subsidized loans. And 50% of unpaid interest is subsidized for unsubsidized student loans.

Income-Contingent Repayment

If you’ve applied for the other plans but were rejected, the Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan may be your next best option for reducing your monthly student loan payment. It’s the only IDR plan, for example, for which Parent PLUS Loans are eligible — though you will have to consolidate these loans first.

Monthly payments are set as the lesser of either 20% of your discretionary income, or monthly payments when the loan is amortized over 12 years.

ICR also offers student loan forgiveness after 25 years.

Should you switch to income-driven repayment?

There are some major benefits to enrolling in an IDR plan. But IBR and other IDR plans have some potential drawbacks as well.

Here are the central pros and cons you should be aware of as you consider enrolling in an IDR plan.

Pros of income-driven repayment plans

  • Monthly payments are more manageable: All income-driven repayment plans for federal student loans can lower your monthly payments if you have low income compared to your student loan balance.
  • Adjust payments when your income or family size changes: If your hours are cut or you welcome a new baby to the family, you can recertify your IDR plan. Monthly payments will be recalculated according to changes in your income and family circumstances. They can be as low as $0 if your financial situation warrants it.
  • You can get student loan forgiveness: Depending on when you first borrowed and the IDR plan you choose, you can become eligible for student loan forgiveness after 20 to 25 years of on-time payments. Keep in mind, however, that the forgiven balance will likely be taxed as income for the year in which it’s forgiven.
  • Take advantage of Public Service Loan Forgiveness: If you’re eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, enrolling in IBR or a similar IDR can lower payments and help you maximize the benefits of this program. PSLF grants student loan forgiveness of any remaining balance after just 10 years of qualifying payments. Loans forgiven through PSLF won’t incur a tax bill, as this is not considered taxable income.

Cons of income-driven repayment plans

  • Loans take longer to repay: Since you’re paying less each month, it will take longer than the typical 10 years on the Standard Repayment Plan to get out of student debt. IDR plans stretch repayment out over 20 to 25 years.
  • IDR student loan forgiveness isn’t free: Under current tax laws, any remaining student loan balance forgiven as part of income-driven repayment is considered taxable income. So while you might get a large portion of your remaining balance wiped out, it could come with a sizable tax bill.
  • You might pay more in interest on an IDR: Smaller payments are great for your budget — but they can cause you to end up spending more over the life of your loan. That’s because you’ll be accruing and paying interest for an additional 10 to 15 years.
  • Your student loan balance could grow: If your student loan balance is very high, you might have high monthly interest charges. But under IDR, your monthly payments might not cover your interest. Interest that goes unpaid could be added to your balance and cause it to grow instead of shrink.
  • Lots of paperwork: You’ll have to apply for income-based student loan repayment or IDR plans. You’ll also have to recertify your income every 12 months.
  • Your choices might be limited: Not all federal student loan borrowers will qualify for or benefit from an IDR. You might be eligible only for certain plans. Other borrowers might have to consolidate federal student loans to become eligible for IDR.
  • Your income might be too high to qualify: If 10 percent of your income is higher than your monthly payment on a Standard Repayment Plan, then you would not benefit from an IBR plan. If you’re married, payments might be set according to your combined income. For some income-driven plans, your student loan payment is based on the combined income and loan debt of both you and your spouse. Keep this in mind if you file a separate tax return from your spouse, or if you file one together.

Is Income-Based Repayment right for you?

Still trying to decide whether an IBR or other IDR plan is right for you? Here are a few things you should keep in mind on your budget and financial situation.

1. Estimate your monthly payment

Before settling on income-based student loan repayment, estimate what your new monthly payment will be.

Use our calculator below to view your prospective monthly payment amount. Be sure to review your budget and see if you can afford this new payment amount.

INCOME BASED REPAYMENT (IBR) CALCULATOR

First month

Last month

Balance paid

Total forgiveness

Repayment term

OriginalIBRSavings
First month
Last month
Balance paid
Total forgiveness
Repayment term
Your monthly payment on IBR would be , a difference of from what you are currently paying. If your income increases over time, your payments may increase. Assuming annual income growth of 3.5%, your final monthly payment would be . After making payments for — years, you will have paid a total of and would receive in forgiveness, compared to your current plan where you will pay over the next — years.

Student loan refinancing rates as low as % APR. Check your rate in 2 minutes.

Total

Total

CURRENT

$0

CURRENT

IBR

$0

IBR

$0

2. Know the tax implications

Will you be able to pay off your student loans before the repayment term is complete? Or are you expecting to have some debt forgiven after the payment period is up?

Well, if you’re banking on student loan forgiveness, keep in mind that any forgiven debt under an income-driven plan is taxable (unless it’s through PSLF).

Be sure to discuss your tax implications with a professional so you know what to expect before applying for income-based student loan repayment.

3. Choose what’s right for you

Going for the lowest monthly student loan payment is appealing, but don’t let that sway your entire decision. Take into account all the facts and numbers before choosing IBR or a similar repayment plan.

It’s wise to choose a plan that balances both your need for affordable payments now with long-term costs and repayment.

Remember, income-based student loan repayment or another IDR plan can help you regain control of your finances without putting payments on hold. Make sure you take the time to research the best options, estimate your new monthly payment, and talk to an expert if you need more help before selecting a plan that works for you.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 7 lenders of 2019!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
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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 3.45% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.14% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.79% 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 September 6, 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 09/06/2019. 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 3.49% APR to 7.94% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.14% APR to 7.84% APR (with 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 2.14% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.14% minus 0.15% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, 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. See eligibility details. 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. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.  
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

FIXED APR
Fixed rate options consist of a range from 3.50% per year to 5.55% per year for a 5-year term, 4.00% per year to 6.00% per year for a 7-year term, 4.30% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term, 4.60% per year to 6.80% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.05% per year to 7.02% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. The fixed interest rate will apply until the loan is paid in full (whether before or after default, and whether before or after the scheduled maturity date of the loan). The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.50% per year to 5.55% per year for a 5-year term would be from $184.00 to $193.00. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.00% per year to 6.00% per year for a 7-year term would be from $138 to $148. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.30% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104 to $115. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.60% per year to 6.80% per year for a 15-year term would be from $79 to $91. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.05% per year to 7.02% per year for a 20-year term would be from $68 to $80.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.

VARIABLE APR
Variable rate options consist of a range from 2.43% per year to 6.05% per year for a 5-year term, 3.75% per year to 6.10% per year for a 7-year term, 4.00% per year to 6.15% per year for a 10-year term, 4.25% per year to 6.40% per year for a 15-year term, or 4.50% per year to 6.65% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.25% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 1.50% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 1.75% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.00% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.25% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 2.43% per year to 6.05% per year for a 5-year term would be from $179 to $195. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.75% per year to 6.10% per year for a 7-year term would be from $137 to $148. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.00% per year to 6.15% per year for a 10-year term would be from $103 to $114. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.25% per year to 6.40% per year for a 15-year term would be from $77 to $88. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.50% per year to 6.65% per year for a 20-year term would be from $65 to $77.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. 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. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.


4 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.


5 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 2.19% effective August 10, 2019.


6 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.


7 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 08/01/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

2.14% – 6.79%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.14% – 7.84%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.43% – 6.65%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.43% – 7.60%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

2.14% – 8.01%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.06% – 8.93%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.74% – 7.24%7Undergrad
& 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.

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