How to Apply for an Income-Driven Repayment Plan

income-driven repayment plan request

If you’re struggling with your federal student loans, the last thing you need is a lengthy, complicated application process for an income-driven repayment plan request. Fortunately, we’re happy to help you do it for free – really! Sign up here.

But if you’re interested in taking the DIY approach to filling out the income-driven repayment plan form, that’s okay, too. Here’s everything you need to know about applying for income-driven repayment.

How to submit an income-driven repayment plan request

Before you submit an application, know your options. You have four major income-driven plans to choose from:

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

Discuss your options with your loan servicer

After familiarizing yourself with your income-driven repayment plan options, contact your student loan servicer to go over the plans in more depth. No matter how certain you feel about one option or another, your servicer should be able to provide insight to help you make a more informed decision.

Be prepared to provide the necessary information

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

1. Personal details, including name, social security number, address, and phone number(s)

2. Type of income-driven repayment plan you are requesting

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:

  • Whether you filed a tax return in the last two years
  • Whether your income has significantly changed since your last return
  • Whether you currently have taxable income

8. Your spouse’s information (if applicable):

  • The same questions as those listed under your income above
  • Personally-identifying 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 your last return’s AGI does not reflect your current income, you can opt to provide alternative income documentation instead, such as a pay stub, certified letter/statement from your employer, or proof of self-employment. (Note: a W-2 is not acceptable documentation.)

Submit the income-driven repayment plan request

Now that you have all your documentation in order, it’s time to actually submit your income-driven repayment plan request. The easiest way to do that is by submitting online:

1. Go to StudentLoans.gov, an official website of the U.S. Department of Education

2. Login with your FSA ID. If you do not have an FSA ID, click the link to create one. FSA ID stands for Federal Student Aid ID, a number used to verify your identity on StudentLoans.gov, as well as other Department of Education websites.

3. Expect the application process to take about 30 minutes. That said, allow yourself as much time as you need to answer everything as thoughtfully and completely as possible.

4. 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 elect to provide alternate proof (e.g., pay stub, letter from employer, proof of self-employment).

If you’d rather apply by mail:

1. Ask your student loan servicer for the income-driven repayment plan form. Here’s a sample, but be sure to use the one provided by your servicer, as it should include the address to which the form should be mailed.

2. Fill out the form, attach necessary documentation, and mail to the address as instructed.

3. If you need help filling it out, contact your loan servicer.

Don’t forget to recertify every year

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

For this reason, you must recertify your income and family size every year, a process that is basically just a reapplication for your income-driven repayment plan so that your monthly payment can be recalculated. Your loan servicer should send you a reminder notice when it’s time do so.

Of course, if you have 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 about requesting a recalculation of your monthly payment right away.

Of course, if this all sounds like a lot of work, remember that signing up for a free Student Loan Hero account means we’ll do all the heavy lifting for you — no charge.

Either way, don’t hesitate to investigate your repayment options if payments are unmanageable and your financial health is at risk.

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Published in Income Based Repayment, Student Loan Repayment, Student Loan Repayment Options