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Student Loans Student Loan Repayment

Can You Change Student Loan Repayment Plans?

Typical student loan repayment schedules range from 10 to 30 years, depending on the type of loan you have and which lender services that loan. Federal loans are offered by select federal loan servicers and backed by the Department of Education. Some states have state-sponsored student loan programs which may be serviced by the state directly or by a private loan servicer. Private loans are offered by a variety of private, for-profit lenders.

Federal student loan borrowers have the option to change their student loan repayment plan before the debt is satisfied. Private or state borrowers may be able to adjust their monthly payment plan, but that depends on your lender and other personal factors. 

Here’s a look at how to change your student loan repayment plans if your current monthly payment no longer works for you, what the process looks like, and possible limitations. 

In this guide:

When can I change my student loan repayment plan?

When you can change your repayment plan may depend on what type of loans you have.

When you can change federal student loan repayment plans

As a federal student loan borrower, you can choose from one of eight available student loan repayment plans, and you can change plans anytime

Depending on how much you owe, which student loans you have, how much you earn, and whether you hope to qualify for student loan forgiveness, these options include:

The payment amounts on some plans may change each year (more about which ones below). 

If you’re on a federal plan that calculates your payment based on income and household size, such as REPAYE, your payment will be recalculated each year. 

Otherwise, you may opt to change your plan at any time if:

  • Your income or household size changes.
  • You need to make lower monthly payments due to budget changes.
  • You want to get out of debt sooner.
  • You’re hoping to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).
  • You want to consolidate your loans into one simple loan with one payment date.

When you can change private student loan repayment plans

With private loans, you often can’t make quick or easy changes to your monthly loan repayment plan. 

Several private lenders offer options to borrowers who need forbearance or deferment due to financial hardship, but this isn’t a default feature. 

When you can change state student loan repayment plans

State-sponsored student loans are often similar to private student loans, meaning it can be difficult to switch repayment plans, but it pays to check with your state.

For instance New Jersey has a hardship repayment assistance program (RAP), which you may be eligible for. After two years in that program, you may be eligible for the household income affordable repayment plan (HIARP), which is similar to the federal income-driven repayment (IDR) plans.

What are my options if I want to change my federal student loan repayment plan?

Your options to change your federal student loan repayment plan depend on the type of plan you have, how much you owe, and why you want to change plans. 

To get a better idea of the payments associated with each option—and how much you might pay with each—check out the Federal Student Aid Loan Simulator.

Standard Repayment Plan

All federal student loan borrowers are eligible for the Standard Repayment Plan, including those who have any of the following:

  • Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans 
  • Subsidized or Unsubsidized Federal Stafford loans
  • PLUS Loans 
  • Consolidation Loans (including Direct or FFEL)

This plan includes fixed monthly payments calculated according to a 10-year repayment term. If you have a Consolidation loan, these payments take into account a 10- to 30-year repayment.

Graduated Repayment Plan

Like the standard plan, the Graduated Repayment Plan is available to all federal student loan borrowers. This plan allows borrowers to pay off their federal loan debt within 10 years. Those with a Consolidation loan are set up for a 10- to 30-year repayment. 

With this plan, borrowers’ payments start out lower and increase over time, often in two-year increments. 

Graduated Repayment Plans often cost the borrower more than the Standard Repayment Plan over time because you tend to pay more interest. If you’re planning to apply for loan forgiveness through PSLF, this isn’t the right repayment plan for you.

Extended Repayment Plan

The Extended Repayment Plan is available to many federal loan borrowers, including those who have the following: 

  • Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans (with at least $30,000 in outstanding Direct Loan debt) 
  • Subsidized or Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • PLUS loans 
  • Consolidation Loans (including Direct or FFEL) 

With this plan, you’ll have a fixed or graduated payment schedule, either of which will allow you to repay your loan in 25 years or less. 

Because of the extended term, you’ll pay less monthly than you would with a 10-year repayment option, such as the Standard or Graduated plans. 

However, you’ll pay more over time in interest. The Extended Repayment Plan also isn’t a qualifying option if you’re interested in PSLF.

Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE)

All Direct Loan federal borrowers are eligible for the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) repayment plan. 

This includes the following: 

  • Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans
  • Direct PLUS loans (those made to students, not parents) 
  • Direct Consolidation Loans (excluding PLUS loans to parents)

Your REPAYE plan payments equal 10% of your discretionary income, adjusted for your family size. 

This means if your income or household size changes, so can your payment amount. After 20 years (for undergraduates) or 25 years (for graduate or professional students), your remaining balance will be forgiven. Just note the forgiven balance is subject to income tax.

This plan is an option for borrowers interested in PSLF. Unlike balances forgiven directly under the REPAYE plan, balances forgiven under PSLF are tax-free.

Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE)

The Pay As You Earn (PAYE) repayment plan is available to federal Direct Loan borrowers who took out new loans on or after October 1, 2007. 

Eligible loans include the following:

  • Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans
  • Direct PLUS loans (those made to students only) 
  • Direct Consolidation Loans  (excluding PLUS loans to parents)

Monthly payments are recalculated each year based on your income and family size but will never exceed 10% of your discretionary income. PAYE plans last for 20 years, regardless of whether your loans were for undergraduate or graduate studies.

To qualify for a PAYE plan, your level of debt must be significant compared to your income. Once you’ve made qualifying payments for 20 years, any remaining loan balance will be forgiven, although the forgiven balance will be taxable; if you qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, your remaining balance may be forgiven after 10 years tax free. 

Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)

Federal loan borrowers with significant debt relative to income may be eligible for an Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan. This plan sets your monthly payments at either 10% or 15% of your discretionary income, recalculated annually according to your income and family size. 

IBR plans are available to borrowers with the following: 

  • Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans
  • Subsidized or Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • PLUS loans (made to students) 
  • Consolidation Loans (excluding PLUS loans made to parents)

If you took out your loans before July 1, 2014, you must make qualifying payments for 25 years before your loan balance will be forgiven (unless you also qualify for PSLF forgiveness). 

If you took out your loans on or after July 1, 2014, any remaining balance will be forgiven after just 20 years of payments. 

In either case, the forgiven loan amount is subject to taxes, unless the loan was forgiven under PSLF. 

Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR)

An Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) plan is available to federal borrowers with the following: 

  • Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans
  • Direct PLUS loans (made to students) 
  • Direct Consolidation Loans (including from Parent Plus loans)

Payments are based on income and family size and will never exceed 20% of your discretionary income. 

Because payments are based on income and household factors, they have the potential to change. Any remaining balance will be forgiven after 25 years of payments, though this forgiven amount will be subject to income taxes unless forgiven under PSLF. 

ICR plans are a good choice for borrowers with direct consolidation Parent PLUS loans interested in PSLF options.

Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan

The final federal student loan repayment plan option is the Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan. This plan is only available to borrowers with FFEL Program loans, so these balances are not eligible for PSLF programs. 

Your monthly payment is calculated based on your annual income, with the loan repaid in full within 15 years. 

Your monthly payment amount may be less than with a 10-year Standard Plan, but you will pay more in interest over time with this option.

Refinance with a private or state lender

If you’re confident you won’t use the benefits and protections that come with federal student loans—such as many of the repayment plans listed above and Public Service Loan Forgiveness—you might consider refinancing your loans.

You must do so with a private or state lender, and it could result in a lower interest rate and other, more desirable terms. (View our guide, “Is It a Good Idea to Refinance Federal Student Loans?”)

What are my options if I want to change my private student loan repayment plan?

Borrowers with private student loans may not be able to adjust their monthly payment requirement as easily.

Your lender may allow you to request loan deferment or forbearance if you encounter an unexpected financial hardship, such as job loss, illness, or a death in the family. You’ll need to contact your private lender to see which options are available and how to request a temporary adjustment to your payment plan.

If you want to change your monthly payment, reduce your interest rate, get out of debt sooner (or all of the above), you may refinance or consolidate your student loans with a new private loan.

How can I change my student loan repayment plan?

To change your student loan repayment plan, start by contacting your loan servicer. 

Federal student loan borrowers can visit your Department of Education account dashboard. There, visit the “My Loan Services” section, which will tell you which loan servicer maintains each of your federal loans. 

Possible servicers include the following:

  • FedLoan Servicing (PHEAA)
  • Great Lakes Educational Loan Services Inc.
  • Edfinancial
  • Aidvantage
  • Nelnet
  • OSLA Servicing
  • ECSI
  • Default Resolution Group

You can also contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) for information about your outstanding balances at 1-800-433-3243.

Private student loan holders can find their servicer on their credit report.

Should I change my student loan repayment plan?

Many borrowers opt to reduce their monthly payment requirements or qualify for loan forgiveness programs. 

Those changes may be beneficial for your household budget, but you should be aware of potential downsides. 

For example, switching from a standard repayment plan with a 10-year term to a plan with a longer term can reduce your monthly payment and make your loans more manageable. But you’ll pay the debt for longer and incur interest charges, which will likely cost you more. 

We’ll look at example scenarios using a $20,000 Direct Unsubsizided Loan at 2.75% APR:

Repayment planRepayment termMonthly paymentTotal interest paid
Standard10 years$191$2,899
Graduated10 years$105 to start, with incremental increases to $316$3,583
PAYE12 years$111$3,717


Common questions about changing your student loan repayment plan include the following.

Can I change student loan repayment plans multiple times?

Federal student loan borrowers can change their repayment plans multiple times. In many cases, it can make sense to change plans more than once.

For instance, you may switch to a standard repayment plan if you get a higher-paying job, allowing you to pay your loans off faster and for less. 

If you lose your job or take a pay cut, switching from a standard plan to IBR can help you keep your monthly payments manageable. When you get a new job or begin making more money, you can switch back.

Can I change student loan repayment plans at any time?

You can request to change your federal student loan repayment plan as often as needed, at any time of the year. 

If you’re enrolled in an income-based plan, your monthly payments may change each year based on changes to your income or household size. 

But if you need to change your payments earlier or more frequently, you can request to do so. 

Do I have to pay to change student loan repayment plans?

There are no fees to change your federal loan repayment plan. You just need to locate the name of your federal loan servicer and call to request a change to your payment plan. 

If you extend your loan term with a new repayment plan, you may pay more in interest on your loan. 

With private student loans, however, you may not be able to change your repayment plan without refinancing one or more of your loans. Your lender might charge loan origination or other fees, or your loan may cost you more over the course of your repayment.