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Updated on Friday, January 20, 2017
If you are on an income-driven repayment plan, it’s important to know that you must renew your plan each year in order to remain enrolled. And waiting on your student loan servicer to remind you of that fact isn’t the smartest idea
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently filed a lawsuit against Navient, the country’s largest loan servicer. Among many other claims, the CFPB alleged Navient failed to adequately inform borrowers of their need to renew their income-driven repayment plans.
The outcome of the CFPB’s lawsuit is still unknown. Navient has already taken steps to improve communication with borrowers around repayment plan renewal time. Even so, the news serves as a prime example of why you should learn the details of the income-driven repayment renewal process on your own.
How to Renew Your Income-Driven Repayment Plan
The DOE began offering income-driven repayment, or IDR, in 2009 to help ease the burden of student loans on borrowers struggling to repay federal student loans. If you can meet certain income or family criteria, you could pay as little at $0. Another important benefit is for the first three years after enrollment, many borrowers qualify to have the federal government pay part of the interest charges if they can’t make payments.
IMPORTANT: If you are on an income-driven repayment plan, you have to renew your plan each year.
This will require you to submit updated information about your annual income and family size to your servicer. The time to renew your plan is typically a month or two before the 12-month mark.
If you do not renew your income-driven plan, you’ll get kicked out of your IDR plan and your payment may increase since it will no longer be based on your income.
There are two ways you can renew your IBR plan:
- Visit the Federal Student Aid website at studentloans.gov: This is the fastest and generally the most convenient way to renew your plan.
- When you get to the website, follow the “Apply for an Income-Driven Repayment Plan” link. You will follow the same link if you need to renew your IBR. The form will prompt you to select a reason for your request once you begin.
Select “Apply for an Income-Driven Repayment Plan” to get started:
Choose “submit recertification”:
- The application will ask you for information such as your marital status, household size, employment, and income. Once you are on the “Income Information” section, you’ll have the option to retrieve and use your most recent income information from your taxes if you filed them with the IRS.
Choose the “annual recertification” option:
The application asks for your personal information:
- Follow up with your loan servicer. If you have loans with multiple servicers, you only need to submit the request once. They should all be notified when you renew online via the Federal Student Aid site. Below is an example of a completed submission with one servicer; your other servicers will be listed if you have multiple servicers.
- Use the Income-Driven Repayment Plan Request form
- Download the official income-driven repayment plan renewal form here on the Federal Student Aid website or on your servicer’s website.
- Once you print and complete the form, you can submit it to your servicer’s website if they allow. Navient allows you to upload the completed form. You also have the option to mail or fax the paperwork to your loan servicer.
- Your servicer should notify you once your request has been processed.
- You should be able to monitor the status of your renewal on your student loan servicer account.
- If you mail or fax the paperwork to your servicer, you’ll need to mail one to each servicer individually as they will not be automatically notified of your request.
How to Enroll in an Income-Driven Repayment Plan
The first time you apply for an IDR plan, you can either do so through the government’s website at studentloans.gov or contact your student loan servicer to help you enroll. You’ll need to log in to the platform and follow directions to fill out the application. It should take about 10 minutes, although you may be asked to mail in supplemental documentation to your servicer for review.
You can use the studentloans.gov website repayment estimator to estimate how much your payments, interest, and total amount paid would be under each plan option.
Repayment estimator results from studentloans.gov
Your servicer will notify you once your request has been processed.
Choosing an Alternative Income-Driven Repayment Plan
When you renew your IDR plan, you can check to see if you’d qualify for alternative payment options. You might find an alternative could work better for your budget.
In addition to the two standard repayment and graduated repayment plans, borrowers have five income-driven repayment plans to choose from. It’s important to note that under most IDR plans, you’ll pay more over time than you would under the standard plans.
Here’s a quick rundown of each:
1. Income-Based Repayment Plan
The traditional income-based repayment plan generally caps your payment at either 10% or 15% of your discretionary income. Your payments will never be more than what they would be on the standard 10-year plan. Payments are recalculated each year and are based on your updated income and family size.
After 25 years of payments, your loan balance is forgiven, although you’ll have to pay taxes on the forgiven amount when you file your taxes for the year.
2. Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Plan
Pay As You Earn increases your monthly payment as your annual earnings increase, but generally sets your monthly payments at about 10% of your discretionary income. Only those who took out their first federal loan on or after October 1, 2010, or who received a direct loan disbursement on or after October 1, 2011, can qualify for the PAYE plan. Applicants must also have a partial financial hardship (disproportionately high debt compared to current income). Your payment is recalculated annually based on your updated income and family size. The loan’s outstanding balance is forgiven after 20 years.
3. Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan
The Revised Pay As You Earn Plan expanded the PAYE plan to about 5 million more borrowers. You may qualify for REPAYE regardless of when you took out your first federal student loan. It doesn’t require you to have a partial financial hardship. REPAYE generally sets payments at about 10% of your discretionary income and doesn’t cap income. Spousal income is considered in calculating payments no matter how you file your taxes. Under this plan, undergraduate loans are forgiven after 20 years, while graduate loans are forgiven after 25 years.
4. Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan
This plan caps your monthly payment at either 20% of your discretionary income or the amount you would pay on a two-year fixed payment plan, adjusted for your income. The payments are recalculated each year and based on updated income, family size, and the amount you owe. After 25 years of payments, your balance will be forgiven.
5. Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan
The income-sensitive repayment plan serves as an alternative to the ICR plan for those who received loans via the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). It makes it easier for low-income borrowers to make their monthly payments. Under the ISR plan, you can make monthly payments based on your annual income for up to 10 years. The payments are set at 4% to 25% of gross monthly income, and the payment must be larger than the interest that accrues.
Currently, Federal Direct loans and Direct PLUS loans qualify for both IBR plans, but private loans and Parent PLUS loans do not qualify. Read more about your repayment options here.