How to Apply for an Income-Driven Repayment Plan

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If you’re struggling to pay down your federal student loans, you’re not the only one. Many people find it difficult to manage their debt because their current repayment plan may require them to make payments that are too high compared to their earnings. An income-driven repayment plan, which uses a borrower’s income to determine the monthly payment amount, is a great option for anyone who needs more affordable student loan payments.

If you wish to take advantage of this repayment option, you’ll need to apply for it. While you may not want to deal with the lengthy, complicated application process for an income-driven repayment plan request, filling out the application form could be the key to reducing the financial burden of your student loan payments.

Here’s what you need to know about submitting an income-driven repayment plan request form.

How to submit an income-driven repayment plan request

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

  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE): This plan allows 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, 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 that has been adjusted according to their income.

Familiarize yourself with all 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 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.

Be prepared to provide the necessary information

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. Which 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 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, certified letter/statement from your employer or proof of self-employment income.

Submit the income-driven repayment plan request form

Now that you have all your documentation in order, it’s time to actually submit your income-driven repayment plan request form. Note that consideration for the income-driven repayment plans requires only one application to be submitted per borrower.

Online

The easiest way to submit your income-driven repayment plan request is online. The application process could take about 30 minutes. But, 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:

  1. Go to StudentLoans.gov, an official website of the U.S. Department of Education.
  2. Log in with your FSA ID. If you do not have an FSA ID, 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. 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).

By mail

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

  1. Ask your student loan servicer for the income-driven repayment plan form. Here’s a sample, but be sure to use application form 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 in filling out the form, contact your loan servicer.

Don’t forget 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 can also switch to a different income-driven repayment plan that can keep monthly payments affordable, but can also be more suitable for your income level. For example, the income-sensitive repayment plan ensures that borrowers who have been issued loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FEEL) program will have monthly payments that are equal to no more than 4% to 25% of their gross monthly income.

The bottom line

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 wonder whether an income-driven repayment plan is the best option for you, then consider refinancing or student loan consolidation, which may potentially offer the relief you seek. If you decide an income-driven repayment plan may be right for you, following the above steps should make it easy to apply.

Kristina Byas contributed to this report.

The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publishing. 

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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