Switching the repayment plan on your student loan can free up some much-needed cash each month -- starting now. While it might take up to 60 days to make the switch, you can request immediate payment relief. This will give you the time you need to get everything together and make the switch official.
How to Apply
You'll need to request the switch yourself through your student loan servicing center. Contact them and ask about the application process for that school. Fill out the application, either online or by mail, and send any documentation they require. Since you're switching to the income contingent repayment plan, you'll have to send in proof of income. The school will also need your latest tax return. You can sign a release to let the school get it directly from the Internal Revenue Service, or you can send them a copy yourself.
The application process can take up to 60 days. During that time, you'll still have to make payments on the standard repayment plan. The actual processing time depends on how complete your application is and how many other applications the service center is working on at that time. If you miss something on the application -- like a date -- it will slow things down. Also, don't be surprised if you're asked to write a statement explaining changes to your income or a unique financial situation. These may be necessary questions, but they can slow the process even more.
You can request a forbearance while you're waiting for the change to take place. The forbearance is automatic for 60 days -- just contact your student loan servicing center by phone and make the request. You won't have to make any payments during the forbearance period. The catch is the interest on the loan keeps growing when you don't make payments. That means you'll have to pay back more money when the period ends.
You can go back to the standard repayment plan though there are some stipulations. For example, you will have to make three consecutive on-time payments on the income contingent repayment plan before you can switch back. Contact the office you got the loan from to request these changes.
Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.