Undergraduate Loan Repayment

Repayment is the process of making payments to pay off the loan amount borrowed plus interest that has accrued on the loan while you were in school, during any periods of authorized deferment, and during your grace period.

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.

Repayment Plans

Your federal, institutional, or private loan may offer a variety of repayment plans.

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.

Remember, however, that the longer you take to repay your loans, the more you will have to pay in interest charges.

Repayment options for federal and private loans differ. For a list of answers to frequently asked questions about federal loan repayment, please click here.

Federal Perkins and Institutional Loan Repayment

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 your Perkins loan servicer for additional information.

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

Repayment Services Provided by ACS

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. ACS, Inc. became the University's provider on May 1, 2010, replacing those services previously provided by ECSI.

Remember: Your loan was not been sold.  Columbia University is the owner of your loans, and ACS, Inc. is the service provider.

Please use the links below for services provided by ACS:

Visit the ACS website to obtain forms to:

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

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.

Federal Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan Repayment

This information applies to the 2012-2013 academic year.  

Lenders are currently required to provide borrowers with four repayment options for Federal Stafford Loans provided through the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) before the program was discontinued in 2010.

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.

The four repayment options are:

  • Standard (Fixed) Repayment Plan
  • Graduated Repayment Plan
  • Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan
  • Extended Repayment Plan

Standard (Fixed) Repayment Plan

In this plan, you pay a fixed amount each month. All payments include both interest and principal. This plan requires the highest initial monthly payment but produces the lowest cost in total interest paid.

Graduated Repayment Plan

All lenders are required to offer at least one graduated repayment plan; some offer more. The main benefit of such a plan is that it offers the borrower the opportunity to reduce the required monthly payment amount due to the lender.However, choosing a graduated plan means a borrower is likely to pay more in interest charges over the life of the loan.

Under graduated repayment plans the minimum monthly payment amount increases at specific intervals during the repayment period. Payments due to the lender early in the repayment period typically require the borrower to pay only interest charges.When set periods of time have passed, payments will graduate to higher amounts and will include not only payment toward interest on the loan amount, but toward the principal amount of the loan as well.

Because the monthly payment amount can increase significantly at the specified intervals (although no payment can be three times greater than any other payment), graduated repayment plans are generally best suited for those who expect large salary increases at predictable points in time. Before committing to a graduated repayment plan, be sure that you will be able to afford the increased monthly payments.It is wise to speak with your lender to obtain a repayment schedule prior to making a decision to choose the graduated repayment option.

Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan

Monthly payments for this plan are based on the borrower’s expected total monthly gross income and total federal student loan debt. Payments are adjusted annually. This plan results in higher total finance charges than under the Standard Repayment Plan, because loan principal is not repaid in level amounts throughout the repayment period.

Extended Repayment Plan

This plan is available only to those who first borrowed FFELP loans on or after October 7, 1998, and whose total FFELP loan debt exceeds $30,000. It allows borrowers to repay their loans over a maximum term of 25 years, with either standard or graduated payments.

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Federal Parent PLUS Loan Repayment

Generally, the repayment period is 10 years. There are, however, various loan repayment plans available that may extend the repayment period depending on the program or your circumstances.

There is no grace period on PLUS loans as there is on Stafford and private loans. In general, PLUS Loans enter repayment after the final disbursement of the loan, and the first payment is due within 60 days. However, an automatic in-school deferment will be processed so that you do not have to make payments while you are in school (unless your enrollment drops to less than half-time). To explore the possibility of aligning your repayment of Graduate PLUS and Stafford loans, contact your lender.

There are no prepayment penalties on this loan. For more information on repayment, please contact your lender or financial aid office.

Federal Loan Consolidation

Another loan repayment option is federal loan consolidation. A Federal Consolidation Loan (FCL) is a loan that you can borrow to pay off some or all of your existing eligible federal student loans, both graduate and undergraduate. The FCL has a fixed interest rate with a repayment term of up to 30 years, depending on your total student loan debt, including any private student loans you may have.

Reasons to Consolidate

  • To reduce your monthly loan payment and increase monthly cash flow
  • To have the convenience of single statement billing (if you have federal loans with more than one lender)
  • To renew eligibility for current deferments or become eligible for new deferments
  • To lock in a fixed interest rate on your variable rate loans for the life of the loan

Reasons Not to Consolidate

  • Potential for higher interest cost because consolidation loan is repaid over longer period of time
  • If you consolidate Stafford Loans that still have a variable rate and interest rates fall in the future, you’ll be locked into a higher interest rate
  • Loss of any current repayment incentives you are receiving on the loans you plan to consolidate
  • Inability to re-consolidate if the variable interest rate on Federal Stafford/Direct Loans borrowed prior to 7/1/06 drops lower in the future
  • Possible loss of discharge provisions for certain loans, if consolidated (e.g., Federal Perkins Loans)
  • Possible loss of interest subsidy during deferment for certain loans, if consolidated (e.g., Federal Perkins Loans)
  • Some lenders require a minimum loan amount before you can consolidate
  • If you and your spouse consolidated when “married consolidation” was an option, if you divorce, both of you are responsible for repaying the full amount of jointly consolidated loans (“Married consolidation” is no longer available)

Consolidated Interest Rate

There are no fees for Federal Consolidation Loans. The interest rate is fixed and is the weighted average of the interest rates of the loans being consolidated, rounded up to the nearest 1/8th of one percent, and capped at 8.25%.

Since the consolidation interest rate is a weighted average of all interest rates on your loans, you should contact your financial aid office to inquire whether consolidation is to your financial advantage.

Repayment Terms

Depending on the amount of your outstanding student loan balance, you have up to 30 years to repay, and you have a choice of the same repayment options offered for Federal Stafford Loans. There is no prepayment penalty, deferment and forbearance are available, and some lenders offer repayment incentives. For more information, please contact your lender.

Private Loan Repayment Plans

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.

Private Loan Consolidation

In the past year, several lenders have introduced the ability for students to consolidate their private loans. The philosophy is the same as the FCL in that this private 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.

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.  

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. 


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.