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If You Don’t Match: Steps to Manage Student Loans

February 26, 2021

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This is likely a stressful time in your life and medical education career, so the following information is shared with the intent of providing helpful guidance on how to manage your student loan debt in the coming days and year ahead.

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The Next Step

First, determine what your plans are for the upcoming year. Specifically, prior to next year’s match, will you continue as a student (by delaying graduation and furthering your education, obtaining a transitional slot, or performing research under the umbrella of your medical school)?  If your medical school continues to report you as a fully enrolled student, then your federal student loans will NOT require payment. However, if you plan to graduate this year, you need to take the following actions.

Finding the Details of Your Loans

Organize your loans by identifying the servicer of each loan -- a servicer is the manager of your student loans. Your federal student loan information, including the name of the servicer and their contact information, is listed within your account on studentaid.gov.  Payment due dates are determined by the loan servicer, but generally speaking, most federal student loans have a grace period,

immediately following medical school. The grace period for federal Direct Loans is 6 months and for Perkins Loans the grace period is 9 months. During grace, no payments are required. After grace is over, you will either need to postpone loan repayment, or you will need to select an affordable repayment plan.

To pursue a repayment plan, postpone payment, or to confirm the existence and length of your grace period, you will need to contact your loan servicer(s). Many servicers will provide information on their website to assist you with managing these details. 

Postponing Payments

If you prefer to postpone payments, you can request a deferment or forbearance. However, the loan servicer will determine your eligibility 

for either option. With a deferment and a forbearance, payments are not required.  A deferment may be preferred (if you have subsidized loans) because during a deferment subsidized loans will not accrue interest. The types of deferment that you may qualify for include an Economic Hardship Deferment or an Unemployment Deferment – though both have stringent eligibility requirements. 

If you don’t qualify for deferment, then forbearance may be an option. A forbearance is granted by the servicer and is at the discretion of the servicer. During forbearance, payments can either be reduced or postponed. If postponed, payments are not required, but interest accrues on both subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Contact your servicer(s) to discuss your deferment and forbearance options.

Making Payments

If you want to begin making payments, then you’ll need to select an affordable repayment plan. If you don’t select a plan, your servicer will automatically enroll you in the Standard repayment plan, which means you will have 10 years to repay your loan and your payment will be based on your loan balance. Depending on the amount you owe, this payment may not be affordable, so you should know that there are also payment plans that base your monthly payment on your household size and your income. These plans are called income-driven repayment plans and they include Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), and Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR). In some cases, a payment as low as $0/month is possible with these plans. Discuss these options with your servicers (before grace is over) to determine which plan best fits your needs. 

Some of your federal loans could benefit from consolidation. Take this quiz to see if consolidation is the right choice for you. 

The options discussed here are for federal student loans and may or may not be available for private loans. If you have private loans or institutional loans, you will need to contact the lender of those loans to find out what options are available.   

Looking Ahead

You have a lot to focus on in the upcoming year so take care of your loans now by staying in touch with your servicer(s). Start off by updating the servicer(s) with any address changes. Be sure to open and read any mail you receive. Your loans will require more attention now than they did in the past, so stay proactive.

Additional Resources:

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