Repaying Loans

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About Repayment  |  Federal Direct Loans  |  Federal Perkins and Columbia Institutional Loans  Private Loans  |  Suspending Repayment: Deferment and Forbearance  |  Late Payment: Delinquency and Default

About Repayment: What, When and How

Repayment is the process of making payments to pay off the loan amount you borrowed, plus the interest that has accrued on the loan while you were in school, during any periods of authorized deferment, and during your grace period. The longer you take to repay your loans, the more you will have to pay in interest charges.

Repayment typically begins after a grace period following your graduation or your ceasing to be registered. Your first payment is typically due within 60 days of each loan’s entering repayment.

To make your payments more affordable, repayment plans can give you more time to repay your loans or be based on your income. Your federal or private loan may offer a variety of repayment plans. Repayment options are different based on the type of loan.

You should periodically review your repayment plans and contact your lender, loan holder, or servicer for help in determining what options may be available. You may prepay your loan with no penalty or use one of the repayment plans available.


Federal Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loans

Although you may select or be assigned a repayment plan when you first begin repaying your student loan, you can change repayment plans at any time.

Contact your loan servicer if you would like to discuss repayment plan options or change your repayment plan. You can get information about all of the federal student loans you have received and find the loan servicer for your loans by logging in to My Federal Student Aid.



Before you contact your loan servicer to discuss repayment plans, you can use the Repayment Estimator at Federal Student Aid to get an early look at which plans you may be eligible for and see estimates for how much you would pay monthly and overall.



The repayment options available for Direct Loans and Federal Family Education Loans are listed below. Visit the Federal Student Aid website for detailed information about each option.

Similar plans are often available for Federal Consolidation Loans and for loans borrowed through the Federal Direct Loan Program. Repayment option information for each loan typically is sent to you during the grace period. This allows you to review the different options and select the one that works best for you.

If you do not respond with your choice, the lender/holder/servicer will assign you the Standard Repayment Plan.



If you have multiple federal student loans, you can consolidate them into a single Direct Consolidation Loan. This may simplify repayment if you are currently making separate loan payments to different loan holders or servicers, as you'll only have one monthly payment to make. There may be tradeoffs, however, so you'll want to learn about the advantages and possible disadvantages of consolidation before you consolidate.

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Federal Perkins and Institutional Loans

ACS Education Services is Columbia University's loan servicer for Federal Perkins, Health Professional, Nursing Student Loans, Loan to Disadvantaged Students, and Columbia University Institutional Loans.

  • The repayment period is 10 years.
  • Perkins Loan replayment begins 9 months after graduation or after enrollment status drops to less than half-time.
  • Institutional Loan repayment begins 6 months after graduation or after enrollment status drops to less than half-time.

During the grace period for either loan type, you are not required to make payments, and interest will not accrue on your loan. There are no prepayment penalties on these loans. Some deferment and forbearance options are available; please contact ACS Education Services for additional information.



Please use the links below for services provided by ACS:


You can also visit the ACS website to obtain forms to:

  • Request Hardship and Forbearance
  • Request Student Loan Deferment
  • Request Loan Cancellation, and Pre-Cancellation
  • Loan Forbearance

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Private Loans

Generally, the repayment period is 20 years. There are no prepayment penalties on this loan. A variety of repayment options are available, including graduated repayment plans that allow you to make smaller monthly payments early in your career.

Monthly payments are calculated based on the amount borrowed, the repayment option selected, and whether payments are made on time. If the interest rate changes, the amount of the monthly payments will be reduced or increased accordingly. The minimum monthly payment is $50.

The first payment is due up to 9 months after you graduate or 9 months after your registration status drops below half time, whichever is earlier.

For more information on repayment, contact the lender or your financial aid office.



In the past year, several lenders have introduced the ability for students to consolidate their private loans. The philosophy is that this consolidation loan pays off the underlying private loans into a single private consolidation loan. Generally, they allow for up to a 30-year repayment period. Not all lenders offer a fixed rate option and many only offer them to domestic students. In addition, most price out the loan based on FICO scores, debt/income ratios and various interest rate indices.

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Suspending Repayment: Deferment and Forbearance

It is possible that a borrower may face circumstances that will make loan payments difficult.  Under such circumstances, it may be possible to suspend repayment for a specified period of time.  Two possible options are deferment and forebearance and these options are described in detail below. 

  • Deferment is a period of time when a borrower is allowed to postpone repaying the principal and/or interest on a loan.

Most federal loan programs allow students to defer repaying their loans while they are in school at least halftime. Deferments are an entitlement that your federal loan lender/holder/servicer must approve if you meet the requirements and provide the necessary documentation as specified in the promissory note. For example, you might qualify for a deferment if you are enrolled in an eligible graduate fellowship program or if you face unemployment or other economic hardships.

  • Forbearance is an agreement between the borrower and the lender/holder/servicer of a loan that allows for:
    • temporary postponement of payments;
    • extension of time for making payments; or
    • temporary acceptance of payments that are smaller than required by the repayment schedule.

Forbearances are available at the discretion of the lender for both federal and private loans.



If at any time you face difficulties making loan payments, it is imperative that you contact your lender immediately. Failure to make an on-time payment can lead to a poor credit history which, in turn, can make it difficult to buy a house, rent an apartment, buy a car, etc.  It can also take you a long time to rehabilitate a poor credit history. 

Many lenders also offer interest deductions or other incentives for a specified number of on-time payments.  Missing one payment can often jeopardize your ability to benefit from such incentives.  If you are proactive and contact your lender when you face difficulty paying, you may be able to keep your benefits in tact. 

It is also important that you contact your lender any time you change your address or phone number in order to facilitate continual communication about your repayment.


Find out from your loan servicer whether deferment or forbearance options are available for each loan.

For more information, please review our FAQ on AskUs. If you do not find an answer to your question, please use the "Email a Question" tab and select "Loan Repayment and Servicing" from the topic list.

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Late Payment: Delinquency and Default

  • Delinquency occurs when a borrower is late with a payment. 
  • Default occurs when a borrower fails to make a scheduled payment or meet other terms of the loan agreement and the lender finds it reasonable to conclude that the borrower no longer intends to honor the obligation to repay.

If you default on your federal student loan(s), one or more of the consequences below may occur. Similar consequences may occur if you default on a student loan from a private source.

  • The lender/holder of your loan may declare the entire unpaid balance, including interest, immediately due and payable.
  • You could be required to pay all charges and other costs permitted by law (including reasonable attorney’s fees) for the collection of your loan.
  • The lender/holder of the loan may assign the promissory note to a guaranty agency, at which time all amounts due will be payable to the guaranty agency.
  • The lender/holder or guaranty agency may report the default to one or all three national, authorized credit bureaus.
  • The lender/holder and/or the government may take legal action against you.
  • The lender/holder or guaranty agency may report the default to your school.
  • You may be unable to receive assistance from federal student aid programs.
  • You may become ineligible for various repayment options, deferments, and other benefits.
  • Your wages may be subject to garnishment.
  • State and federal income tax refunds may be subject to IRS offset and withheld by the federal government.
  • Your professional licenses may not be granted or renewed.


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