How to Defer Student Loans When You're Going Back to School

Katie Taylor Updated on February 27, 2019

Going back to school can be a fantastic career booster. In some roles, having a masters degree increases your earning potential by tens of thousands. And certain careers—like being a lawyer or a doctor—simply aren't possible without additional higher education. 

But managing a student debt load while you're in a graduate program can feel a little like running a marathon with a boulder strapped to your ankle. The good news is that deferring your loans is an option for most students, but it won't be the best choice for everyone. 

 

law school books-605067-edited

What are your options if you're going back to school? 

Going back to school while you still have student loans doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be making massive payments each month and living off ramen noodles. There are ways to reduce your monthly payments while you're earning less.

1. Deferment

Deferment is a grace period during which your lender allows you to stop paying on your loans for a period of time. If you have federal student loans, your lender will generally place those loans into deferment automatically once you enroll at least half-time in an eligible college or career school. 

And that deferment will continue for as long as you're enrolled at least half-time. Spending seven years doing a PhD? You have the option to defer for seven years. 

2. Refinancing

Refinancing is when you take out a new loan with a new lender for a lower interest rate than the one you currently have. The new lender purchases your old loans and then issues you a new loan at an interest rate that reflects your financial fitness. 

See: Everything You Need to Know About Student Loan Refinancing

3. Changing your payment plan

If you're on a standard 10-year repayment plan for federal student loans, you may be able to switch to an extended repayment plan or an income-driven repayment plan. You'll end up paying more interest over the life of the loan, but you'll reduce your monthly payments in the short-term.

4. Forbearance

You may have also heard of a forbearance and wondered whether you should try for that instead of a deferment . While you may meet the financial hardship qualification required for a forbearance while you're in school, borrowers with subsidized loans will benefit from the automatic deferment because of the interest payments included.

During a forbearance, borrowers accrue interest, and it remains unpaid. 

Pros and cons of deferment

Since deferment often happens automatically, it's the road that many students take to lessen the burden of their loans while they're back in school. As with every choice you make about your student loans, there are upsides and downsides to taking advantage of deferring your student loans.

Pros

1. You get a break from paying your loans. Of course, you would love not to have those loan payments hanging over you, especially when you're making little to no money and spending long hours with your textbooks. Deferring your loans will give you that break so you can focus on getting your degree. 

2. The Federal Government may pay the accrued interest. If you have a subsidized federal loan or a Perkins loan, the U.S. Department of Education will pay any interest you accrue during the period your deferment. So when you finish your degree, you won't have increased the balance on your old loans. 

3. You'll retain federal benefits. If you're relying on the possibility of an income-driven repayment plan or federal loan forgiveness through a program like Public Service Loan Forgiveness, deferring your student loans keeps all those federal benefits as options. 

Cons

1. You may rack up interest. If you have unsubsidized federal loans, you won't be so lucky. Unsubsidized loans accrue interest while you're not paying, and it will be capitalized once you finish the grace period. That means you'll graduate with an increase in your student loan debt even if you didn't take out loans for this particular degree. 

2. You won't be making headway on paying down your loans. Yes, you won't have to pay on your loans while you're in school, but if, for instance, you are in a two-year program, you'll be adding two more years down the road when you'll have to keep making those loan payments. 

So is it bad to defer your loans? 

Not necessarily. For some borrowers, deferment is the only way that going back to school is possible, and going back to school is critical for their career success. But understanding that you may have to do a little financial correction at the end of a grace period is important before making a decision.

 Imagine Life Without a Student Loan Payment... Start Saving Now!

Choosing to defer? Here's how

If you have subsidized loans, and you simply can't afford to make payments while you're in school, then deferment may be a good option. 

Here's how you do it: 

Your lender may put your loans on automatic deferment once you enroll at least half-time in a program. But to be on the safe side—or if you haven't received a notice that your loans are in deferment, contact your educational institution and let them know that you want your loans to be deferred while you're in school.

They will send proof of your enrollment to your lender so that your loans will be deferred. 

If deferring your student loans isn't right for you, that's okay. It doesn't mean you'll be buried under student loan payments you can't make. Refinancing your student loans is a simple option to lower your monthly payment and the amount you'll pay over the life of the loan without racking up unpaid interest. 

 

Looking To Conquer Your Student Loan Debt?

Yes! Send Me The Savings Blueprint

Published in: Student Loan Debt, Refinance

About the Author
Katie Taylor

Katie Taylor is a content writer and editor with expertise in law and policy, finance, and entrepreneurship. She writes for startups and small businesses about everything from bookkeeping to telecom. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post and SheKnows.com. She is continuing to pay off law school loans and lives in Richmond, Vermont with her wife, son, and an unruly dog. Read more by Katie Taylor

Save Today With These Leading Lenders

#1 - Comet Recommended View More Details

Works with 275+ not-for-profit community lenders for higher approval chances

  • APR: 2.67% - 8.92%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Refinance up to $300K
View More Details
Visit LendKey View Loan Disclosure

LendKey operates student loan programs for over 275 not-for-profit and community lenders across the country. By partnering with these lenders, LendKey is able to give consumers direct access to the best rates available from the most borrower friendly institutions. As the servicer of all loans obtained through its platform, you can rest easy knowing your personal information will be safe and that the best customer service team will be ready to answer your questions from application until your final payment.

LendKey Student Loan Refinance review

  • Lightning fast rate check - 2-minute rate check with no impact on your credit score
  • More lenders, more options - see the best offers from over 275 not-for-profit and community lenders for higher approval chances
  • Life of loan relationship - With LendKey, your personal information will never be sent or passed on to third parties. Their customer service team is with you from the moment you land on their website until you've completely repaid your loan.
  • Unmatched benefits- Community lenders put people over profits and offer unique benefits like cosigner release after 12 on-time payments, interest only repayment options to keep monthly payments low, the largest unemployment protection period in the market, and more.

Get a personalized quote from LendKey now.

#2 View More Details

Offers unemployment protection and career/coaching/networking

  • APR: 2.560% - 8.024%
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Refinance up to 100% of student debt
View More Details
Visit SoFi View Loan Disclosure

SoFi, which stands for “Social Finance,” was created by a group of Stanford business students who found themselves with a mountain of debt after graduation. They set out to change the student loan industry and help borrowers like themselves to get lower interest rates. SoFi has some of the lowest interest rates and, unlike the other lenders we reviewed, it has no maximum amount you can finance. However, Nevada residents can’t currently refinance with SoFi. Minimum loan balances are higher in Arizona, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania due to state laws. Additional state restrictions may apply.

SoFi Student Loan Refinancing Review

  • Low interest rates - For well-qualified borrowers, SoFi offers some of the lowest rates we have found.
  • Strong customer service - It has more than 350 customer service reps available to help applicants through process.
  • Career coaching and networking - Perks include career services representatives who can help you find a job or negotiate a higher salary. SoFi also hosts networking events, happy hours and educational lectures on topics like buying a home in major cities around the country.
  • Unemployment protection - Borrowers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own may apply for Unemployment Protection. If approved, SoFi will suspend their monthly SoFi loan payments and provide job placement assistance during the forbearance period. These benefits are offered in three month increments, and are capped at 12 months, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. Note that interest will still accrue while loans are in forbearance.

Find out what interest rate SoFi can offer you here.

#3 View More Details

For every loan they fund, they contribute to the education of a child in need

  • APR: 2.48% - 6.25%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Refinance up to $500K
View More Details
Visit CommonBond View Loan Disclosure

CommonBond was founded in 2011 by three MBA graduates from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who wanted to help their peers escape from high-interest student loan debt. Its original focus was on grad students, but it has since expanded to cover undergrads as well.

Of all the companies we reviewed, CommonBond has some of the best customer service. The company prides itself on being easy to reach by email, phone, or live chat. It offers networking events, expert panels, insider newsletters, and even has a program help borrowers who lose their jobs to find new ones. CommonBond also makes you feel good about choosing to refinance with them by donating money to an education nonprofit for each loan they write.

CommonBond Student Loan Refinance review

  • Unemployment protections - If you lose your job or decide to go back to school, you can delay your payments for up to 24 months.
  • Social promise - For every loan they fund, they also contribute to the education of a child in need.
  • Hybrid loan option - Offerings include a 10-year hybrid loan with fixed interest for the first five years, and variable interest for the final five.
  • Referral bonus - For every friend you refer who refinances their loans with CommonBond, you’ll earn a $200 cash bonus.
  • Qualification - Borrowers must have graduated at least 2 years prior if they want to apply without a co-signer. And borrowers in 6 states – Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, and Vermont – cannot currently refinance through CommonBond.

Get a personalized review of your refinancing options with CommonBond today.

#4 View More Details

Earnest empowers people with the financial captial they need to live better lives.

  • APR: 2.55% - 7.89%
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Refinance up to $500K
View More Details
Visit Earnest View Loan Disclosure

Using technology, data, and design to build affordable products, Earnest's lending products are built for a new generation seeking to reach life's milestones. The company understands every applicant's unique financial story to offer the lowest possible rates and radically flexible loan options for living life.

  • Commitment-free 2 minute rate check
  • Client Happiness can be reached via in app messaging, email, and phone 
  • No fees for origination, prepayment, or loan disbursement
  • Flexible terms let you pick your exact monthly payment or switch between fixed and variable rates
  • Skip a payment and make it up later
  • Online dashboard is designed to make it easy to apply for and manage your loan

Click here to apply with Earnest and to see how much you can save.

#5 View More Details

Operates in all 50 states; 2nd largest student loan refinancing lender

  • APR: 3.23% - 7.02%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • No refinancing amount maximum
View More Details
Visit Laurel Road View Loan Disclosure

Laurel Road is a national online lender with customers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Many of our non-bank competitors are not able to lend in all 50 states.Laurel Road has grown to be the second largest player in the student loan refinancing space in large part because of our reputation as the go-to low rate provider.

Laurel Road Student Loan Refinance Review

  • National reach - Online lender that is available in all 50 US states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
  • No fees & the lowest rates in the space - Laurel Road is the most transparent about the rates they provide customers, and offer the lowest rates where it counts. Our customers will save more than $20,000 over the life of their loans on average. 
  • Customer service reputation - Laurel Road's customer service representatives are no rookies. With 19 years of experience on average, Laurel Road’s Customer Service team delivers an experience that is best in the industry. They work to build meaningful, life-long relationships with our valued customers to improve their overall financial wellness.
  • The stability & security of a bank - They are a division of Darien Rowayton Bank, a stable and secure FDIC-insured bank, regulated by the FDIC and the Connecticut Department of Banking.

Get your personalized, pre-approved rates in less than 5 minutes.

#6 View More Details

Special offers for medical resident and fellow refinance products

  • APR: 3.10% - 7.84%
  • Minimum credit score: 670 w/cosigner
  • Refinance up to $350K
View More Details
Visit Splash View Loan Disclosure

Splash Financial is a leader in student loan refinancing with new rates as low as 3.25% fixed APR which can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loans. No application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties. Splash Financial is in all 50 states and is intensely focused on customer service. Splash Financial is also one of the few companies that offers a great medical resident and fellow refinance product. You can check your rate with Splash in just minutes.

  • Low interest rates – especially for graduate students
  • No application or origination fees. No prepayment penalties.
  • Co-signer release program - you can apply for a cosigner release form your loan after 12 months of on-time payments
  • Specialty product for doctors in training with low monthly payment

Click here to see more of Splash's offerings and to see how you can save money.

Save on Your Student Loans
$
$
Article Topics

Looking To Conquer Your Student Loan Debt?

Yes! Send Me The Savings Blueprint

More Articles in Student Loan Debt
The Best Companies To Refinance Your Student Loans Save Money Now
Additional Resources
Comments

"I reduced my student loan payment by $152 per month, by refinancing thru Comet"

Save Money Now