How to Apply for an Income-Driven Repayment Plan

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If your federal student loan payments are too high, you could adjust them on an income-driven repayment plan. There are four income-driven plans for direct loans, all of which base your monthly payment on your income. Whichever plan you choose, it’s free to make your income-driven repayment plan request online or via mail.

Here’s what you need to know about submitting an income-driven repayment plan request form to make your student loan payments more affordable:

How to submit an income-driven repayment plan request

The easiest way to submit your income-driven repayment plan request is online on the Federal Student Aid website. The application process could take less than 10 minutes, but you should allow yourself as much time as you need to answer everything as thoughtfully and completely as possible.

Here are the steps you’ll need to follow to apply online:

  • Head to Federal Student Aid, an official website of the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Log in with your FSA ID. FSA ID stands for Federal Student Aid ID, a number used to verify your identity on, as well as on other Department of Education websites.
  • Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to transfer your Adjusted Gross Income from your most recent tax return. If this does not reflect your current income, you can choose to provide alternate proof (e.g., pay stub, letter from employer, proof of self-employment).

If you’d rather apply by mail, follow these steps:

  • Ask your student loan servicer for the income-driven repayment plan form. Here’s a sample, but be sure to use the official application form provided by your servicer.
  • Fill out the form, attach necessary documentation and mail to the address as instructed.
  • If you need help in filling out the form, contact your loan servicer.

Which information you’ll need to provide

To be considered for an income-driven repayment plan, expect to be asked for the following:

  1. Personal details, including name, Social Security number, address and phone number(s).
  2. The type of income-driven repayment plan you are requesting. Alternatively, you can request that your loan servicer places you on the income-driven plan that would result in the lowest monthly payment.
  3. Whether you have multiple loan servicers.
  4. Whether your student loans are currently in deferment or forbearance.
  5. Number of children in your family, including how many depend on you for more than half of their support.
  6. How many other people live with you (besides your spouse and children) and depend on you for more than half of their support.
  7. Your income:
    • If you filed a tax return in the last two years.
    • Whether your income has significantly changed since your last return.
    • If you currently have taxable income.
  8. Your spouse’s information (if applicable):
    • The same questions as those listed above under your income.
    • Spouse’s personal identification information.
    • Whether your spouse has federal student loans.
    • Whether you filed your last return jointly.
  9. Proof of income, for which you can use your adjusted gross income (AGI) from your last return. However, if that AGI does not reflect your current income, you can opt to provide alternative income documentation, such as a pay stub, a certified letter or statement from your employer or proof of self-employment income.

Once you have all your documentation in order, you can submit your income-driven repayment plan request form.

Why you’ll need to recertify every year

Over the course of a year, things could change that affect your income-driven repayment plan, such as your AGI and/or the size of your family. Both these factors help determine your monthly payment and, therefore, must be reassessed every year.

You must recertify your income-driven repayment every year, a process that is basically a reapplication for your income-driven repayment plan so that your monthly payment can be recalculated. Your loan servicer typically sends you a reminder notice when it’s time to reapply.

Of course, if there’s a major change in your financial situation before the year is up, you may not be able to wait. In that case, contact your loan servicer right away to request a recalculation of your monthly payment.

You may also be able to switch to a different income-driven repayment plan if it would make your monthly payments more affordable.

How to compare the income-driven repayment plans

Before you submit your income-driven repayment plan request, learn about your repayment options. You can choose from four main income-driven plans:

  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE): This plan allows new borrowers who took out a federal student loan on or after Oct. 1, 2007 to make monthly payments that are either equal to no more than 10% of their discretionary income, or equal to or less than what they would pay on the 10-year standard repayment plan.
  • Revised Pay As You Earn Plan (REPAYE): Similar to PAYE, this program allows borrowers to make monthly payments that are limited to 10% of their discretionary income. Unlike PAYE, however, eligibility is not restricted based on when they took out their first federal student loan.
  • Income-Based Repayment (IBR): This plan lets borrowers with high student loan debt and a low discretionary or annual income to make monthly payments that are equal to 10% to 15% of their discretionary income, depending on the date of the borrower’s loan disbursement.
  • Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR): This program allows borrowers to make monthly payments that are based on their family size, income and total debt, and will either equal 20% of their discretionary income or the amount of the payments that would be made if the borrower were on a fixed 12-year repayment plan, whichever is less.

Familiarize yourself with all these plans before making a decision, paying special attention to eligibility requirements, payment calculations, repayment periods and general pros and cons.

How to discuss your options with your loan servicer

After reviewing your income-driven repayment plan options, contact your student loan servicer to go over the plans in depth. No matter how confident you feel about one option or another, your servicer should be able to provide additional insight. This can help you make a more informed decision before you complete an income-driven repayment plan request form.

A high monthly student loan payment is a common financial struggle for many borrowers. You may qualify for an income-driven repayment plan, but don’t hesitate to investigate all your repayment options if payments are unmanageable and your financial health is at risk.

If you don’t think an income-driven repayment plan is the best option for you, you can also consider student loan refinancing or consolidation, which may potentially offer the relief you seek. If you do ultimately decide an income-driven repayment plan is right for you, following the above steps should make it easy to apply.

Rebecca Safier and Kristina Byas contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
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Visit Splash

1.99% – 5.64%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

1.99% – 6.84%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.91% – 5.25%4Undergrad
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Visit Lendkey

2.25% – 6.53%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.17% – 4.47%6Undergrad
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Visit PenFed

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 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. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of Feburary 1, 2021.

2 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: 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 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% 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 October 26, 2020, 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 10/26/2020. 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, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

© 2020 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.

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. 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 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via 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 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 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 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: 1. Fixed rates from 2.99% APR to 6.99% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.53% 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 2.25% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 0.12% plus 2.38% 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. The discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the interest savings are applied to the principal loan balance, which may help pay the loan down faster. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. *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.Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.99%-5.15% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.17%-4.47% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.