woman on laptop in office

When Do You Have to Pay Back a Direct Stafford Loan?

Direct Stafford Loan repayment can be one of the first harsh realities of modern adult life. But don’t worry, there are options that can help make your student loan repayment just a little less painful. First, let’s get some semantics straightened out: the name of your loans may not make much of a difference, but they can get confusing. In this case, the term “Direct Stafford Loans” and “Direct Loans” are used interchangeably.

Direct Stafford Loans were originally called the Federal Guaranteed Student Loan Program, but in 1988 they were renamed in honor of U.S. Senator Robert Stafford of Vermont, for his work on furthering the cause of higher education.

You have to repay your Direct Stafford Loan no matter what version of the loan you choose (more about this soon). Perhaps the most notable difference between the loan types is how you’ll be required to repay the interest (we’re going to show you).

So, When Do You Have to Pay Back Your Direct Stafford Loan?

The most direct answer is: after the grace period. We’ll explain: with each Direct Stafford Loan repayment plan, you are granted a little bit of time to sort out your life and get your act together. This stretch of rejuvenation, self-realization, and rebirth is perhaps euphemistically called a grace period.

The grace period for Direct Stafford Loan repayment begins the day you officially leave school. Also, if you change your student status to less than half-time enrollment, that earns you a grace period too.

Take note: educational institutions define “half-time enrollment” in different ways. The status is usually, but not always, based on the number of hours and credits in which you’re enrolled. Check with your school’s student aid office to make sure you are in sync with their official definition. Make sure everybody is on the same page before you assume that you are entitled to a grace period. The total timeframe of the Direct Stafford Loan repayment grace period: six months, and not a day more (with a handful of exceptions ).

Another thing to keep in mind about that grace period: you may want make the most of it by starting to pay back that loan in whatever way that you can. Even though grace periods are meant to give you time to reconfigure, the interest you’re being charged is still “capitalizing.” That means interest is still being added to the loan principal all during your grace period, and that’s not very graceful.

One quick thing to keep in mind while on the subject of grace periods: Make sure you know who your student loan servicer is in case you need to reach out to them. You don’t get to choose your own loan servicer. They’re assigned to you by the Department of Education to handle billing and other services. If you have questions regarding your loan, consider contacting your loan servicer.

What Are Direct Stafford Loans?

Direct Stafford Loans are divided into two types:

Subsidized Direct Stafford Loans

These loans are only available to undergraduate students and based on financial need. The government covers the interest payments during your time at school. During your six-month grace period or if you request a deferment, the government will also cover the interest accrued on the subsidized Direct Stafford Loan .

Calculating financial need can get tricky. Once your status is officially figured out, it’s called your “demonstrated financial need,” and it’s defined as the difference between total college costs and your family’s ability to pay. Ultimately, the final number is the amount of money your family needs for you to attend college.

Unsubsidized Direct Stafford Loans

These student loans are offered to undergraduate, graduate, and professional candidates, and are not based on financial need. So if you’re keeping score at home, this is in contrast to the subsidized Direct Stafford Loans, which are available to undergraduates only and based on financial need.

For Unsubsidized Direct Stafford Loans, the government does not cover your interest while you are in school, or if you request a deferment. During your six-month grace period, interest will continue to accrue, and you’ll be responsible for paying it once the grace period ends. As we mentioned earlier, you can also opt to pay the interest during this time, which will help reduce the debt of the loan later.

As with all Direct Stafford Loans, interest rates are fixed, which means that they stay at the same rate for the entire life of the loan. This could be a good thing, but it really depends on what the interest rate is at the time of signing the loan. Interest rates go up and down, so how “good” your rate is depends on how high or low the interest rate happens to be at the time you sign up for the loan.

Direct Stafford Loan Repayment Options

Here’s where you can get a handle on the whole Direct Stafford Loan repayment situation. The most important thing to remember is this: You. Have. Options. So don’t panic if your grace period is coming to an end.

One of your options is to refinance your student loans, which may be appealing if you’re in a financially stable place. Keep in mind that you can’t directly refinance government loans. However, you can refinance your Direct Stafford Loan by taking out a new loan with a private loan company at a hopefully lower interest rate. Doing this may give you some flexible repayment options.

Before you do, know the difference between refinancing and consolidating your loans. You can distinguish them as (broadly) two different strategies: completely starting over (refinancing) as opposed to merely reconfiguring (consolidation).

Refinancing lets you pay off the loans you already have with a brand-new loan from a private lender. This can be done with both federal and private loans. When you refinance, your existing loans get paid off completely, and you put those original creditors behind you forever. The new loan from a private company may allow you to breathe easier with better interest rates and repayment terms. You can also pick the private lender with the terms that best suit your needs. Don’t be afraid to comparison shop—and don’t forget that SoFi has no prepayment penalties or origination fees!

Consolidating student loans is simply gathering up all of the loans you currently have and piling them into one loan. You can typically only consolidate federal loans, and you do so with a Direct Consolidation Loan. With a Direct Consolidation Loan, your new interest rate is the weighted average of all your interest rates combined (rounded to the nearest eighth of 1%).
Thinking of skipping a few student loan payments? Not a good idea. Your credit score may take a hit, and this could disqualify you from an opportunity to get a credit card, a car, or a mortgage. The days that pass before your loan goes into default: 270 . That may sound like a long time, but it can go by in a flash.

If you’re thinking about refinancing your Direct Stafford Loans with a private loan, you can shop around for the best rates and repayment terms, and choose the loan company that makes the most sense to you. Refinancing can be done with both federal and private loans.

Benefits of refinancing your Direct Stafford Loans could include lower monthly payments or lowering your interest rate. Your interest rate and refinancing terms will vary, based on your financial situation and credit history. If refinancing results in a lower monthly payment, you might have greater flexibility in your monthly budget, such as more savings or redirecting the additional cash to other debts.

You can also discover more options for refinancing your Direct Stafford loans with SoFi.

Notice: 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. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
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.
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 on credit.

Read more
yellow door on white house

How Much Debt is Too Much to Buy a House?

Perhaps you’ve found your dream home, or maybe you’re still in the exciting stages of looking for the house you want. In either case, you’re likely thinking about getting a mortgage loan—and you may be wondering if the amount of debt you currently have will become a stumbling block to qualifying for a mortgage.

To qualify for a mortgage, a lender needs to be confident that you can responsibly manage the amount of debt that you’re currently carrying along with a mortgage payment. The formula used to determine that is called a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.

More specifically, a DTI ratio is the percentage of your qualifying monthly income, before taxes, that is needed to cover ongoing debts. This could include student loan payments, a car payment, credit card payments, and so forth. If the DTI ratio is too high, then a lender may see you as a higher risk.

This post will describe DTI in more detail, including how to calculate yours, what lenders typically like to see, and what might be too much debt to buy a house. We’ll also share strategies to manage your debt and lower your DTI ratio to help you qualify for the house of your dreams.

Understanding How Your DTI Ratio Can Affect Your Mortgage Options

The DTI formula is pretty simple. First, make a list of all your debts with recurring payments. Then, if you’re a W2 earner, take your pre-tax monthly income and divide your monthly expenses by this amount. That percentage is your DTI ratio .

Note that, with a mortgage, to calculate your DTI ratio, you’ll need to have a reasonable estimate of monthly property taxes on the home, insurance (homeowners, for sure, and PMI and flood insurance, if applicable), and HOA dues, if applicable. Even if you wouldn’t necessarily pay those bills on a monthly basis, you’ll need the bill broken down into a monthly amount for DTI calculation purposes. (And remember these are just examples. Your actual DTI, as calculated by a lending professional, may differ.)

If your debt-to-income ratio is too high, it can impact the type of mortgage you’ll qualify for. Each mortgage lender will have their own preferred DTI ratio, of course, and lenders can and do make exceptions based on your unique financial situation. Here’s an explainer on desirable debt-to-income ratios from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Preparing for When You Need a Mortgage

If you know you’ll want to buy a house within, say, the next year or two, it can be beneficial for you to understand how much home you can afford. This will give you time to manage your finances to make getting a mortgage approval easier. Perhaps you can’t pay off all your debt in that time frame, but there are strategic moves to make to position yourself better when mortgage time is upon you. In addition, consider reviewing our home buyers guide to get a better understanding of everything you need to prepare for your mortgage.

First, be careful. There are plenty of debt-related myths, but let’s address two debt-related realities:

1. Having a lot of debt in relation to your income and assets can work against you when applying for a mortgage.
2. If you are consistently late on debt payments, lenders may question your ability to pay your mortgage on time.

Here are a few tips that can help with some of the most common debt challenges:

Student Loan Debt

If you’re looking to take control of your student loan debt, consider refinancing your student loans into one new student loan with a potentially lower interest rate.

This can make paying back your loans easier, because there is just one monthly payment to make. Plus, with a (hopefully) lower interest rate, you can pay back less interest, overall. And, if you’re concerned about your monthly DTI ratio being too high when you go to apply for a mortgage, you may be able to refinance your student loan to a longer term for lower monthly payments, to reduce your current monthly DTI ratio. (Keep in mind, though, that extending your loan term may mean paying more interest over the life of your loan.)

When you refinance at SoFi, you can combine federal loans with private ones, something not many lenders permit. Request a quote online to see what you can save. Note that SoFi does not have any application fees or prepayment penalties, and there are no hidden fees.

Credit Card Debt

When you have a significant amount of credit card debt, the monthly payments can negatively impact your DTI ratio.

If you’re concerned about managing credit card debt payments while paying a mortgage, you could even consider focusing your efforts on getting out of credit card debt before you start the homebuying process.

To manage your credit card debt, and ultimately eliminate it, here are a few debt payoff methods to consider

•  The snowball method. List your credit cards from the one with the lowest balance to the one with the highest. Then, focus on paying off the one with the smallest balance first, while still making minimum payments on the rest. When that first card is paid off, focus on the next one on your list and so forth.

•  Tackling high-interest debt first. Using this method, you list your credit cards from the one with the most interest to the one with the least. Then, focus on paying off the credit card with the highest interest while making minimum payments on the rest. Then tackle the next one, and then the next one.

•  Consolidating credit card debt using a personal loan before you apply for a mortgage loan. When you do this, you’ll have just one loan, and personal loans typically have lower interest rates than credit cards (if you qualify). Ideally, keep credit cards open while only using them to the degree that you can pay off in full each billing cycle. And as with all debt payments, make all personal loan payments on time.

By reducing and managing your credit card debt, you can better position yourself for a mortgage loan on the house of your dreams.

Consolidating Your Credit Card Debt with a Personal Loan

Ready to consolidate credit card debt into a personal loan? SoFi makes it fast and easy, and it only takes minutes to apply. Plus, our personal loans have the following perks:

•  Low rates

•  No fees

•  Access to live customer support seven days a week

•  Community benefits; ask about how, if you lose your job, we can temporarily pause your personal loan payments and help you to find a new job

We look forward to helping you achieve your financial goals and dreams. Learn how a personal loan from SoFi can help.

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.
SoFi Mortgages are not available in all states. Products and terms may vary from those advertised on this site. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria#eligibility-mortgage for details.
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 on credit.
Notice: 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. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Read more
gold credit cards on wood background

The Growing Average Credit Card Debt in America

Hard as this may be to imagine, 75 years ago, we didn’t have anything like today’s modern credit cards. Nowadays, studies are conducted annually to monitor the rising average credit card debt in our country, and this figure is seen as an indicator of the economy and of people’s individual spending habits.

It wasn’t as easy to buy what you needed in the pre-credit card era, and this form of payment has important benefits, including giving users a short window of time to make purchases on credit without paying interest on the balance.

But, the ease of credit card use also makes it ultra-easy to build up a mountain of debt, and the credit card debt spiral can be especially challenging to break. We’ll share more about why that’s so, later on in this post, along with tried-and-true methods to get out of this unwanted spiral of debt.

First, though, we’ll answer two commonly asked questions:

•  What is the average credit card debt this year?

•  How can I get out of credit card debt?

What is the Average Credit Card Debt This Year?

BusinessInsider.com reported on a 2018 study that shared how more than 40% of households in the United States have credit card debt, with the average household having a balance of $5,700. This average varies by where exactly you live in the country.

On the one hand, the percentage of Americans who have credit card debts has been decreasing for the past 10 years. On the other hand, when looking at people who do have this kind of debt, the average amount has been increasing.

Related: What is the Average Debt by Age?

From an economic standpoint, this is useful information to have. This data can also be helpful in allowing you to place your own financial situation into context. And if you’re unhappy with the amount of debt you’re carrying, the real question is how to get out of credit card debt. Fortunately, we’ve got plenty of insights and solutions to share.

First, let’s take a closer look at that average amount of credit card debt: $5,700. This takes into account every household, about 40% of which are in debt. However, if you just count the households in debt that don’t pay off their balances every month, that average debt increases to $9,333.

If you don’t have the means to pay the debt balance off all at once, then as you’re making payments interest keeps accruing, often compounding daily. So, it can be challenging to pay down that debt, especially if you’re making minimum payments or an amount that’s not significantly more than the minimum.

Here are a few more credit card facts to consider:

•  About one in every five adults in the United States has a credit card balance that’s higher than the amount of funds in their emergency savings accounts.

•  Men have, on average, higher credit card balances than women do, about 22% more.

•  About 68% of Americans have credit card debt when they die, on average $4,531. Compare that to the number of people who have mortgage loans when they pass away (37%) and those who have car loans (25%), and you can see how prevalent credit card really is.

Rising credit card debt can be exacerbated when there isn’t an emergency savings account to fall back on, and our cultural climate of consumerism, one where more is always better, doesn’t help.

If you no longer want to be average in the amount of your credit card debt, meaning you want to get out from underneath your debt, there are solutions.

Tips to Get Out of Credit Card Debt

To break the cycle of debt, it’s important to reverse engineer how it works and understand what makes it so challenging to get out of. Credit card companies typically compound interest, which means that interest accrues on the debt, and then you also pay interest on the interest.

Related: What is the Average Credit Card Debt for a 30-Year Old?

To make the situation even more challenging, interest is sometimes compounded daily, and so it’s easy to see how interest can quickly add up. This is true especially when you make minimum payments. It’s even true if you pay more than what’s owed as a minimum payment, but still have a remaining balance. If you’re late on a payment, you’re often charged a late fee, which is added to your balance—and then you’ll owe interest on that new total amount, as well.

So, What Can You Do?

Here are four methods to consider to ultimately pay off your high-interest credit card debt. You can choose the strategy that fits your financial philosophy and needs best, continue paying on all your debts, and then focus on not adding to your credit card debt as you pay down what you currently owe.

Choices include:

•  Debt snowball method: Using this method, you’d rank your credit card debts by outstanding balances. Then, focus on paying off your smallest debt first, and use the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel to fuel your motivation going forward. Then, pay off the smallest of your remaining debts, continuing until you’ve paid off your credit card debt entirely. A Harvard Business Review study showed that people using this method tend to pay off their credit card debts the quickest.

•  Debt avalanche method: In this method, you’d rank your credit cards by the interest rate charged. Then, focus on paying off the card with the highest interest rate first, and then the next highest and so forth. This is also known as the debt-stacking or ladder method.

•  Debt snowflake method: As a different strategy, you can use any extra money collected—from gathering change to a side gig—to pay down your credit card balances.

•  Debt consolidation method: Using this method, you would consolidate your credit cards into one debt, with a low-rate personal loan. You can potentially reduce your interest rate by using a personal loan and streamline the number of bills you need to pay monthly.

Here’s another idea to consider. What has been billed to your credit cards that you don’t really need? It’s pretty common to subscribe to a service you think you’ll need but don’t use, or one that you’ll need for a short period of time only.

Yet, until you cancel that service/subscription, the monthly charge will keep getting added to your credit card balance. So, review those monthly charges and consider tools that help identify places you can cut back on expenses.

Personal Loans with SoFi

If, as part of your financial plan, you’ve decided to apply for a low-rate personal loan to consolidate your credit card debt, there are numerous reasons why SoFi could be a great choice. This includes:

•  We don’t charge an origination fee.

•  We don’t charge any prepayment penalties.

•  We make it fast, easy, and convenient to apply for your personal loan online.

•  Live customer service support is available every day of the week.

•  If you lose your job, we can temporarily pause your payments—and even help you find a new job.

•  You can find your rate in just two minutes’ time!

Ready to get started? Apply for your personal loan at SoFi today!

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.
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 on credit.
No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Read more
woman on beach swing with tablet

Living in the Now vs Saving for the Future

Life is filled with tough decisions, including the mother of all: do I live in the now, or save for tomorrow?

It’s tough because this is the decision that generally seals our fate. Most of us would rather not think that far ahead; after all, retirement is decades from now. We often feel that we can’t afford to do both. And the expression “you only live once” (YOLO) is a temptation to put off tomorrow while you live in the moment.

Other ways we put off saving for our future — and this is where it gets heavy — could be the blame game: our parents, our government, the banks, the system. The feeling that everything is already rigged against us makes it easy to live life without an end plan.

If you would like to change your way of thinking, try this splash of cold water: imagine yourself at age 65. Where will you be living? How would you be paying for food, heat and electricity? Will you be existing solely on Social Security (if it’s still around)?

We’re not trying to scare you, even though the thought is scary. In fact, there are solutions to this dilemma that you can put into action today. We’re going to show you that there is a way to have your cake and eat it too. You can save for the future while living your current life to the fullest.

Follow these simple steps to live in the now while saving money for the future.

Start With a Clear Eye

Get a bird’s eye view of your situation and the way you roll by devising a list of questions that get to the heart of the matter. Give serious consideration to the quality of your crib, your wheels, your wardrobe, and other materialistic matters. Don’t forget to asses the even more important stuff, like the degree of your happiness and spirituality, your romantic life, your circle of friends, and so on. You don’t have to share this list with anyone, so don’t be afraid to get really honest.

Divide Your Goals into Categories

Distinguish the goals that address your wants from the goals that will take care of your needs. All of this should be based on your income and financial standing as it is at this moment. Try your list this way:

Bucket list

Write down all the things you want to do before you die, and get busy checking them off. Parasailing? Learning French? Cooking a multi-course meal? No goal should be out of reach. The idea is that, eventually, you will have the satisfaction of having lived your life to the absolute fullest.


Make a list of the ways you want to spend your golden years. Will you have the money to cover these goals? What must you do now in order to reach those financial goals? For some perspective, see if your on track for the retirement you want with our retirement calculator.


Take a cold, hard look at what you’re spending, and where. Include your rent/mortgage, utilities, transportation-related payments, groceries, wardrobe, eating out, and other assorted obligations. See where you can make cuts or reductions, and where you can redirect that spending into a retirement or emergency fund.

You don’t have to cut your budget so close to the bone that you’re life becomes dull; it may take a while to figure out just the right balance between living in the now and saving for the future. It could mean something as simple as brown-bagging your lunch or taking the bus to work instead of your car. You also don’t have to fix any spending that isn’t broken. If it’s working for you, keep it.

Current Income and Savings

To get a good understanding of where you can go from here, make a list of all your sources of monthly income. This includes your take-home pay (after taxes!), your retirement and savings accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), and your emergency fund and vacation fund.


Create a detailed list of what you owe to creditors and lenders every month, including credit cards, school loans, and any other loans. Once organized, you can start deciding on a debt repayment plan that best suits your situation.

Evaluate Your Financial Situation

Be brutal in your estimation of where you stand. Ask yourself if you think you are saving enough for retirement, if you are paying your bills on time, if you are happy with your credit score, and if you have enough disposable income to have the fun you want to have (after your responsibilities are met).

Review and Revise

Once you discover your weak links, you’ll need to figure out how to change, adjust or alter your lifestyle. The emphasis for improvement should be more on the things you need. Once you take care of that, the things you want will be easier to achieve.

Start On Your Spending Cuts

Now that your entire financial life is laid out before you and you’ve realized your priorities, it’s time to get the scalpel. See what you can cut out completely, or at least reduce; see if there is a way to pay off your debt faster.

Adjust Your Plan Where Needed

The closer you watch your spending and the the more proactive you get with monitoring and switching up your budget, the more cash you may see become available for your future. It may take some trial and error, but don’t give up and don’t allow yourself to fall short of your goals. Always keep them in front of you, and understand that sometimes painful changes in your current situation can lead to incredible improvements in your life and your future.

Start an Account to Start Saving Money

Rather than use credit cards for the things you want now (vacations, tech, wardrobe, etc.), open separate savings accounts dedicated to each individual goal. For instance, label one savings account “Trip To France.” Label the next one “My New Laptop.” Even if you can only contribute a few dollars a week, your goal will get nearer with each deposit, and you’ll be able to pay for your goal in sweet cash. That saves you from getting deeper into debt and paying more interest, and helps you save for the future more effectively.

SoFi Money®, a cash management account, may be able to help you see this through. SoFi Money earns you 0.20% Annual Percentage Yield on all your cash and has no account fees.

We work hard to give you high interest and charge zero account fees. With that in mind, our interest rate and fee structure is subject to change at any time.”

Introducing SoFi Money®

Sometimes a plan like this can feel overwhelming and even hopeless. It’s a common feeling, but don’t let it get the best of you. Consider getting some help without it costing you a penny. SoFi Money can help you track your spending in your weekly dashboard all within the app.

SoFi Money is a cash management account where you can spend, save, and earn all in one place. Once you are able to stick to your goals and your budget with the help of SoFi Money, your lifestyle can change for the better and your financial situation can improve.

Get started with SoFi Money!

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.
SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.

Read more
Man working at desk

How to Get Student Loans Out of Default

As student loan debt increases, so does the number of borrowers defaulting on their student loans. Student debt in the U.S. has reached crisis levels—in 2018, outstanding student loans totaled $1.5 trillion .

It’s no wonder that people are having difficulty repaying their student loan debt. The latest estimates indicate as many as 40% of student loans will be in default by 2023.

Approximately one million borrowers default on their student loans every year, for a variety of reasons—including dealing with an overwhelming amount of debt or even facing sudden unemployment.

Failure to make payments on your student loans can result in serious consequences. If you’re struggling with your student loans and are in danger of defaulting, there are options. The sooner you take action to remedy your student loan troubles, the better.

If your loans are already in default, there are steps you can take to recover. (And before we dive in, a quick note: This information was primarily obtained by the Department of Education’s website for Federal Student Aid . Shout out to that website.)

What is Considered Student Loan Default?

At its most basic, default happens when you have failed to make payments on your student loans. If you have a federal student loan, there are a few steps that occur before your loan is considered to be in default.

With a federal loan, the U.S. Department of Education considers your loan delinquent the day after you miss your first payment. After 90 days, your failure to pay will be reported to all three big credit bureaus, which may negatively impact your credit score.

If your loan is delinquent, there are steps you can take to prevent the loan from going into default . If you’ve failed to make a payment or two, consider applying for deferment or forbearance, especially if you are facing a temporary financial hardship.

If you’re having long-term difficulty paying your monthly student loan payments, consider seeing if you can change your payment terms to reduce your monthly bill. This process will extend the life of the loan (lowering your monthly loan payments usually involves lengthening your loan term) and you’ll most likely pay more in interest over the life of the loan, but making payments on time can help you avoid defaulting and the consequences that come with it.

After 270 days of nonpayment, the loan is considered in default, triggering a series of potential problems for the borrower. The consequences of defaulting can be quite severe. The default and history of missed payments can stay on your credit report for years to come.

If you default on your student loan, you are no longer eligible for payment assistance such as forbearance, deferment, and student loan forgiveness. Any costs associated with collecting the loan are added to your balance due, and the government has the ability to garnish your wages or seize your tax refund.

Tips for How to Get Student Loans Out of Default

If you’re wondering “how to get my student loans out of default,” you may have options. These include: loan rehabilitation, consolidation, refinancing, or paying off the loan in full—including any additional interest accrued. Often times borrowers in default are unable to repay their loans in full, so other options may be more practical.

1. Loan Rehabilitation

You may be able to remove a default from your credit report through student loan default rehabilitation . The specifics on how to remove your default via student loan default rehabilitation depend on the type of loan you have . However, here’s roughly what the process looks like if you have federal loans in default:

First, you’d contact your lender’s customer service office to request a rehabilitation plan for your loan. Second, you’ll want to be sure you can commit to the program since you can’t rehabilitate a loan a second time.

Third, you’d just follow your lender’s plan. That means making nine payments on time, usually at a lower payment rate (your lender determines the monthly payment amount, usually equal to 15% of your annual discretionary income, divided by 12).

Once you’ve successfully made all payments, the default can be removed from your credit report, but sometimes it takes about 90 days. Note that missed payments prior to the default on your loan will remain on your credit report, and your loan holder may still take involuntary payments (like wage garnishment) until your loan is no longer in default and/or you begin making rehabilitation payments.

Once you’ve again become a borrower in good standing with your lender, you now have the opportunity to get further relief through forbearance or deferment, especially if you’re still struggling.

2. Loan Consolidation

If you have federal student loans, you may be able to consolidate your student loans into one Direct Consolidation Loan. By consolidating , you’re paying off the other loans and replacing them with one new loan, usually at a weighted average of the interest rates on your old loans (rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of 1%).

If you qualify to consolidate your student loans, you have the ability to choose a different payment plan, including income-driven repayment plans. These plans let you choose a lower monthly payment based on your income and household situation. However, one caveat to accepting a lower payment is that the loan term is extended up to 20 or 30 years, and that means that you’ll pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

You can also consolidate and refinance your federal and private student loans with a private lender, reaping some of the same benefits as consolidating your federal student loans: paying off several loans with one new loan and potentially lowering your payments.

But unlike federal student loan consolidation, a private loan consolidation doesn’t limit you to a weighted average of your previous loan rates, so you may be able to get a better rate depending on your personal financial history and current financial situation. When you consolidate student loans with a private lender, you are essentially refinancing them.

3. Refinancing Your Loans

If you have a solid personal financial picture (which includes things like your income and credit score), you may be able to refinance your loans with a private lender instead of consolidating them with the government. You may get a lower interest rate, which can allow you to trim the amount of interest you’ll pay over time, unless you extend the loan to lower your monthly payments instead.

However, if you’re wondering ‘how to get my student loans out of default,’ your credit has likely already suffered. An option for those who want to refinance, but have a less-than-great credit score, is finding a cosigner for the loan. With a cosigner, you may be better able to qualify for refinancing . However, your cosigner would be equally responsible for the loan.

If you qualify to refinance your student loans you may be able to also adjust the loan term, extending it to get a more manageable monthly payment or shortening the term to pay off your loan sooner. If you lengthen the loan term you may pay more in interest over the life of the loan, and a shorter term usually means higher monthly payments.

But when you refinance a federal student loan with a private lender, you’ll no longer be eligible for federal protections, such as income-driven repayment plans or Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

How Refinancing Can Help Keep You From Defaulting

If you are at risk of defaulting on your student loans, there’s no better time than now to take action. It’s scary to not be able to pay your student loans. But there are ways to lower your monthly payments before you go into default.

First, if you have federal loans, you may want to look into income-based repayment plans (that we touched on above), which can lower your payments in accordance with your discretionary income.

If you’d like to consider refinancing your student loans, this could also potentially lower your payments. If you qualify for refinancing, you can opt to extend your loan term, and potentially secure a more manageable monthly payment.

While an income-based repayment plan or a refinanced loan with a longer term could both mean paying more in interest over the life of your loan, it could also help you get your payments under control.

Again, keep in mind that if you refinance with a private lender, you will lose access to federal loan benefits like income-based repayment plans, forbearance, and deferment.

SoFi has several options available for student loan refinancing—if you qualify, you can choose between a fixed or variable rate loan and customize your term length. Plus, there are no prepayment penalties or origination fees.

And SoFi offers Unemployment Protection, meaning if you unexpectedly lose your job, you could qualify to temporarily pause your payments. SoFi can even help you find a new job.

If you’re interested in refinancing your student loans with SoFi, you can get a rate quote in less than two minutes.

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.
Notice: 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. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
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 on credit.

Read more
TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender