Changing Student Loan Repayment Plans: Understanding Your Options

By Susan Guillory · February 26, 2024 · 7 minute read

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Changing Student Loan Repayment Plans: Understanding Your Options

Like many Americans, you likely are carrying some student loan debt. While in an ideal world, you’d pay that debt off quickly, we all know that the real world often brings unpleasant financial surprises, unemployment, and drops in disposable income.

If you’ve suffered financial setbacks and are struggling to pay your student loans, you might be exploring options to change your repayment plan, especially now that the suspension of payments that was offered during the pandemic is over.

Will interest rates go up on student loans in 2024? It’s anyone’s guess. But if they do, that could impact how much you pay for your student loan if you refinance or change the repayment plan.

Before you take action, let’s dive deeper into your student loan repayment plan options.

Student Loan Repayment Plan Options

The U.S. Department of Education has several repayment plans for student loan debt that are based on income and family size. If your financial situation has changed since you started paying your loan years ago, you might benefit from changing the repayment plan if you qualify for another type.This could help you have a smaller monthly bill for your student loan debt or pay less in interest over the life of the loan.

Types of student loan repayment plans include:

Standard Repayment Plan

The Standard Repayment Plan is the default plan you were given when you completed your studies and started paying on your loan. The student loan interest rates you’re paying may be fixed or variable, but the plan is set up so that you’ll pay your loans off within 10 years.

The amount you pay each month isn’t based on income or any other factors. If your income hasn’t dipped since you first started paying your loan, this might be your best repayment plan option.

Income-Based (IBR) Repayment Plan

If you have seen a drop in your income, you might be eligible for an income-based repayment plan. To qualify, you’ll need to meet income requirements based on your income and the number of people in your household.

If you qualify, your monthly payment will be 10% of your discretionary income if you’re a new borrower on or after July 1, 2014, and you’ll pay the loan over 20 years.

Income-Contingent (ICR) Repayment Plan

Though the income-contingent plan is similar to the IBR plan, there are differences. With the ICR plan, you will pay the lesser of either 20% of your discretionary income each month, or what you would pay on a repayment plan with a fixed payment over 12 years, adjusted to your income. The ICR plan lasts 25 years, and you must also meet criteria in your income and family size to qualify.

Pay As You Earn (PAYE)

With the Pay As You Earn plan, you will typically pay 10% of your discretionary income and never more than the 10-year Standard Repayment plan amount. This plan lasts 20 years.

Again, there are requirements about how much you can make to qualify.

Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Repayment Plan

The Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) repayment plan has been replaced by the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan. You’ll need to prove eligibility of your income and family size.

With this plan, you’d pay 10% of your discretionary income toward your student loan debt each month over 20 years if all the loans were for undergraduate study and 25 years if any of them were for graduate or professional study.

Recommended: What Student Loan Repayment Plan Should You Choose? Take the Quiz

Can You Change Your Student Loan Repayment Plan?

With rising student loan interest rates and a higher cost of living, you may find it difficult to continue paying your monthly student loan. If your income has dropped, you may be able to change your student loan repayment plan to one of the plans discussed above.

💡 Quick Tip: When rates are low, refinancing student loans could make a lot of sense. How much could you save? Find out using our student loan refi calculator.

How Often Can You Change Your Student Loan Repayment Plan?

There’s no cap on how many times you can change your student loan repayment plan. Be aware, though, that every time you do, the interest rate and amount you pay may change. This could be to your advantage if interest rates are low, but if they aren’t, you could end up paying more for your student loan if you change your repayment plan again and again.

Also, reducing your monthly payment may extend the number of years you pay on your loan, which means you’ll pay more in interest the longer you take to repay it. With a 10-year repayment plan, for example, you’d pay less in interest overall than you would with a 25-year plan.

How to Change Your Student Loan Repayment Plan

To change your student loan repayment plan, start by reviewing the income requirements for the repayment plans discussed above. You can also use the Department of Education’s Loan Simulator Tool to find the best repayment strategy.

Once you’ve determined which repayment plan you think is best, log into your student loan provider’s website. There should be information there to help you apply for the student loan repayment plan of your choice.
You may be required to provide proof of income, and you may need to recertify each year to continue with the plan once you’ve been approved.

Your application to change your repayment plan may take some time, so be prepared to continue to pay the previous monthly amount until it is approved. And remember: even if you have an income-based student loan repayment plan, you can always pay extra to pay off your debt faster.

Other Options for Lowering Your Student Loan Payment

There are a few drawbacks to trying to change your student loan repayment plan. The first is if you have private student loans, they won’t qualify for repayment plans offered by the U.S. Department of Education. Repayment plans are reserved for federal student loans only.

The second is if you make too much money, you may not be able to qualify for an income-based repayment plan based on your income and family size. You may still struggle to make those payments, and that could put your credit at risk if you miss a payment or two.

And finally, if you have more than one student loan, juggling multiple payments and paying several different interest rates can be stressful, and you may feel like you’ll never pay them all off.

If you identify with one of these scenarios, one option is to refinance your student loans. Whether you have private or public loans, refinancing them with one new loan helps you drop down to just one monthly payment and one interest rate. Ideally, you’ll pay less in interest overall and be able to pay off your student debt faster.

Keep in mind, though, that if you refinance federal student loans, you lose access to federal benefits, including income-based repayment plans and student loan forgiveness. Make sure you aren’t currently using or planning on using federal benefits before refinancing.

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

More Student Loan Refinancing Tips

Take control of your finances by choosing the best strategy to pay off your student loans faster. SoFi’s got refinancing options that can help you fast-track to paying off that debt in a flash.

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


Can I change my repayment plan for student loans?

Yes, you can change your repayment plan for student loans by consolidating your loans, refinancing them, or choosing an income-based repayment plan if you qualify. Keep in mind that income-based repayment plans are reserved for federal student loans only.

Can you change your loan repayment plan at any time?

Yes, there’s no limit to how many times or when you can change your student loan repayment plan.

Can I switch IDR plans?

As long as you qualify for a different income-based student loan repayment plan, you are able to switch plans at any time.

Photo credit: iStock/AlexSecret

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 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.

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.

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.


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