PublicationTitle: Exit Counseling Guide for Borrowers
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[[This file contains the "Exit Counseling Guide for Borrowers" in Portable Document Format (PDF). It can be viewed with version 3.0 or greater of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software. Please Scroll down to see a text version of this document.]]
Facts About Repaying Your Direct Loans .......... 2
Consequences of Default ........................20
Managing Your Direct Loan Records ............ 21
Important Things You Should Find Out
From Your School ............................23
Budgeting Your Money ...................... 24
Common Direct Loan Terms ..................29
Your William D. Ford Federal Direct Loans are made directly to you by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) through the school(s) you attend. ED is your lender and will remain your lender throughout the life of your Direct Loans. The Department of Education's Direct Loan Servicing Center (Servicing Center) oversees your loan account until each loan is paid in full. Although there are several Servicing Center locations (with separate addresses and toll-free telephone numbers), you'll always have only one Servicing Center to deal with, even if you take out several Direct Loans or transfer from one school to another.
While the Servicing Center will oversee your loan account until your loans are paid in full, you are the real loan manager, because you are responsible for repaying your loans. As a Direct Loan borrower who is graduating from your program or who is no longer attending school at least half-time, you will have many decisions to make in the near future, including decisions about managing the repayment of your student loans.
This Exit Counseling Guide for Borrowers (Borrowers Guide) can help you
- decide on a repayment plan that will fit your
- make repaying your loans as simple as possible;
- provide the information you need about your rights
and responsibilities as a borrower of Federal Direct
Stafford/Ford Loans (Direct Subsidized Loans), Federal
Direct Unsubsidized Stafford/Ford Loans (Direct
Unsubsidized Loans), and Federal Direct Consolidation
Loans (Direct Consolidation Loans); and
- help you develop a workable budget for your new
life out of school.
Note that the examples used throughout this Borrowers Guide are estimates based on current U.S. Department of Education policy. The figures given in some examples have been rounded to the nearest whole dollar. The Servicing Center will provide you with the exact payment amounts for your loans when you enter repayment.
Please remember that if you have any questions about your loans, your school's financial aid office and the Direct Loan Servicing Center are there to help you.
Facts About Repaying Your Direct Loans
Who gets my loan payments?
Your payments will go to the U.S. Department of Education's Direct Loan Servicing Center. Although most communications with you will be by mail, the Servicing Center will respond to your phone calls whenever you have questions or concerns about your loan account. Remember, ED has several Servicing Center locations (with separate addresses and toll-free telephone numbers). The address and toll-free telephone number to the location that services your loan account will appear on all correspondence you receive from the Servicing Center. You should always use that information when contacting the Servicing Center; however, if you should misplace that information, you can call 1-888-447-4460 and you will be routed to the location that services your loan account.
How do I make payments?
You can pay by check every month. If you make payments on time for 12 consecutive months, you will receive a book of monthly payment coupons as a convenience. You should send all loan payments directly to the Servicing Center. The address to mail payments to will appear on your
When do I begin repaying my loans?
After you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment, you have six months before you must begin repaying your loans. This is called the "grace period." If you have Direct Subsidized Loans, you won't be charged any interest during your grace period. If you have Direct Unsubsidized Loans, you'll be responsible for the interest charged during your grace period. You may either pay this interest as it accumulates or have it capitalized when you start repaying your loans (see page 4 for a discussion of capitalization). For information on what to do about your loans if you return to school later, see pages 18 and 19.
Your repayment period begins the day after your grace period ends. Your first payment will be due within 60 days after your repayment period begins.
What is the interest rate on my loans?
The interest rate for both Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans is variable and is adjusted each year on July 1. The interest rate will be calculated differently depending on several circumstances. The interest rate during the in-school, grace, and deferment periods is equal to the 91-day Treasury bill rate plus 2.5 percentage points--if your loan was made on or after
July 1, 1995. If your loan was made before July 1, 1995, the interest rate for those periods is equal to the 91-day Treasury bill rate plus 3.1 percentage points. For all Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans in repayment, regardless of the date the loans were made, the interest rate is equal to the 91-day Treasury bill rate plus 3.1 percentage points. By law, however, your interest rate can never exceed 8.25 percent (see Example A).
The Servicing Center will notify you each year in writing about the interest rate that will go into effect on July 1. Note that the fixed amount you pay each month will be adjusted to account for any changes in the interest rate. The length of your repayment period will not be adjusted for interest rate changes unless you request it by contacting the Servicing Center.
The interest charged on Direct Loans is calculated on a simple daily basis. This means your interest charge will be calculated each day over the course of a year. Each of your payments is applied to both the interest that was added during the previous month and your principal balance (the total amount you still owe). If you want to pay all or part of your loans early, the interest you are required to pay will be computed only to the day on which you pay back the loans in full.
[[This file contains the "Example A from page 3" in Portable Document Format (PDF). It can be viewed with version 3.0 or greater of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software.]]
Note: Often, when you hear people talk about loans and interest, you hear them make a statement such as, "Interest accrues at the rate of 8.25 percent." The word "accrues" simply means "accumulates." You might also hear people say, "Interest is charged at the rate of 8.25 percent." The terms accrues, accumulates, and is charged may be used interchangeably.
If you have Direct Subsidized Loans, no interest was charged on your loans while you were in school, and none will be charged during your grace period. If you have Direct Unsubsidized Loans, interest was charged on your loans while you were in school--you may or may not have been paying that interest. You will also be responsible for the interest that accumulates during your grace period. If you have Direct Unsubsidized Loans and you do not pay the interest as it accumulates, it will be capitalized when you enter repayment (see the next column for details).
What is capitalized interest?
Capitalized interest is interest that has not been paid as it accumulates but has been added to the principal balance of your loans (the total amount you borrowed). Unpaid interest will be capitalized whenever your borrower status changes--for instance, when you enter repayment or come out of deferment. (In some cases, under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan, interest may also be capitalized yearly.) If you have not been paying the interest on your loans while you were in school, you will pay it when your loans enter repayment. Capitalized interest becomes part of the principal of your loans; therefore, it increases the total cost of repaying your loans because interest will accumulate on the new, higher principal. (See Example B to understand how this works.)
[[This file contains the "Example B: Capitalizing Interest" in Portable Document Format (PDF). It can be viewed with version 3.0 or greater of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software.]]
Example C: Standard Repayment Plan
This example shows Direct Subsidized Loans repaid at the maximum interest rate for student borrowers (8.25%) under the Standard Repayment Plan for 10 years (120 payments). Example C: Standard Repayment Plan
Loan Amount Monthly Payment Total Amount Repaid
$15,000 $184 $22,080*
*$15,000 in principal and $7,080 in interest
What are the different repayment plans?
You may choose to repay Direct Subsidized Loans and/or Direct Unsubsidized Loans through one of these four repayment plans:
- Standard Repayment Plan,
- Extended Repayment Plan,
- Graduated Repayment Plan, or
- Income Contingent Repayment Plan.
You must repay all your Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans under the same type of repayment plan. If you do not choose a repayment plan, your loans will be placed in the Standard Repayment Plan.
Note that your repayment period will not include any periods of deferment or forbearance. (See pages 15 and 16 for discussions of these terms.)
If you can document that none of the repayment plans listed below meet your needs because you have exceptional circumstances, you may request an alternative repayment plan by contacting the Direct Loan Servicing Center.
Standard Repayment Plan
With Standard repayment, you will make a fixed payment of at least $50 a month for up to 10 years. For some borrowers, this plan results in the lowest total interest paid because the repayment period is shorter than it would be under the other plans. In general, the shorter the repayment period, the lower the total interest expense for the borrower (see Example C).
Example D: Extended Repayment Plan
This example shows Direct Subsidized Loans repaid at the maximum interest rate for student borrowers (8.25%) under the Extended Repayment Plan for 15 years (180 payments).
Example D: Extended Repayment Plan
Loan Amount Monthly Payment Total Amount Repaid
$15,000 $146 $26,280*
*$15,000 in principal and $11,280 in interest
Note: For lower loan amounts, the period may be less than 12 years because you must make at least the $50 minimum payment each month.
Extended Repayment Plan
With Extended repayment you will make fixed payments of at least $50 a month over a period of time that will vary from 12 to 30 years, depending on the total amount of Direct Loans you owe, when your loans go into repayment (see the Extended/Graduated Repayment Table on page 7).
Because it will usually take you more than 10 years to repay your loans under the Extended plan, your monthly payment will be less than if you choose Standard repayment. However, the total amount you repay over the life of your loan will be greater because you will pay more interest (see Example D).
Graduated Repayment Plan
With Graduated repayment, your payments start out low, then increase every two years. The repayment period varies from 12 to 30 years and depends on the total amount of Direct Loans you owe when your loans go into repayment (see the Extended/ Graduated Repayment Table on the next page). Generally, the amount you'll repay over the term of your loan will be higher under graduated repayment than under extended repayment. However, if your income is low when you leave school but is likely to increase steadily, this might be the best plan for you (see Example E).
Example E: Graduated Repayment Plan
This example shows Direct Subsidized Loans repaid at the maximum interest rate for student borrowers (8.25%) under the Graduated Repayment Plan for 15 years (180 payments).
Loan amount Beginning Ending Total
Monthly Monthly Amount
Payment Payment Repaid
$15,000 $105 $238 $28,628*
*$15,000 in principal and $13,628 in interest
With Graduated repayment, no scheduled payment may be:
- less than the amount of interest that accumulates
on the loans between monthly payments,
- less than one-half of the payment you would be required
to make under Standard repayment (therefore, your
minimum payment would be $25), or
- more than one-and-one-half-times the payment you would
be required to make under Standard repayment.
Extended/Graduated Repayment Table
Amount of Debt Length of Repayment Period May Not
Less than $10,000 12 years
$10,000 - $19,999 15 years
$20,000 - $39,999 20 years
$40,000 - $59,000 25 years
$60,000 or more 30 years
Income Contingent Repayment Plan
The Income Contingent Repayment Plan is designed to give borrowers the flexibility to meet their student loan obligations without causing undue financial hardship. Each year, your monthly payment will be based on your annual Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), as reported on your federal
tax return, and the total amount of your Direct Loans. Your monthly payment will not exceed 20 per-cent of your discretionary income. "Discretionary income" equals your AGI minus the poverty level for your family size, as determined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
To participate in the Income Contingent Repayment Plan, you must authorize the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to inform the U.S. Department of Education (ED) of the amount of your in-come. This information will be used to calculate your repayment amount, which will be adjusted annually to reflect changes in your AGI. If you are in your first year of repayment, you will be required to submit alternative documentation of your current income (that is, other than IRS-reported AGI) to ED. You will probably be required to submit alternative documentation in your second year of repayment also. Such documentation includes pay stubs, canceled checks, or, if these are unavailable, a signed statement explaining your income sources. The reason for this requirement is that if you filed a tax return for years that included time you were in school (and probably not working full time), the AGI information the Department would receive from the IRS would be unlikely to reflect your current income.
The maximum repayment period is 25 years. If you make payments under the Standard plan or the 12-year Extended plan and then switch to Income Contingent Repayment, those earlier payment periods are counted toward your 25-year repayment period. (Periods of payment under the Graduated Repayment Plan or an alternative repayment plan will not be counted toward your 25-year repayment period.) If you haven't fully repaid your loans after 25 years under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan, the unpaid portion will be discharged (canceled). However, under current law, you will have to pay taxes on the amount that is discharged.
Under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan, you pay the lesser of
- the yearly amount you would pay if you repaid your
loan in 12 years multiplied by an income percentage
factor that varies with your annual income and also
varies according to whether you are a single, married,
or head of household borrower; or
- 20 percent of your discretionary income (as
However, if your calculated monthly payment amount is greater than zero but less than $5.00, you will be required to make a $5.00 monthly payment. If your income is less than or equal to the poverty level for your family size, your payment will be $0.
Example F: Income Contingent Repayment Plan
This example shows a borrower with a family size of one and a $15,000 AGI. The borrower is repaying $15,000 in Direct Subsidized Loans at 8.25 percent interest under the ICR Plan. A 5 percent annual income growth is assumed. Your income may grow at a different rate, which would affect the amount of your monthly payment and total payment.
Loan Amount Adjusted Beginning Years in Total Amount
Gross Monthly Repayment Repaid
$15,000 $15,000 $105 25 $35,560*
*$10,377 in principal and $25,183 in interest
If your payments are not large enough to cover the interest that is accumulating on your loans, the unpaid interest will be capitalized once each year until it reaches a maximum of 10 percent of the amount you owed when your loans entered repayment. After you reach this maximum, interest will continue to accrue and be payable, but it will not be capitalized. The additional interest will increase the amount you owe and may extend your repayment period. (This limit on capitalization does not apply to periods of deferment and forbearance.)
The total AGI of both you and your spouse (if you have one) is used to calculate your repayment amount. You will be required to provide your spouse's written consent to disclosure of tax return information. Further, if you submit alternative documentation of income you will also be required to submit alternative documentation of income from your spouse.
If you are married and your spouse has a Direct Loan, you can repay your loans jointly. Your payment will be based on your joint debt and your joint income. While you are not required to repay your loans jointly, it is important to remember that if only one of you chooses to repay under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan, the Department will use the AGI (or alternative documentation of income) of you and your spouse to determine the monthly repayment.
Tom and Alices Joint AGI $25,000
Tom and Alices Joint Debt $15,000
Monthly Payment Amount $131
Number of Years in Repayment 16
Total Repayment $27,083
(Principal = $15,000 Interest = $12,083)
Example G shows sample repayment amounts for married borrowers repaying jointly under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan at 8.25 percent interest.
The Income Contingent Repayment Plan described above was effective July 1, 1996. This new formula for calculating a borrower's monthly payments will apply to borrowers who select the Income Contingent Repayment Plan when they enter repayment and to borrowers in other repayment plans who switch into the Income Contingent Repayment Plan on or after July 1, 1996.
Note: Borrowers who are already in repayment under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan prior to July 1, 1996 will continue to make payments under the "old" Income Contingent Repayment plan, although they will be given the option of converting to the new plan.
Comparing Repayment Plans
Examples of monthly payment amounts are shown in the chart on page 11). It shows the estimated beginning payment and the total amount repaid for various debt levels under the four repayment plans. To use the chart, find the amount you owe in the left-hand column labeled "Initial Debt When Loan Enters Repayment." (If the amount you owe is not shown, choose an amount that is close.) Next, compare what your monthly payment amount would be under each of the plans, which are shown across the top row of the chart. For the Income Contingent Repayment Plan, select the income closest to your anticipated income to find the amount you would begin paying. Also note that under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan, due to different income percentage factors, your payment will vary according to whether you are a single, married, or head of household borrower.
When do I select a repayment plan?
You and your school must notify the Direct Loan Servicing Center when you graduate, withdraw, or drop below half-time enrollment. At that time, the Servicing Center will send you information about the repayment plans and ask you to select a plan. If you do not choose a plan after you receive information about your choices, the Servicing Center will select the Standard Repayment Plan for you. You can begin gathering the information you need to make this decision about repayment now. You will find the budgeting process explained in this guide helpful in making your decision (see pages 24-28).
If you have questions about which plan might be right for you, the Servicing Center can help.
[[This file contains the "Examples of Debt Levels, Beginning Monthly Payments, and Total Amounts Repaid for All Direct Loan Repayments Plans" in Portable Document Format (PDF). It can be viewed with version 3.0 or greater of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software.]]
Can I switch repayment plans?
You can change plans at any time as long as the maximum repayment period under your new plan is longer than the amount of time your loans have already been in repayment. (There is a restriction on switching plans if you are repaying a defaulted loan under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan. Check with the Servicing Center.)
Can I combine my loans to make repayment easier?
Yes, if you have other federal student loans in addition to your Direct Loans, you may want to consider a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan to simplify repayment. Consolidation means you need to make only one monthly payment to cover all your loans (including non-Direct federal student loans). You will also get the benefits of Direct Loan consolidation, such as greater repayment flexibility.
You may consolidate your loans while you are enrolled at least half-time at a school that participates in the Direct Loan Program, during your grace period, or after you begin repayment. (Only Federal Family Education Loans [FFEL] and Direct Loans may be consolidated while a borrower is in school).
Additionally, if at least one of the loans that you consolidate is in an in-school period at the time you apply, then you will receive a grace period on your Direct Consolidation Loan. This means that after you graduate, or reduce your enrollment to less than half-time, you will not have to make payments on your loan for six months.
Note: Unless your Direct Consolidation Loan includes at least one Direct Loan or FFEL Program loan in an in-school period or you are eligible for a deferment, the first payment on your Direct Consolidation Loan will be due within 60 days of the first disbursement of your loan.
A married couple may jointly consolidate their loans. If they do, both parties will be responsible for repaying the total consolidation loan, even if they should become separated or divorced. Also, if one spouse dies, the other is responsible for the entire payment. Therefore, you should carefully consider a decision to jointly consolidate your loans with those of your spouse.
There are three categories of consolidation loans:
- Federal Direct Subsidized Consolidation Loans
- Federal Direct Unsubsidized Consolidation Loans
- Federal Direct PLUS Consolidation Loans
Federal Direct Subsidized Consolidation Loans
The following loans can be combined into one Direct Subsidized Consolidation Loan:
- any Direct Subsidized Loans
- subsidized Federal Stafford Loans
- Guaranteed Student Loans (GSLs)
- Federal Insured Student Loans (FISLs)
- Federal Perkins Loans
- National Direct Student Loans
- National Defense Student Loans
- subsidized Federal Consolidation Loans
- other Direct Subsidized Consolidation Loans
Federal Direct Unsubsidized Consolidation Loans
The following loans can be combined into one Direct Unsubsidized Consolidation Loan:
- any Direct Unsubsidized Loans
- Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
- Federal Supplemental Loans for Students
- Auxiliary Loans to Assist Students (ALAS)
- Health Professions Student Loans (HPSLs)
- Health Education Assistance Loans (HEALs)
- Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS)
- Nursing Student Loans (NSL)
- Federal Consolidation Loans
- other Direct Unsubsidized Consolidation
In short, most subsidized federal student loans can be consolidated into a Direct Subsidized Consolidation Loan, and unsubsidized federal student loans can be consolidated into a Direct Unsubsidized Consolidation Loan. Direct PLUS Loans and Federal PLUS Loans (both of which are made to parents), as well as other Direct PLUS Consolidation Loans, can be combined into one Direct PLUS Consolidation Loan. Even if
you have loans from more than one category, you still have only one Direct Consolidation Loan and make just one monthly payment.
All four repayment plans are available to borrowers of Direct Subsidized Consolidation Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Consolidation Loans. Direct PLUS Consolidation Loan borrowers (parents) may not choose the Income Contingent Repayment Plan.
Borrowers who have a Direct PLUS Consolidation Loan as well as a Direct Subsidized Consolidation Loan and/or Direct Unsubsidized Consolidation Loan will have two repayment plans if they choose to repay the Direct Subsidized Consolidation Loan under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan.
If you do not select a repayment plan, your Direct Consolidation Loan will automatically be placed on the Standard Repayment Plan.
If you are in default on a federal student loan, you may consolidate if you agree to repay under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan. (This option does not apply to borrowers who are in default on PLUS loans or to in-school borrowers with defaulted loans). If you do not wish to repay under the Income Contingent Repayment Plan, you must make three consecutive monthly payments to your current loan holder under a satisfactory repayment arrangement before you can consolidate your loans. Your three monthly payments are not allowed to be more than what is reasonable and affordable, based on your total financial circumstances.
For more information about Direct Consolidation Loans, contact your financial aid office or call Ed's toll-free Consolidation number,
Can I pay off my loans early?
Yes, you may prepay all or part of the unpaid balance on any Direct Loans at any time, without an early-repayment penalty. If you have more than one Direct Loan, be sure to specify which loan you are prepaying. The Servicing Center will apply the prepayment first to any charges or collection costs, then to interest, and last to principal.
What if I have a problem repaying my loans?
If you think you might have a problem making a scheduled payment on your loans, contact the Servicing Center immediately. The Servicing Center will work with you to help you avoid the costs and adverse consequences of delinquency or default on your Direct Loans. (See page 20 for a discussion of default.) There are several options available for you to avoid default, such as changing repayment plans, deferment, or forbearance.
A deferment temporarily postpones payment on your loans. During deferment of Direct Subsidized Loans, principal payments are postponed, and interest is not charged. In the case of Direct Unsubsidized Loans, principal payments are postponed, but interest is charged during the deferment period. The interest may be paid monthly or it may be capitalized (see
Deferments may be available to you if you are:
- pursuing at least half-time study at an
- in a graduate fellowship program approved by
the U.S. Department of Education;
- in a rehabilitation training program, for
individuals with disabilities, approved by
the U.S. Department of Education;
- conscientiously seeking but unable to find
full-time employment (for up to three
- experiencing economic hardship (for up to
These deferments apply to all Direct Loans.
Other deferments may also be available to you. If, at the time you obtain a Direct Loan, you have an outstanding balance on a Federal Stafford Loan, Guaranteed Student Loan, Federal Insured Student Loan, Federal PLUS Loan, Federal SLS Loan, ALAS Loan, or Federal Consolidation Loan made before July 1, 1993, you can also defer your Direct Loan:
- while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, in
the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health
Service, or in the Peace Corps (for up to
- while serving as a full-time paid volunteer
for ACTION programs or an approved
tax-exempt organization (for up to three
- while you are temporarily totally disabled
according to the certification of a
qualified physician, or while you are unable
to work because you must care for a spouse
or other dependent who is temporarily
totally disabled (for up to three years);
- while engaged in an internship or residency
program (for up to two years);
- while serving in the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration Corps (for up to
- while teaching full-time in a public or
nonprofit private elementary or secondary
school in an area the U.S. Department of
Education has determined to be a teacher
shortage area (for up to three years);
- if you are a mother of a preschool-age child,
and you have entered or re-entered the work
force within the preceding year in a
full-time position at a salary not more than
$1 above the minimum wage (for up to one
- for parental leave for each period during
which you are pregnant, you are caring for
your newborn child, or you are caring for
your newly adopted child (for up to six
months). You must be unemployed, must not be
a student, and must apply within six months
after you leave school or drop below
To receive a deferment, you must apply for one through the Direct Loan Servicing Center. There is a deferment form to fill out to request each type of deferment; the Servicing Center will send you the one that is appropriate for your situation.
Forbearance is a temporary postponement or reduction of loan payments for a limited and specified period or an extension of the time you have to make your loan repayments. You may receive forbearance if you request it and provide documentation to support the request. You may qualify for forbearance if you are:
- unable to make loan payments (due to poor
health or other acceptable reasons) and
you do not meet a deferment condition;
- serving in a medical or dental internship
- serving in a position under the National
and Community Service Trust Act of 1993; or
- obligated to make payments on federal
student loans that are equal to or greater
than 20 percent of your total monthly gross
income (for up to three years).
In a period of forbearance, interest will be charged and, unless it is paid, will be added to the principal balance of your loans (see the description of capitalized interest on page 4). This will increase the amount you owe.
Can my Direct Loan debt ever be discharged (canceled)?
A discharge (cancellation) releases you from all obligation to repay your Direct Loans. You can receive a discharge only if:
- you are totally and permanently disabled
(this cannot be for a condition that existed
before you applied for Direct Loans, unless
a doctor certifies that the condition
substantially deteriorated after the loans
- you cannot complete a course of study
because your school closed (under certain
circumstances) or your school falsely
certified your eligibility;
- your school signed your name on the loan
application or promissory note without
- you filed for bankruptcy (in certain
- you die.
In addition, some loans may not have to be repaid if you claim, as a defense against repayment, that the school did something wrong or failed to do something it should have done. You may make such a claim as a defense against repayment only if what the school did or did not do could result in legal action being taken against the school under state law.
You could raise your defense during the following proceedings:
- tax refund offset
- wage garnishment
- salary offset for federal employees
- credit bureau reporting
You may be able to raise your defense in other proceedings as well.
You may not avoid repaying your loans because you:
- did not complete the program of study at
the school (for reasons other than school
closure or false certification of loan
- did not like the school or the program of
- did not obtain employment after completing
the program of study.
Can I get any help paying back my loans?
As a Direct Loan borrower, you are the one who is responsible for making sure your loans are repaid. However, you may qualify for repayment assistance from a state or local agency, your employer, private organizations, the military, or other federal agencies.
Many state and local education agencies provide student loan repayment assistance to borrowers employed in certain fields in their state or local jurisdiction. These fields often include teaching, medicine, and social services.
If you are a member of any professional, civic, or religious organizations, check with them to find out whether loan repayment assistance is available. You might also want to check with your employer's benefits department to find out whether your employer has a repayment assistance program.
The federal government's Corporation for National and Community Service may also assist you in repaying your Direct Loans in exchange for you performing specific types of community service. For information on this program, contact Americorps. The toll-free telephone number is 1-800-942-2677.
What should I do about my loans if I transfer to another school?
If you enroll in your new school at least half-time before your grace period ends, then your Direct Loans can be put back into
an in-school status, and repayment will be delayed until six months after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. Check with the Servicing Center to make sure your loans will be in an in-school status.
If you plan to transfer, and you will be enrolled at least half-time, contact the Direct Loan Servicing Center to request an in-school deferment. (You are not eligible for this deferment if you are enrolled less than half-time.) When you receive the deferment form, complete the borrower's section and submit the form to your current school. The school will complete the form and return it to the Servicing Center. The Servicing Center will send you an acknowledgment that the form was received and that your loans are still in an in-school status.
If you have Direct Subsidized Loans, interest will not be charged while your loans are in an in-school status, and you will not owe any payments. If you have Direct Unsubsidized Loans, interest will accumulate while you are in school (you can pay the interest or have it capitalized), but you will not be required to make payments on the principal amount of your loans. (See page 4 for a discussion of capitalized interest.)
Remember that if you have other federal education loans you should also keep the holders of those loans informed of your in-school status to request an in-school deferment.
What happens if I go back to school after my grace period has ended?
If you return to school at least half-time after your six-month grace period has ended and your Direct Loans have entered repayment, you may qualify for a deferment. (See pages 15 and 16 for a discussion of deferment.)
You will need to contact the Servicing Center about your plans. The Servicing Center will send you the form the school needs to use to confirm your enrollment. After the school files the deferment form for you, the specific deferment benefits you receive will depend on the types of Direct Loans you have.
- If you have Direct Subsidized Loans, your
payments will be deferred, and no interest
will be charged on your loans.
- If you have Direct Unsubsidized Loans,
your principal payments will be deferred,
but interest will continue to accumulate.
You may pay the interest or allow it to be
capitalized (see page 4).
Your repayment period begins the day after your grace period ends. Your first payment will be due within 60 days after your repayment period begins. Also remember to contact the holders of your other federal education loans to find out whether or not you qualify for a deferment.
Consequences of Default
What is default?
Default occurs when a Direct Loan borrower becomes 180 days delinquent in making a payment on his or her loans.
How will I know if I am in danger of defaulting?
If you miss a payment, the Servicing Center will send you a letter reminding you that your payment is late. If your account remains delinquent, the Servicing Center is required to send you warning notices regularly to remind you about your obligation to repay your loans and the consequences of default. The Servicing Center can also add late fees if your payments are late.
How does defaulting affect me?
If you fail to make loan payments on time or if you default on your loans, the consequences are serious:
- At the option of the Department of
Education, the entire unpaid balance and
accrued interest on your loan would be
immediately due and payable.
- You will lose your deferment options.
- You will not be eligible for further federal
student financial aid.
- Your account may be turned over to a
- Your account will be reported as delinquent
to credit bureaus, which can damage your
- The federal government can take your federal
- Your total debt may be increased by late
fees, additional interest, court costs,
collection fees, attorney's fees, and other
- Your employer, at the request of the federal
government, can withhold (garnish) part of
your wages and give them to the federal
- The federal government can take legal action
Do not let this happen to you!
Remember, if you are having trouble making your payments, call the Direct Loan Servicing Center. The Servicing Center will work with you to help you avoid the serious consequences of default.
Managing Your Direct Loan Records
Even though the Servicing Center keeps records of all your Direct Loan transactions, it is important that you also keep accurate records.
As you repay your loans, items such as canceled checks and letters you receive from your school or the Servicing Center might seem like paperwork cluttering up your life, but they can be important to you. Do not throw them out!
You should always keep your personal records up to date to be a successful loan manager. You might need these records if you ever have to prove to a potential lender that you have managed your loans responsiblyfor example, if you want to borrow to buy a car or even just to apply for a credit card.
You should keep
- all borrower copies of loan documents
given to you by your school and the
Servicing Center, such as promissory notes;
- bank account statements or copies of money
orders you used to make payments on your
- all loan correspondence you receive from
- all correspondence you receive from the
Servicing Center; and
- all entrance and exit counseling materials
given to you by your school and the
Each time one of your loans is paid off, the Servicing Center will send you a letter confirming that the loan is paid in full. These letters are important items to keep, too.
The following questions are designed to help you review what you have learned about Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Answers to some of these questions can be found in your promissory note and in the borrower's rights and responsibilities summary statement in this Borrowers Guide. Write your answers below or on a separate piece of paper, then check your answers with the key at the foot of the page.
1. What is the interest rate on my Direct
2. What are the four repayment plans?
3. Name three reasons that loan deferments
would be granted.
4. The grace period for my loan(s) is ___
5. When does my grace period begin?
6. As a Direct Loan borrower, if I transfer to
another school, I should do the following:
7. When will I be charged interest on a Direct
8. When will I begin repaying my Direct
9. Name three things that can happen if a
10. What is capitalized interest?
11. When can I consolidate my loans?
1 . The interest rate will never exceed 8.25
percent, but the actual percentage rate
may change each year on July 1 .
2. The four repayment plans are Standard,
Extended, Graduated, and Income Contingent.
3. See the Deferment section of this brochure.
5. The day after I graduate or drop below
half-time enrollment status.
6. Contact the Direct Loan Servicing Center
to request a loan deferment form and apply
for a deferment.
7. Interest is charged on a Direct Unsubsidized
Loan throughout the life of the loanwhile
the borrower is in school, from the day of
disbursement during the six-month grace
period, and during periods of deferment and
8. The repayment period begins the day after my
grace period ends. My first payment will be
due within 60 days after the grace period
9. See the Consequences of Default section of
10. Accumulated interest that is added to the
principal amount of a loan.
11. While I am in school, during my grace
period, and once I begin repayment.
Important Things You Should Find Out From Your School
Research these questions at your school and write the answers in the spaces provided.
- What is my average monthly payment amount
based on how much I owe?
- How do I obtain a financial aid transcript
from my current school?
- How do I obtain an academic transcript from
my current school?
- What address and telephone number should I
use if I need to contact my school about my
- If I graduate or withdraw, do I owe my
current school any money?
- What services can my school's career
planning or placement office provide?
- Does my school's alumni association have a
chapter where I'm going to live that will
help me stay in touch with my school?
Budgeting Your Money
One significant aspect of successfully managing your money after leaving school is repaying your student loans. In the process, you will be establishing a good credit rating, which is a key to your future financial independence.
What is budgeting?
Budgeting is the process of planning for the most effective use of your financial resources by defining your expected monthly expenses (such as rent, groceries, telephone, and student loan payments) and the resources you expect to have available (such as your earnings) to pay those expenses.
How do I set up my budget?
The worksheet on page 28 will help you create a budget by itemizing your expected expenses as well as your expected income and other resources to meet those expenses. The three main steps in creating an out-of-school budget are:
1. Calculate your total expected income.
2. Calculate your total expected expenses.
3. Determine the balance.
You will want to create your budget for a fixed period of time and plan to review it regularly. In general, a one-year budget, broken down on a month-by-month basis, will create an accurate picture of your economic situation. The information that follows will help you complete the worksheet.
1. Calculate your total expected income.
Begin by gathering your pay stubs and bank statements. Most of your income will probably come from salary. To calculate your gross monthly salary, divide your gross annual salary by 12. Remember, this result is your gross monthly salary, before deductions.
To figure out how much you will have available to pay your bills and living expenses each month, you must compute your net monthly salary. This is the amount you have after state and federal taxes, Social Security and Medicare (FICA taxes), and any other withholdings are deducted. Your pay stubs will give you accurate information if you remain in your current job. Or you can estimate that 25 to 30 percent of your salary will be withheld for taxes and FICA. So, to estimate your net monthly salary, multiply your gross monthly salary by .75 or by .70.
You then add any other income to your salary to determine your total net monthly income. Other income sources might be a second job, help from parents or family, interest income, or non-taxable income.
2. Calculate your total expected expenses.
To determine your expenses, you will need your checkbook. You will also need to collect basic information, such as copies of your bills. If you will be living in the same area as you have been while you were in school, you already have much of the information you need to figure many of your living expenses. But, if you will be moving, you will need to do research to estimate your total monthly expenses. The worksheet will provide you with a good list of expenses to plan for and to find out about. When you look for a place to live, ask the manager of the property to provide you with information about utilities and other costs typically incurred by people living there.
As you calculate your expenses for the worksheet, try to identify them as "fixed" or "variable." Fixed expenses are those that occur routinely each month and are usually for the same amount. Examples of fixed items are your rent, car payment, and consumer debt payments. Fixed expenses are unlikely to change. You can control variable expenses such as utility bills, groceries, and entertainment. Thinking about your expenses in this way will help you identify the expenses you can change if you want to or need to.
Remember that not all your expenses--fixed or variable--will occur every month. For example, car insurance premiums are often paid only twice a year. But if you take the annual amount and divide it by 12 months, you can account for the expense in your budget as a "savings" item each month so you will be prepared to pay the bill when it arrives.
When using the worksheet on page 28, remember that the expenses and resources you are comparing should be for the same period of time.
Housing: If you lived on campus or with your parents while you were in school, and if you plan to live on your own or with room-mates after graduation, you can estimate the cost of housing in the area where you plan to live by calling various rental properties, adding up the prices, and computing an average. You can also review listings in the local newspaper. You should expect to spend 25 to 30 percent of your monthly net income on housing.
Utilities: You will also need to budget for utilities, such as gas and electricity, if they are not already included in your rent. As already suggested, the managers of properties you are interested in should be able to tell you the cost of these items, and the local utility companies might also be willing to give you information about specific properties. Do not forget the costs of a telephone. If you will not be living near your family, long-distance telephone calls may be a significant budget item. Budget 2 to 10 percent of your net income for utilities.
Transportation: This includes routine travel, such as commuting to work, but you may also need to budget for pleasure or other long-distance travel. Transportation could include bus or train fare, or maintenance on your car and the cost of gas. Multiply the number of miles you expect to drive each month by 30¢ for a reasonable estimate of the monthly cost of gas and maintenance. You may also need to allow for parking fees. In general you can expect to spend 2 to 5 percent of your net income on
Food and Personal: Personal items and food costs include clothing, groceries, entertainment, dining out, dry cleaning, and haircuts. If you keep a day-by-day record of your expenses for a month or so, you will have a good idea of how much you spend on these items. You can estimate that you will spend 10 to 15 percent of your net income for food and 2 to 10 percent for personal expenses, for a total of 12 to 25 percent of your net income.
Debt Obligations: To avoid excessive debt expense, you should try to spend no more than 5 to 15 percent of your net income for monthly payments on student loans and consumer debts, including credit cards and car payments. If you are using more than 15 percent of your monthly net income for these payments, you may need to make some budget adjustments.
Insurance: Your health, life, auto. and renter's/home owner's insurance payments are usually fixed amounts, but they might not be paid on a monthly basis. You should budget 2 to 5 percent of your monthly net income for these expenses. Some companies that provide health and life insurance will, with your authorization, automatically deduct premiums from your paycheck or your bank account.
Health Care: Setting aside 5 percent of your monthly net income for health-care expenses will give you a resource for costs your insurance may not pay. Even though you probably will not have health-care costs every month, you should set this money aside so that you will be prepared when these expenses arise.
Savings: It is very important to build up your savings. Plan to put 5 to 10 percent of your net earnings into a savings account. This money can be set aside for unexpected expenses, emergencies, or vacations. Your employer may offer a pre-tax savings plan, often called a 401(k) account, a 403(b) account, or "annuity." This type of plan allows you to save for your future and reduces the amount of income tax you pay. Your employer's benefits coordinator can advise you on these pre-tax savings plans.
Miscellaneous: Because you cannot anticipate every monthly expense, you should set aside 1 to 2 percent of your monthly net income for miscellaneous expenses. These could include out-of-pocket expenses, convenience items, magazines, newspapers, and other small purchases.
3. Determine the balance.
This amount represents the difference between your available resources and your expenses. Calculating the balance will give you a useful figure on which to base your selection of a repayment plan for your Direct Loan. The balance is determined by subtracting your expenses from your net income.
If your balance is negative--in other words, if your expenses are greater than your income--you need to reduce your expenses or increase your income. Adjusting your expenses or income will help you find a way to make sure there is room in your budget for your student loan payment. The Direct Loan Servicing Center can help you identify the repayment plan that will require the lowest monthly payment amount, and you can use this plan until your economic situation improves.
Under the Direct Loan Program, you can change your repayment plan as your financial situation changes. This helps you meet your payment obligations and allows you to reduce the total cost of your loans by making larger payments when you can afford them.
If your total resources are greater than your total expenses--in other words, if the balance is a positive dollar amount--you might select a loan repayment option with a higher monthly payment. In this way, your loans will be paid off sooner reducing their overall cost.
[[This file contains the "Budget Planning Worksheet" in Portable Document Format (PDF). It can be viewed with version 3.0 or greater of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software.]]
Common Direct Loan Terms
alternative repayment A repayment plan the Servicing Center provides to a borrower who adequately demonstrates that the terms and conditions of the four Direct Loan repayment plans do not accommodate the borrowers exceptional circumstances.
borrower Person responsible for repaying a loan who has signed and agreed to the terms in the promissory note.
capitalizing interest Adding accumulated interest to the loan principal rather than having the borrower make monthly interest payments. Capitalizing interest increases the principal amount of the loan and, therefore, the total cost of the loan.
collection costs Costs the government incurs when collecting a delinquent or defaulted loan. These costs are charged to the borrower.
default Failure to repay a loan in accordance with the terms of the promissory note.
deferment The temporary postponement of loan payments.
delinquency Incidents of late or missed loan payments, as specified in the terms of the promissory note and the selected repayment plan.
Direct Consolidation Loan One or more federal education loans combined into a single loan under the Direct Loan Program. Only one monthly payment is made to the U.S. Department of Education.
Direct Loan Servicing Center The place where Direct Loan borrowers send their loan payments. The Servicing
Center can answer questions you might have about your Direct Loan.
discharge (cancellation) The release of borrowers from their obligations to repay their Direct Loans. Borrowers must meet certain requirements to be eligible for discharges.
exit counseling A group or individual session during which Direct Loan borrowers who are leaving school or dropping below half-time enrollment receive important information about their repayment obligations and update information about themselves.
Extended Repayment Plan A plan that requires the borrower to pay at least $50 a month and allows up to 30 years to repay, depending on the amount borrowed.
Federal Direct Loan Program The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, also referred to as Direct Loan Program, is a federal program that provides loans to student and parent borrowers directly through the U. S. Department of Education. The loans are Federal Direct Stafford/Ford Loans, Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford/Ford Loans, Federal Direct PLUS Loans, and Federal Direct Consolidation Loans.
Federal Direct Stafford/Ford Loan Also referred to as "Direct Subsidized Loan." A federally financed and subsidized student loan made on the basis of the students financial need and other specific eligibility requirements. The federal government does not charge interest on these loans while borrowers are enrolled at least half-time, during the six-month grace period, or during authorized periods of deferment.
Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford/Ford Loan Also referred to as "Direct Unsubsidized Loan." A federally financed student loan made to students meeting eligibility requirements. Students need not demonstrate financial need. Interest is charged throughout the life of the loan. The borrower may choose to pay the interest charged on the loan or allow the interest to be capitalized (added to the loan principal) when the loan enters repayment.
forbearance An arrangement to postpone or reduce a borrowers monthly payment amount for a limited and specified period, or to extend the repayment period. The borrower is charged interest during forbearance.
grace period A six-month period before the first payment must be made on a Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loan. The grace period starts the day after a borrower ceases to be enrolled at least half-time. During the grace period on a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, accumulating interest must be paid or it will be capitalized.
Graduated Repayment Plan A plan that allows monthly payment amounts to start out at one level and then increase every two years during the repayment period. Borrowers have up to 30 years to repay, depending on the amount they borrowed. The minimum payment must cover interest that accumulates monthly and must be at least half of the payment that would be required under the Standard Repayment Plan. The maximum amount may not be more than 1-1/2 times the payment that would be required under the Standard Repayment Plan.
Income Contingent Repayment Plan A plan that allows the monthly payment amount to vary with the borrowers income. A borrower has up to 25 years to repay.
interest A loan expense charged by the U.S. Department of Education and paid by the borrower for the use of borrowed money. The expense is calculated as a percentage of the principal amount (loan amount) borrowed.
loan Money borrowed that must be repaid.
loan principal The total sum of money borrowed.
postponement (loan) See deferment and forbearance.
prepayment Any amount paid on a loan before it is required to be paid under the terms of the promissory note. There is never a penalty for prepaying principal or interest on Direct Loans.
promissory note A legally binding contract between the
U. S. Department of Education and a borrower. The promissory note contains the terms and conditions of the loan, including how and when the loan must be repaid.
repayment schedule A statement provided by the Direct Loan Servicing Center to the borrower that lists the amount borrowed, the amount of monthly payments, and the date payments are due.
Standard Repayment Plan A plan that requires a borrower to pay at least $50 a month and allows up to 10 years to repay.
[[This file contains the "Borrower Information" in Portable Document Format (PDF). It can be viewed with version 3.0 or greater of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software.]]
[[This file contains the "Rights and Responsibilities Summary Checklist" in Portable Document Format (PDF). It can be viewed with version 3.0 or greater of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software.]]
[This file contains the "Rights and Responsibilities
Summary Checklist" in Portable Document Format (PDF). It can be viewed
with version 3.0 or greater of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software.]]
Rights and Responsibilities Summary Checklist
I understand that I have a right to the following (check off each box
as you read)
- written information on my loan obligations and
information on my rights and responsibilities as a
- a grace period and an explanation of what this means
- a disclosure statement, received before I begin to
repay my loan, that includes information about interest
rates, fees, the balance I owe, and the number of
- deferment of repayment for certain defined periods, if
I qualify and if I request it
- forbearance, if I qualify and if I request it
- prepayment of my loan in whole or in part any time
without an early-repayment penalty
- a copy of my promissory note either before or at the
time my loan is disbursed
- documentation that my loan(s) are paid in full
I understand I am responsible for
- attending exit counseling before I leave school or drop
below half-time enrollment
- repaying my loan even if I do not complete my academic
program (under certain circumstances), I am
dissatisfied with the education I received, or I am
unable to find employment after I graduate
- notifying my school and the Direct Loan Servicing
Center if I
- move/change my address
- change my name
- withdraw from school or drop below half-time
- transfer to another school
- fail to enroll or reenroll in school for the period
for which the loan was intended
- change my expected date of graduation
- making monthly payments on my loan(s) after I leave
school, unless I have a deferment or a forbearance
- notifying the U.S. Department of Educations Direct
Loan Servicing Center of anything that might alter my
eligibility for an existing deferment