College in Colorado

Student Loans: What To Do If You're Behind On Payments

If you’re behind on payments on your student loans, don’t panic! There are several steps you can take to remedy the situation.
Below are possible solutions to late payments on student loans:
Contact Your Lender Immediately
Don’t just stop paying your student loan and/or ignoring phone calls, letters, and e-mails from the lender. Instead, be proactive and contact your lender, explain your situation, and find out what options might apply to you. Take notes during your phone conversations and keep a copy of all written correspondence.
Suspend Your Student Loan Payments
You may be able to suspend your student loans payments for 3-5 years, if you’re experiencing short-term financial difficulties (such as a job loss, maternity leave, or medical leave).
Although suspending your loan payments will most likely lead to your debt growing (because in most cases the interest will still accrue), if at all possible, you should avoid defaulting on your student loan. A defaulted student loan has dire consequences. Also, it’s important to note that student loans rarely go away, even with bankruptcy.
Change Your Repayment Plan
If your loan is a federal student loan, there are several repayment options available – some of which extend the term of your loan, which decreases the amount of your monthly payment.
The income based repayment option (IBR) may be especially helpful if you’re not making your payments because you’re financially unable to do so. IBR calculates your payments based on a percentage of your available discretionary income, and as long as you make your payments on time for twenty years, any remaining balance may be forgiven. Learn more about IBR through the Department of Education (
If your loan is a private student loan, contact your lender to find out if a different repayment plan might be available.

Although extending the term of your student loan will increase the overall cost of your loan, it may be worth decreasing your payments to an amount you’re able to pay.
Look Into Loan Forgiveness
Depending on the type of student loan you have and the career you’ve chosen, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness, which could lower the amount you owe (and therefore, lower your payments amd/or your loan term, over time). There are loan forgiveness programs for public service professionals, teachers, healthcare workers, and others.  Click here to learn more about available loan forgiveness programs.
Avoid missing future payments
To avoid additional missed payments on your student loan, consider setting up automatic monthly payments from your checking or savings account. Also, check out our helpful budgeting tools to stay on track with your student loan payments and the rest of your monthly expenses.
To learn more about your student loans, including your interest rates, repayment terms, and lender information, visit the National Student Loan Data System (
See these related articles on student loans:
Student Loan Forgiveness
Student Loans And Bankruptcy
Student Loans And Hardship

©2012, Money 101. Our mission is to provide financial education tools that help students and parents budget and pay for college and other types of higher education (such as trade schools, technical schools, and vocational programs). We are sponsored by CollegeInvest, which is a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

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