calendar with post-its

How Soon Can You Refinance Student Loans?

Typically, student loan borrowers cannot refinance their debt until they graduate or withdraw from school. At that point, federal student loans and the majority of private student loans have a grace period, so it can make sense to refinance right before the grace period ends.

Depending on your financial situation, the goal of refinancing may be to snag a lower interest rate and/or have lower monthly payments. Doing so can alleviate some of the stress you may feel when repaying your debt. In this guide, you’ll learn when you can refinance and what options are available, plus the potential benefits and downsides of each.

What Do Your Current Loans Look Like?

Before deciding whether or not to refinance your student loans, you need to know where your loans currently stand. Look at the loan servicers, loan amounts, interest rates, and terms for all loans before making a decision.

Contact Info for Most Federal Student Loans

The government assigns your loan to a loan servicer after it is paid out. To find your loan servicer, visit your account dashboard on studentaid.gov, find the “My Aid” section, and choose “View loan servicer details.” You can also call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243.

Loans Not Owned by the Department of Education

Here’s how to get in touch:

•   If you have Federal Family Education Loan Program loans that are not held by the government, contact your servicer for details. Look for the most recent communication from the entity sending you bills.

•   If you have a Federal Perkins Loan that is not owned by the Education Department, contact the school where you received the loan for details. Your school may be the servicer for your loan.

•   If you have Health Education Assistance Loan Program loans and need to find your loan servicer, look for the most recent communication from the entity sending you bills.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are not given by the government, but rather banks, credit unions, and online lenders. You’ll need to find your specific lender or servicer in order to find out your loan information.

Can You Refinance Student Loans While Still in School?

You may be able to refinance your student loans while still in school with certain lenders, but doing so may not make the most sense for your situation.

If you’re worried about interest accruing on your unsubsidized federal loans and/or private student loans while in school, you can most certainly make interest-only payments on them in order to keep the interest from capitalizing.

One important note: With federal student loans, any payments you make while still in school or during the grace period will not count as a qualifying payment toward loan forgiveness, if you plan on using that.


💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? With SoFi’s no-fee loans, you could save thousands.

Which Loans Can Be Refinanced While Enrolled?

You can refinance any type of student loan while enrolled in school, assuming that the lender allows it. If you’re still in school and want to refinance, a lender will want to make sure you have a job or job offer on the table, are possibly in your last year of school, and have a solid credit profile. You could also consider refinancing your student loans with a cosigner if you do not meet the lender’s requirements on your own.

A couple of important points if you are considering refinancing federal student loans with a private lender:

•   Doing so means you will forfeit federal benefits and protections, such as forbearance and forgiveness, among others.

•   If you refinance for an extended term, you may have a lower monthly payment but pay more interest over the life of the loan. This may or may not suit your financial needs and goals, so consider your options carefully.

Which Loans Can’t Be Refinanced While Enrolled?

If you find a lender willing to refinance your student loans while still in school, they most likely won’t exclude a certain type of loan. However, it is best not to refinance federal student loans while enrolled. Federal Subsidized Loans, for example, do not start earning interest until after the grace period is over. Since you aren’t paying anything in interest, it doesn’t make sense to refinance and have to start paying interest on your loans immediately.

If you plan on using federal benefits, such as income-driven repayment plans or student loan forgiveness, refinancing student loans could be a bad idea. Refinancing gives you a new loan with a new private lender, thereby forfeiting your eligibility to federal benefits and protections, as noted above.

Is It Worth Refinancing Only Some of Your Loans?

Yes, it can be worth refinancing only some of your loans. The student loans you may want to focus on refinancing may include ones that have a variable rate (and you prefer a fixed rate), ones with a relatively high interest rate, or ones where you’ve had a less-than-ideal relationship with the servicer and are looking for a new experience.

When you might want to think twice about refinancing:

•   If you have federal loans and plan on using an income-based repayment plan, for example, it makes sense not to include those loans in the refinance.

•   If you have a low, fixed interest rate currently, you should probably keep those loans as is. The main reason to refinance is to secure a lower interest rate or a lower payment. Keep in mind, though, that by lowering your payment, you typically are extending your term. This can mean that you end up paying more in interest over the life of the loan.

Pros and Cons of Refinancing Student Loans

Pros Cons

•   Possibly lower your monthly payment

•   Possibly lower your interest rate

•   Shorten or lengthen the loan term

•   Switch from variable to fixed interest rate, or vice versa

•   Combine multiple loans into one

•   Lose access to federal benefits and protections

•   Lose access to remaining grace periods

•   May be difficult to qualify

•   May end up paying more in interest if you lengthen the term

Examples of Refinancing Before Earning a Degree

As stated above, there are some lenders that may allow you to refinance before you graduate or withdraw from school. These lenders may currently include Citizens Bank, Discover, RISLA, and Earnest.

Graduate students are also eligible to refinance their undergraduate student loans, assuming they meet the lender’s requirements or use a cosigner. Parents with Parent PLUS Loans are also typically allowed to refinance their loans prior to their child graduating. Rules will vary by lender, so make sure to do your research and choose a lender that will work with your unique situation.


💡 Quick Tip: Federal parent PLUS loans might be a good candidate for refinancing to a lower rate.

Alternatives to Refinancing

If refinancing your student loans isn’t the right option for you, there are alternatives to refinancing you can explore.

•   The main alternative is student loan consolidation, which combines your federal student loans into one loan with one monthly payment. The main difference between consolidation and refinancing is the interest rate on a federal loan consolidation is the weighted average of the rates of the loans you are consolidating, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of a percentage.

•   You typically won’t save on interest, but you can lower your monthly payment by extending the loan term. Doing this, however, means you’ll probably pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

•   Student loan refinancing refers to paying off current loans with a new loan from a private lender, preferably with a lower rate. This rate is not the weighted average of the loans, but rather is based on current market rates, your credit profile, and your debt-to-income ratio.

•   Other alternatives to refinancing include making interest-only payments while still enrolled in school or requesting a student loan forbearance if you’re struggling to make your payments. Forbearance means you can reduce or pause payments for a designated period of time.

You’ll want to know all your student loan repayment options — and the pros and cons of consolidating or refinancing your loans, prior to making a decision.

A calculator tool for student loan refinancing can come in handy when estimating savings, both monthly and over the life of your loan.

Weighing Perks and Interest Rates

Before deciding whether refinancing is right for you, it’s important to again highlight this important point: If you refinance your federal student loans with a private lender, those loans will no longer be eligible for programs like income-driven repayment plans, federal forbearance, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

But if you can get a lower interest rate, refinancing may be a good fit. Most refinancing lenders offer loan terms of five to 20 years. Shortening or elongating your loan term can affect your monthly payment and the total cost over the life of your loan.

For some borrowers, lengthening the term and lowering the monthly payment will be a valuable option, even though it can mean paying more interest over the life of the loan. Only you can decide if this kind of refinancing makes sense for your personal finances.

The Takeaway

When can you refinance student loans? As soon as you establish a financial foundation or bring a solid cosigner aboard. Can you refinance your student loans while in school? Yes, however, not all lenders offer this and it may not make sense for your situation. It’s also important to understand the implications of refinancing federal student loans with a private lender. If you do not plan on using federal benefits and protections and are comfortable with the possibility of paying more interest over the loan’s term, it might be a move worth considering.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

SOSL0124014

Read more
woman with backpack

Is It Possible to Pause Student Loan Payments?

Editor's Note: For the latest developments regarding federal student loan debt repayment, check out our student debt guide.

The average student loan borrower with federal loans graduates with $37,338 in debt. If you were to pay that amount on the Standard Repayment Plan at a rate of 5.50%, you’d have to shell out $405 per month for the next 10 years.

But depending on where life takes you after graduation, you may not be able to afford it. There are plenty of circumstances that may make repayment difficult, including going back to school, going into active military duty, and losing a job.

As such, it’s important to know how to pause student loan payments when you can’t afford them. Depending on who your lender is, though, the options can vary.

Repayment of federal student loans was effectively paused from spring 2020 until fall of 2023, but the Debt Ceiling bill required payments to restart in October 2023. However, there are still options available to borrowers who need to pause payment on their student loans.

Two Ways You Can Pause Student Loan Payments

Depending on your situation, you may be able to pause student loan payments through student loan deferment or forbearance. Each of these options has different requirements and outcomes, so it’s essential to understand how they work.

1. Student Loan Deferment

Student loan deferment allows you to reduce or pause your payments for a set period of time. In the meantime, however, the deferred loan will continue to accrue interest, in most cases. For example, if you have an unsubsidized loan or a PLUS loan, you’ll need to make interest-only payments during the deferment, otherwise the interest will capitalize (be added to the loan balance) at the end of the deferment period.

This means that you’ll have a new, higher balance that includes the principal amount at the beginning of the deferment period plus the unpaid interest that accrued during deferment.

The exception is if you have subsidized federal loans or Perkins Loans, in which case you won’t be responsible for paying accrued interest.

2. Student Loan Forbearance

Another option is putting loans in forbearance. Like deferment, forbearance allows qualified applicants to delay payments for a set period of time.

The primary difference is that you’re responsible for paying any interest that accrues during the forbearance period, regardless of which type of loan you have.

Again, it is possible to make interest-only payments during the forbearance period. Under new rules introduced in 2023, though, unpaid interest that accrues during forbearance will not capitalize at the end of the forbearance period.

While these general definitions apply to both federal and private student loans, some details differ between the two.


💡 Quick Tip: Enjoy no hidden fees and special member benefits when you refinance student loans with SoFi.

Federal Student Loans

The U.S. Department of Education offers both deferment and forbearance on all of its student loans. With the exception of the pandemic-era federal forbearance period that came to an end in fall 2023, neither comes automatically. Both deferment and forbearance need to be applied for through your student loan servicer. Here’s what you need to know about both options.

Qualifying for Federal Loan Deferment

If you have federal loans, you may be able to defer your student loan payments for up to three years. Here’s how to know if you may be eligible:

•   You have any federal student loan, subsidized or unsubsidized.

•   You’re enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school, and you received a Direct PLUS Loan or FFEL PLUS Loan as a graduate or professional student. In this case, your loans will be deferred while you’re in school at least half-time plus six months after you leave.

•   You’re a parent who took out a Direct PLUS Loan or FFEL PLUS Loan on behalf of your child student, and they’re enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school. In this case, your loans will be deferred while your child remains in school plus six months after they leave.

•   You’re enrolled in an approved graduate fellowship program.

•   You’re enrolled in an approved rehabilitation training program for the disabled.

•   You’re unemployed and unable to find employment.

•   You’re experiencing economic hardship.

•   You’re serving in the Peace Corps.

•   You’re on active duty military service in connection with a war, military operation or national emergency. In this case, your loans will be deferred while you’re on active duty plus 13 months afterward.

You can read more about deferment eligibility here .

Qualifying for Federal Loan Forbearance

The federal government has two types of forbearance: general and mandatory. Both can last for up to 12 months at a time. But if you still qualify once that period is up, you can request a renewal.

General forbearance is also sometimes called discretionary forbearance because your loan servicer gets to choose whether or not to approve your request.

You can request general forbearance if you’re unable to make your monthly payments due to:

•   Financial difficulties

•   Medical expenses

•   Change in employment

•   Other reasons your loan servicer will accept

Mandatory forbearance is not at the discretion of your loan servicer, and can be granted if you meet any of the following requirements:

•   You’re serving in a medical or dental internship or residency program and meet specific requirements.

•   The total amount you owe on all of your loans is 20% or more of your gross monthly income.

•   You’re serving in an AmeriCorps position for which you’ve received a national service award.

•   You’re a teacher and qualify for teacher loan forgiveness.

•   You qualify for partial payments on your loans through the U.S. Department of Defense Student Loan Repayment Program.

•   You’re a member of the National Guard and have been activated by a governor, but don’t qualify for the military deferment.

You can read more details about eligibility requirements for forbearance here .

A Note on the Temporary On-Ramp Period

If you’re currently struggling to manage federal student loan payments, you may be able to take advantage of a temporary repayment on-ramp period without having to rely on deferment or forbearance. This period, which takes place from Oct. 1, 2023 to Sept. 30, 2024, protects financially vulnerable borrowers from the consequences of missing payments. Those who miss payments will not have them reported to the credit bureaus or collections agencies, and loans will not be considered delinquent or in default. However, once this on-ramp period is over, any missed payments will be due.

Private Student Loans

While the options and requirements for these programs are clear on federal student loans, they can be a little trickier with private loans.

That’s because there are so many different private student lenders, and each has its own policy and criteria for determining eligibility.

Unfortunately, there’s no mandatory forbearance option like there is with federal loans. Instead, it’s typically at the lender’s discretion to determine whether you qualify.

Also, the deferment and forbearance periods can vary by lender. For example, you may need to apply every few months, and you may be limited on how often you can apply.

Since there’s no real consistency among private student lenders, if you borrowed a private loan it’s important to check with your lender directly to find out what their policy is.

How Deferment and Forbearance Can Affect You

When you request a deferment or forbearance on your federal loans, it will be noted on your credit report. However, neither option will have a negative impact on your credit score.

That said, if you miss a payment while you’re waiting for your deferment or forbearance request to get approved, it may hurt your credit. At 90 days overdue, your lender can report the missed payment(s) to the credit bureaus.

Because of this, it may be wise to continue making payments as usual until you receive the official approval for your deferment or forbearance with an effective date.

Also, since interest accrued during a deferment can capitalize at the end of the period, you could end up with a higher balance and monthly payment than when you started.

If you originally wanted to pause student loan payments because you couldn’t afford them, a higher payment could make things more difficult. Take interest into account while considering these options.

What If You Don’t Qualify to Pause Student Loan Payments?

Depending on your lender and situation, you may not be eligible for deferment or forbearance. If this happens, there are a couple of options to consider.

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

If you have federal student loans, it may be possible to reduce your monthly payment by enrolling an income-driven repayment plan, such as the newest SAVE plan.

If you qualify, you can decrease your monthly payment to a percentage of your discretionary income. It won’t stop your loan payments altogether, but it can help make them more affordable.

Refinancing Your Student Loans

Whether you have federal or private loans, you can opt to refinance your student loans. Refinancing could help you save money by reducing your monthly payment, either by securing a lower interest rate or lengthening the repayment term. Note that you may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.

You may also be able to switch to a different lender that offers hardship programs or other support if you’re having trouble making payments.

Keep in mind that refinancing federal loans with a private lender will cause you to lose certain benefits, including income-driven repayment options and access to federal loan forgiveness programs.

Determine If Pausing Student Loan Payments Is Right for You

As you’re considering your options and seeing whether you qualify, take a step back and think about whether deferment or forbearance are right for you in the long run.

And if you find that your current lender’s options aren’t enough, consider refinancing your student loans with a lender that provides what you need.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

SOSL0923059

Read more
How to Recertify Your Income Based Repayment for Student Loans

How To Recertify Your Income Based Repayment for Student Loans

If you have federal student loans, you can enroll in an Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan, which may make your monthly payments more affordable. That’s because the amount is calculated based on your income and the size of your family.

Income-Driven Repayment is the umbrella term for several federal repayment programs tied to salary, while Income-Based Repayment refers to one specific plan. (Yes, it’s a bit confusing.)

Once you are enrolled in an IDR, you will need to “recertify” annually, by providing updated information about your salary and family size — essentially reapplying for the plan. The government uses this information to calculate your payment amount and adjust it if necessary.

You can easily recertify online or by mail. Read on to find out when to recertify your income-driven repayment, how to do it, and more.

What Is Income-Based Repayment?

As noted above, the correct umbrella term is Income-Driven Repayment, which encompasses four different plans. These are available to federal student loan borrowers to help make their payments more manageable. It’s an option to keep in mind when choosing a loan or if your current federal loan payments are high relative to your income. The program is intended to make the amount you pay on your student loan each month more affordable.

The four income-driven repayment programs offered for federal student loans are:

•   Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan — formerly the REPAYE Plan

•   Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Repayment Plan

•   Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan

•   Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan

For all of these plans, your payment amount is generally based on a percentage of your discretionary income, which is defined by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) as “the difference between your annual income and 150% of the poverty guideline for your family size and state of residence.” There is a Loan Simulator tool you can use to see what your payments would be for each of the repayment programs.

IDR payments are determined as 10% of your discretionary income if you are a “new borrower,” who received their loan on or after July 1, 2014. You must also have no outstanding balance on a Direct Loan or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL).

If you’re not a new borrower, payments are generally 15% of your discretionary income.

With an IDR plan, your payment will never be more than the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan amount, which is the typical repayment plan for the Federal Direct Loan program and FFELs.

Each income-driven repayment plan has a different loan term. For IDRs, it’s 20 years for new borrowers and 25 years for those who aren’t considered new borrowers. Any loan balance that remains unpaid at the end of the repayment period will be forgiven.

Recommended: Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness

Which Federal Loans Are Eligible for an Income-Driven Repayment Plan?

IDR plans are available for the following types of federal loans:

•   Direct Subsidized Loans

•   Direct Unsubsidized Loans

•   Direct PLUS Loans made to graduate or professional students

•   Direct Consolidation Loans that did not repay any PLUS loans made to parents

•   Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans

•   Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans

•   FFEL PLUS Loans made to graduate or professional students

•   FFEL Consolidation Loans that did not repay any PLUS loans made to parents

•   Federal Perkins Loans, if consolidated.

Income-Driven Repayment plans are not available to FFEL PLUS loans or Direct PLUS loans that are made to parents. They are also not available for Direct Consolidation Loans or FFEL Consolidation Loans that repaid PLUS loans to made parents.

You don’t need to consolidate your student loans to apply for an income-based repayment plan.

Recommended: Refinancing Student Loans Without a Cosigner

Take control of your student loans.
Ditch student loan debt for good.


The New SAVE Plan

The DOE recently rolled out a new income-driven repayment plan called SAVE (Saving on a Valuable Education). It replaces the old plan known as REPAYE (Revised Pay As You Earn). Under the SAVE plan, the income exemption increases from 150% to 225% of the poverty line.

You can sign up for SAVE now. Those enrolled in SAVE pay 10% of their discretionary income toward their monthly student loan payments, and their loans will be discharged after 20 years for undergraduate loans, and 25 years for graduate loans. For comparison, on an IDR plan, borrowers pay between 10 and 15% of their discretionary income and loans are forgiven after 20 to 25 years.

As of July 2024, those on the SAVE plan will see their payments cut from 10% to 5% of their discretionary income. Borrowers who have $12,000 or less in federal loans will receive forgiveness after 10 years of on-time payments (even if their payment is $0 each month). Borrowers with more than $12,000 in loans should add a year for every additional $1,000 of debt they owe. So if they have $14,000 in loans, they will receive forgiveness after 12 years of on-time payments under the SAVE plan.

Under SAVE, if you are a single borrower earning $32,800 or less or a family of four earning $67,500 or less (amounts are higher in Alaska and Hawaii), your monthly payments will be $0. According to the DOE, borrowers earning more than this will save at least $1,000 per year compared to the other income-driven repayment plans.

What’s more, under the SAVE plan, interest will not accrue if you make your payment on time each month. For example, if your interest charge is $50 each month, and your payment is $30, you won’t be charged the remaining $20.

While many of the SAVE benefits will not be available until July 2024, you can still enroll now. Like other IDR plans, the SAVE plan will need to be recertified every year.

What Is Student Loan Recertification?

Since your repayment plan is based on your income and the size of your family, you need to reconfirm these details every year.

If you apply for an income-driven repayment plan online, the DOE will ask you for consent to access your tax information. If you give consent, they will automatically recertify your loan every year.

If you choose to apply manually (printing out a PDF and mailing it into your loan servicer), you will need to manually recertify every year with your loan servicer.

If your financial situation changes ahead of recertification — like you lose your job — you can reach out to your loan servicer and ask them to immediately recalculate your payments.

How to Recertify Income-Driven Repayments

You can apply for income-driven repayments and recertify your status by going online to StudentAid.gov. Filing your application online ensures that it is sent to each of your loan servicers if you have more than one. Alternatively, you may send paper applications to each of your loan servicers if you haven’t filed a tax return in the last two years or your income has changed significantly since you filed your last return.

To file online, go to the student aid website above, click on “Manage My Loans,” and then click on “Recertify an Income-Driven Repayment Plan.” You’ll need to log in with your federal student aid ID.

Next you’ll answer questions about your family, including family size, your marital status, and your spouse’s income, if applicable. You can connect your account directly to your tax return to verify your income information. And if your income has changed since your last tax return, you can upload more recent pay stubs.

To recertify by mail, you can download the Income-Driven Repayment Plan Request form, which you can find in the Federal Student Loan Forms library. Fill out the form and attach the required documents. You’ll send the request to the address provided by your loan servicer.

When to Recertify Income-Driven Repayment Plans

The government paused income-driven repayments as part of its COVID-19 relief program. Paused payments still count toward IDR forgiveness.

Borrowers are not required to recertify before their payments restart. According to the DOE, the earliest you’ll need to recertify is March 1, 2024. If a borrower’s recertification date falls between when loan repayments start and March 1, 2024, it will be pushed out by one year. So if your recertification date is January 1, 2024, that date will be pushed out to January 1, 2025.

If your income has decreased or your family status has changed in the past three years, you may want to recertify earlier. You can fill out a recertification form at any time if you’re struggling to make your payments because your financial situation has changed.

If you fail to recertify your IBR plan by the annual deadline, your monthly payment will switch to the amount you will pay under the Standard Repayment Plan. You’ll be able to make payments based on your income again when you update your income information.

The Takeaway

Income-Driven Repayment plans are available to most federal student loan borrowers and can be a great way to make sure your student loan repayments work with your budget. Recertification is a critical step borrowers need to take each year to inform the government of changes to your situation that might affect your payment size.

Refinancing is another way to manage your student loan debt, especially if you have private student loans that don’t qualify for government assistance programs.

If you’re considering refinancing federal loans, just be sure the amount you save outweighs the benefits of income-driven programs, potential student loan forgiveness, or other federal loan protections, all of which you lose access to when you refinance with a private lender. Our Student Loan Refinance Calculator can help you run the numbers.

Visit SoFi to explore options for student loan refinancing. SoFi offers a competitive rate, flexible terms, no hidden fees, and no prepayment penalty — and you can view your rate in 2 minutes.

FAQ

Can you recertify student loans early?

Federal student loan borrowers who are on an income-driven repayment plan need to recertify their loans once a year. You can recertify early, and it may be a good idea if your family has grown or your income has decreased.

How do I recertify my student loans?

You can recertify your student loans online at the Federal Student Aid website (studentaid.gov), or by downloading and mailing in the Income-Driven Repayment Plan Request form with any supporting documentation. If you mail in the request, you’ll need to send a copy to each of your loan servicers.

When should I recertify my student loans?

Your recertification date is the date one year after you started or renewed your IDR plan. Your loan servicers will send you a notice that it’s time to recertify your loan.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SOSL0923040

Read more
Refinancing Associate Degree Student Loans

How to Pay for an Associate Degree

An associate degree is a two-year course of study often offered by a community college or junior college. You can get one of four types of associate degrees: AA (associate of arts), AS (associate of science), AAA (associate of applied arts), and AAS (associate of applied science).

Paying for an associate degree doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s what to know about the options.

What Is an Associate Degree?

Associate degree programs can include a wide variety of course degrees, including general education coursework and job training. Many associate degrees require students to complete about 60 credits.

Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers with an associate degree had median weekly earnings of $1,002 in 2023 compared with $905 for workers with a high school diploma.

Recommended: Can You Refinance Student Loans Without a Degree?

How to Pay for an Associate Degree

There are several ways to pay for an associate degree. Many students use a combination of job income, savings, and federal financial aid. You must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to qualify for federal aid and many scholarships and grants. Keep in mind that if you’re working while going to school, you must maintain at least half-time status (about 6 credit hours per semester) to be eligible for federal aid.

Scholarships and grants are award money that you don’t have to repay. Grants are usually need-based, while scholarships are awarded based on academics, extracurricular activities, major, and other merit factors.

You can apply for both federal and private student loans for associate degrees. Federal student loans are loans that come from the federal government. You do have to repay student loans after you leave school, even if you don’t finish your degree.

You may also want to apply for private student loans if the aid you receive won’t be enough to cover your expenses for the semester or for the year. It’s generally recommended that you exhaust all of your federal loan options before looking into private student loans, which aren’t backed by the federal government. Here’s an overview of applying for both federal aid and private student loans for associate degrees.

Step 1: File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

In order to qualify for federal student aid (aid from the federal government), you must file the FAFSA and fill in the school code for the school or schools on your list. You’ll have to fill out the FAFSA every year prior to the start of a new school year.

Recommended: FAFSA Guide

Step 2: Review your Student Aid Report (SAR).

The financial aid office at the school you’re considering will receive your FAFSA information to determine your eligibility for federal and state aid. You and the college will both receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a paper or electronic document that offers basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid. It also lists your answers on the FAFSA.

Step 3: Look over your financial aid award.

You’ll receive a financial aid package after you provide the college with all the necessary documentation. You will likely receive a financial aid award package via email, which will detail the scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans that your school will give you. You’ll then have to accept or decline the aid you receive from the college. If you’re awarded federal student loans, you can decline all or part of those loans.

You’ll also need to complete entrance counseling and the Master Promissory Note at the Federal Student Aid website.

Step 4: Evaluate your need for private student loans.

Do you need more coverage? You may need to apply for private student loans to cover the costs of your degree. This means shopping around for a private student loan lender that fits your needs. Find out if your school offers a lender list, and be sure to compare:

•  Interest rates

•  Student loan fees (like origination fees)

•  Repayment options

•  Whether you’ll need a cosigner. You may require a cosigner if you don’t have a credit history. A parent, relative, or any other creditworthy individual can cosign with you to boost your chances of getting a student loan.

Paying Off Student Loans for an Associate Degree

What are your options for paying off student loans? Here are some of the repayment paths to consider.

Job Income

Ideally, you’ll find a job directly related to your associate degree. You can set up automatic deductions from your bank account so you won’t need to worry about missing a payment. Contact your student loan servicer if you’d like to set up automatic deductions.

One way to pay off your loans faster is to pay more than the minimum monthly amount. This will also help you save on the interest that will accrue on your loans, because you’re paying them down faster. You can also save up and pay off a lump sum.

Start Early

You don’t need to wait to graduate to start paying off your student loans. You can start paying off your student loans early, while you’re still in school. This is a great way to save on the interest that could accrue on your loans in the future and help you pay your loans off faster.

It’s a good idea to have a plan in place if you want to start paying them off early (an online budgeting tool may help). Even little amounts can make a difference over the long run.

Use Tax Deductions

Some tax deductions can often be a big help and student loan tax deductions are no exception. You can get a student loan interest deduction when filing your taxes when you pay at least $600 in qualified student loan interest. Your lender will send you IRS Form 1098-E, the Student Loan Interest Statement. You’ll be able to save money on your taxes as long as you have student loan interest to deduct.

Apply for Loan Forgiveness

It’s important to note that you can only qualify for student loan forgiveness through federal student loans. For example, you may want to qualify for loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. If you work for a government or not-for-profit organization, PSLF forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 monthly payments under a repayment plan as a full-time employee.

If you have Direct Loans or FFEL Program loans, you may be able to take advantage of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. In this case, you must teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency. You can qualify for up to $17,500 on your Direct Loan or FFEL Program loans.

Contact your loan servicer if you think you qualify for one of these programs and take a look at other cancellation or discharge programs you might qualify for.

Refinancing Student Loans

When refinancing associate degree loans, a lender pays off your current loan or loans and gives you a new loan with new terms, ideally at a lower interest rate. Refinancing can help you save money over the life of your loan.

Note that having a good credit score is key to refinancing your student loans. Your credit score is a three-digit number that summarizes how well you pay back your debts. A private lender will also take your credit utilization into account, which reveals how much of your available credit you actually use. Having a high credit score and low utilization ratio can help you get the best rates possible.

If you’re thinking about refinancing associate degree loans, it’s important to understand that you can’t refinance a federal student loan into a new federal student loan — all refinances become private student loans. This also means that you give up the possibility of qualifying for forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge through the federal government, as well as deferment or forbearance options.

Refinancing Student Loans With SoFi

Refinancing student loans can be a great way to save money over the life of the loan if you’re able to refinance at a lower interest rate and you don’t plan to use federal programs. As a reminder, if you refinance a federal loan, you’ll lose access to federal benefits and protections.

If you’re considering refinancing, SoFi offers competitive rates, no origination fee, and unemployment protection. You can also talk to a representative who can walk you through the process.

Find out if SoFi student loan refinancing is right for you.

FAQ

How much are student loans for an associate degree?

Federal and private student loan lenders may charge a variety of fees for associate degree student loans, including origination fees, late payment fees, and returned check fees. However, some lenders don’t charge any of these fees at all. It’s a good idea to do a side-by-side comparison of all costs before you choose one lender over another.

Does FAFSA cover associate degrees?

Yes, you can tap into federal student aid options to pay for associate degrees. You must file the FAFSA and send the information to the schools on your list that you’re considering to complete your associate degree. You may qualify for a combination of federal student loans, grants, and work-study for student loans for an associate degree. One of the best things you can do is to talk through the details with a financial aid professional at the college you plan to attend.

Can you refinance after your associate degree?

Yes, you can refinance associate degree student loans after you obtain your associate degree. You’ll want to determine whether you can get a better interest rate and/or pay your loans off faster with a refinance. However, note that you’ll lose access to federal loan benefits and protections when you refinance. Federal programs such as forgiveness and income-driven repayment do not apply to private student loans.


Photo credit: iStock/SolStock

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

SOSL09230689

Read more
percentage sign on pink background

Explaining Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Most of us simply don’t have the cash on hand to pay for college or graduate school out of our pockets. For the 2023-24 school year, the College Board estimates it costs $41,540 on average annually to attend a private non-profit four year university and $11,260 for in-state students at a public four-year school.

That means you might need to take out student loans to fund your education.To make sure you’re not in danger of defaulting on your loans or paying too much, you might want to understand some basics of student loans.

When you take out student loans, they’re either private or federal — meaning they either come from a private lender, like a bank, or are backed by the federal government.

Federal student loans are either subsidized or unsubsidized Direct Loans. There are also Federal Direct PLUS loans for parents or graduate and professional students. Interest rates for federal loans are set by Congress and stay fixed for the life of the loan. Federal student loans come with certain protections for repayment.

But what are the differences in the types of federal loans? When you’re weighing your options, you might want to understand some of the differences between a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan vs. a Direct Subsidized Loan vs. a private student loan, so you can evaluate all of your options.

What Is a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan?

The federal government offers two umbrellas of Direct Loans: unsubsidized and subsidized. When you take out a loan, the principal amount of the loan begins to accrue interest as soon as the loan is disbursed (when the loan is paid out to you). That interest has to be paid or it is added onto the loan amount.

Subsidized Federal Student Loans

On a Federal Direct Subsidized Loan, the federal government (specifically, the US Department of Education) pays the interest while you’re in school, during the six-month grace period after you graduate, and if you temporarily defer the loans. On a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, you are responsible for paying all of the interest on the loan from the moment it starts accruing.

Since the interest is paid for you while you are in school on a subsidized loan, it doesn’t accrue. So the amount you owe after the post-graduation grace period is the same as the amount you originally borrowed.

Unsubsidized Federal Student Loans

On a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, the interest accumulates even while you’re in school and during the grace period — even though you aren’t required to make any payments while in school.

The interest is then capitalized, meaning it gets added to the total principal amount of your loan. That amount in turn accrues interest, and you end up owing more when you graduate than you originally borrowed.

Of course, you can make interest payments on your unsubsidized loan while you’re in school to save yourself money in the long run. However, you’re not required to start paying off the loan (principal plus interest) until six months after leaving school.

For the 2023-2024 school year, the interest rate on Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans for undergraduates is 5.50%, the rate on Direct Unsubsidized Loans for graduate and professional students is 7.05%, and the rate on Direct PLUS Loans for graduate students, professional students, and parents is 8.05%. The interest rates on federal student loans are fixed and are set annually by Congress.

Origination fees for unsubsidized and subsidized loans is set at 5.50% for the 2023-2024 academic year.

How Do You Apply for a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan?

The first step to finding out what kind of financial aid you qualify for, including Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Subsidized Loans, is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).

Your school will then use your FAFSA to present you with a financial aid package, which may include Federal Direct Unsubsidized and Subsidized Loans and other forms of financial aid like scholarships, grants, or eligibility for the work-study program.

The financial aid and loans you’re eligible for is determined by your financial need, the cost of school, and things like your year in school and if you’re a dependent or not.

Who Qualifies for Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans?

Federal Direct Subsidized Loans are awarded based on financial need. However, Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are not based on financial need.

To receive either type of loan, you must be enrolled in school at least half-time and enrolled at a school that participates in the Federal Direct Loan program. And while subsidized loans are only available to undergraduates, unsubsidized loans are available to undergrads, grad students, and professional degree students.

Pros and Cons of a Federal Unsubsidized Direct Loan

There are pros and cons to taking out federal unsubsidized direct loans.

Pros

•   Both undergraduates and graduate students qualify for Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

•   Borrowers don’t have to prove financial need to receive an unsubsidized loan.

•   The loan limit is higher than on subsidized loans.

•   Federal Direct Loans, compared to private loans, come with income-based repayment plan options and certain protections in case of default.

Cons

•   Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans put all the responsibility for the interest on you (as opposed to subsidized loans). Interest accrues while students are in school and is then capitalized, or added to the total loan amount.

•   There are limits on the loan amounts.

Recommended: Should I Refinance My Federal Loans?

The Takeaway

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students and are not awarded based on financial need. Unlike subsidized loans, the government does not cover the interest that accrues while students are enrolled in school. Unsubsidized federal loans are eligible for federal benefits like income-driven repayment plans or Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

SOIS0124015

Read more
TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender