Are you eager for new learning opportunities and expanding your career potential? Maybe it’s time to go back to school. But if you still have student loans from your undergraduate degree, you may be wondering what options will be available to you as you return to your studies.
One option is student loan deferment, which allows you to temporarily pause your student loan payments. As with most financial decisions, there are pros and cons to deferring your student loans. Here’s more information about student loan deferment and what it could mean for your financial future.
What Is Student Loan Deferment?
Deferment is a program that allows you to temporarily stop making payments on your federal student loans or to temporarily reduce your monthly payments for a specified time period.
This is similar to another option—forbearance—but unlike forbearance, depending on the type of student loan you have, you will not be charged interest on the loan while it is in deferment. As explained by the Department of Education , if you hold one of the following types of loans, you will not be responsible for paying interest on your loan while it is in deferment:
• Direct Subsidized Loan
• Subsidized Federal Stafford Loan
• Federal Perkins Loan
• The subsidized portion of a Direct Consolidation Loan
• The subsidized portion of a Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Consolidation Loan
If you have one of the following types of loans, you will be responsible for paying the accrued interest on your loan while it is in deferment:
• Direct Unsubsidized Loan
• Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan
• Direct PLUS Loan
• FFEL PLUS Loan
• The unsubsidized portion of a Direct Consolidation Loan
• The unsubsidized portion of a FFEL Consolidation Loan
If you are responsible for paying interest on your student loans while they are in grad school deferment, you have two options: 1) you can make interest-only payments on the loans while they are in deferment; 2) if you choose not to make these interest-only payments, the accrued interest will capitalize on the loan when the deferment period is over.
Who Is Eligible for Deferment?
In order to qualify for student loan deferment , students must meet certain criteria including:
• You’re enrolled at least part-time at a qualifying university
• You’re unemployed or unable to find employment (for up to three years)
• You’re experiencing an economic hardship
• You’re currently volunteering in the Peace Corps
• You’re on active-duty military service (or are in the 13 months following that service)
• You’re in an approved graduate fellowship program
• You’re in an approved rehabilitation program (for disabled students)
Requesting a Deferment
If you’re interested in deferring student loans to go back to school, you’ll need to apply for an in-school deferment. Most likely, you will request the deferment directly through your loan servicer—there is usually a form for you to fill out. When you request a deferment, you’ll also need to provide some sort of documentation to prove that you qualify for a deferment.
If you are enrolled in an eligible college or career school at least half-time, your loan may be placed in deferment automatically . If it is, your loan servicer will notify you that deferment has been granted. If you enroll at least half-time and do not automatically receive a deferment, you will need to contact the school in which you are enrolled. The school will then send the appropriate paperwork to your loan servicer, so that your loan can be placed in deferment.
Pros and Cons of Student Loan Deferment
Deferment is a popular program for student loan borrowers. In the first quarter of 2018, 3.3 million federal loan borrowers were in deferment. The biggest benefit of student loan deferment is the ability to temporarily postpone student loan repayment.
If you are deferring for extreme financial hardship, deferment allows you to free up money to pay off bills that require immediate attention like rent or electricity.
For students who have qualified for deferment through community service, like a stint in the Peace Corps, deferment gives them the opportunity to serve their community without any added stress from student loan payments.
While temporarily pausing loan repayment may seem like a blessing, it can come at a cost, especially if your student loans are not subsidized by the government. When in deferment, interest continues to accrue on your loan. And at the end of your deferment period, that interest will be capitalized on the loan. (This means that the accrued interest will be added to the principal balance of the loan. So ultimately, you’ll be paying interest on top of interest.)
This can mean you end up paying even more money over the life of the loan. To see how much deferring your student loans could cost, you can use an online calculator to get an estimate of how much interest will accrue while the loan is in deferment.
The Pros and Cons to Student Loan Refinancing
If you have private loans that aren’t eligible for federal student loan deferment, refinancing your student loans is another option to consider. You may also want to think about refinancing when you’re done with your graduate degree to pay off your loans at a potentially lower interest rate.
When you refinance, your existing student loans are paid off with a new loan from a private lender. If you are refinancing private loans before going back to graduate school, you may be after a lower monthly payment, which you could potentially qualify for when refinancing your loans and extending the loan term.
Alternately, if you’re looking to refinance after graduate school, you could potentially qualify for a lower interest rate, which could reduce the amount of money you spend over the life of the loan. The lender will use your credit score and earning potential to determine what interest rate you’ll qualify for. And thanks to your new graduate degree, you could have significantly increased your earnings.
Another big benefit of student loan refinancing? You’re able to combine all of your student loan payments into one, easy-to-manage payment. With SoFi, you can even combine both private and federal student loans.
If you hold only federal student loans, however, you could look into a Direct Consolidation Loan , which allows you to consolidate federal loans into one loan with a single monthly payment. The new interest rate will be the weighted average of your current interest rates (rounded to the nearest one-eighth of 1%), so unlike refinancing, when you consolidate your student loans, you won’t necessarily qualify for a lower interest rate.
If you are, or plan on, taking advantage of your federal loans’ flexible repayment plans or student loan forgiveness programs, refinancing might not be the best option for you. A major con of student loan refinancing is that you’ll lose access to federal loan benefits when refinancing with a private lender—including deferment and income-driven repayment plans.
Refinancing Your Loans with SoFi
Use SoFi’s student loan refinance calculator to see what refinancing your student loans with SoFi could look like. When you refinance with SoFi, there are no application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties. With SoFi, the application process can be completed easily online in just a few minutes.
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.
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.