There are fewer, but still some, ways to set up a new repayment plan after you have defaulted on your loan. If you are able to get out of default through rehabilitating or consolidating your loans, you will once again be eligible for the more flexible pre-default repayment options as well as deferments.
The two main post-default repayment programs for government loan borrowers are consolidation and rehabilitation. Before considering these options, you should evaluate whether you are eligible to cancel your loan. You may also want to think about whether you have enough money to settle your student loan debt.
As you think about rehabilitation and consolidation, try to be realistic about whether you can afford to make even very small payments each month. You want to avoid rehabilitating or consolidating your defaulted loans and then defaulting again because you are unable to meet your new obligations.
Be advised that you are entitled to get out of default through rehabilitation only once per loan. There are also limits on how many times you can consolidate. This information sheet summarizes the pros and cons of rehabilitation and consolidation.
CONSOLIDATION TO GET OUT OF DEFAULT
You should consider the pros and cons of consolidation before making this choice. This section contains information about how to consolidate if you have already defaulted on your loans.
Consolidation works well for many borrowers with defaulted loans. After obtaining a consolidation loan, you get a fresh start, becoming eligible for new loans, grants, and even deferments. You will no longer be listed as currently in default on your credit records, and no longer subject to tax intercepts, garnishments, or other collection efforts. Once you are out of default, you can also choose one of the income-based repayment plans.
WARNING: It is very dangerous to consolidate federal loans into a private consolidation loan. This is because you will lose your rights under the federal loan programs once you choose to consolidate with a private lender. These include deferment, forbearance, cancellation, and affordable repayment rights.
Federal Consolidation Loans for Borrowers in Default
As of July 1, 2010, there are no more FFEL consolidation loans. The Direct Loan consolidation program is the only government consolidation loan program.
You are eligible to consolidate with the Direct Loan program as long as you have at least one FFEL or Direct Loan.
Direct Consolidation allows defaulted borrowers to make three consecutive reasonable and affordable monthly payments or agree to pay under Income Contingent Repayment plan (ICRP) or Income Based Repayment (IBR). An interruption in this consecutive period is allowed for qualifying military service members or affected civilians. These borrowers may resume their payments after their service is completed. See the special programs for military section of this site for information about other options for military service members and certain civilians affected by war or national emergencies.
Parent PLUS borrowers who also have other federal student loans and choose to consolidate with Direct will find that the PLUS loan taints the entire consolidation loan and will mean that they will not be eligible to repay the consolidation loan using IBR. If they wish to consolidate, parent PLUS borrowers may exclude the PLUS loans from the consolidation and pay them separately. These borrowers should also be able to consolidate and choose ICR.
Despite what a collector may tell you, if you select ICRP or IBR, you do not have to make three payments before applying for consolidation.
Unfortunately, there are problems with the Department’s system for borrowers consolidating out of default. The Department was placing borrowers in default who select IBR into ICR instead. The Department says that it has fixed this problem so that borrowers in these circumstances will be able go directly into IBR if that is the plan they select. Please let us know your experiences so that we can confirm that this fix is for real.
The Department also announced that borrowers in default applying directly for IBR or ICR must submit documentation of income upfront along with the Direct Consolidation Loan application and promissory note. Acceptable income documentation includes a recently filed federal income tax return (need not be signed), federal income tax return transcript, or an alternative documentation of income form with supporting documentation. You are no longer required to submit the “Consent to Disclosure of Tax Information” form.
If you request IBR, but are placed in ICR, you should be able to switch into IBR right away. You will need to call Direct Loan servicing to request the switch. You should not have to make a minimum number of ICR payments before switching into IBR if you selected IBR on the repayment plan form.
If you are consolidating out of default and select ICR or IBR, it may take a while for the Department to calculate your final payment amount.
Before the Department will consolidate the loan, they will send you a summary sheet that lists the loans that will be included in the consolidation. It will also list the repayment plan that you selected. You should review this information carefully and contact the Department if there are any problems. If you do not contact them within ten days of the date of the letter, they will assume the information is correct and will process the consolidation. The Department has recently changed this period to 15 days. You must contact the Department during this period if you want to discontinue the consolidation or if you have questions.
While they are collecting the information needed to make the IBR calculation, the Department will usually ask you to pay an initial amount that covers the monthly interest. If you cannot afford this payment, you may request a forbearance that will last until you are notified of your actual payment.
This can be confusing. The statement you receive from the Department may list a total amount due or current due amount that is different than the monthly payment. As in this sample, the total amount due of $16.28 is the amount required to cover monthly interest. The monthly payment, however, is 0. In this example, the borrower can choose to pay the accruing interest, but she is not required to pay this amount. Since her monthly payment is 0, she is not required to pay anything. (We have urged the Department to start using letters that clearly explain borrower rights).
In most cases when you are consolidating out of default, the lender will add collection costs to the new loan balance. This should be no more than 18.5% of the outstanding principal and interest.
You will run into problems if you defaulted on a consolidation loan and now want to consolidate again. If you defaulted on a FFEL consolidation loan, you may consolidate with the Direct Loan program, but only if you are selecting an ICRP or IBR. You can also consolidate with Direct Loans to use the public service forgiveness program or the limits on interest accrual for military service-members.
If you defaulted on a Direct consolidation loan, you cannot consolidate again with either program unless you are adding new loans to the consolidation. But all is not lost. You can look into getting out of default by rehabilitating your loan.
You can use this self-help packet to help you apply for a Direct Consolidation loan.
REHABILITATION TO GET OUT OF DEFAULT
You can renew eligibility for new loans and grants and eliminate the loan default by “rehabilitating” a defaulted loan. To qualify for FFEL or Direct Loan rehabilitation, you have to make nine monthly payments within 20 days of the due date during a period of 10 consecutive months. The 9 out of 10 rule basically allows you to miss your payment one month, but still be eligible to rehabilitate. The Perkins program has separate rules. To rehabilitate a Perkins loan, you must make nine payments in a nine month period.
An interruption in this consecutive period is allowed for qualifying military service members or affected civilians. These borrowers may resume their rehabilitation payments after their service is completed. See the special programs for military section of this site for information about other options for military service members and certain civilians affected by war or national emergencies.
If you are rehabilitating a FFEL loan, the guarantor must attempt to find a lender to purchase the loan after you have made the required payments. There is no resale requirement for Direct Loans. However, due to the Department’s processing problems, many borrowers are finding that their loans are not immediately rehabilitated after they have made the qualifying payments. You should contact the Department if you are having this problem and make sure you keep making the payments until the problem is resolved. The Department claimed in May 2012 that it had fixed this problem. We are still waiting to confirm that this fix is for real.
Once rehabilitation is complete, the loan is removed from default status and you are eligible for new loans and grants. The default should be removed from your credit record. In most cases, however, the other negative history will remain until it gets too old to report.
You can regain eligibility for federal assistance before you complete the rehabilitation as long as you make six monthly reasonable and affordable payments. However, you will need to complete the rehabilitation to get out of default.
Lenders will generally add collection costs to the new loan balance, but this should be no more than 18.5% of the unpaid principal and accrued interest at the time of the sale of the loan.
You are entitled to get out of default through rehabilitation only once per loan. If you rehabilitated before August 14, 2008 and go back into default on that loan, you can still rehabilitate again. However, this new rehabilitation will be subject to the one-time limit.
How to Rehabilitate Your Loans
You will need to request rehabilitation from your loan holder. You may be dealing with a collection agency. Regardless of who you are dealing with, you should insist on getting the agreement in writing. Be sure and read everything before signing.
The main item to negotiate is how much you will have to pay every month. Your loan holder may tell you that you have to pay an amount beyond what you can afford. This is wrong. The law says that you only have to pay what is reasonable and affordable. There is no minimum amount that the loan holder must charge.
Here is how it should work: The loan holder should discuss your options, including the pros and cons of loan rehabilitation and loan consolidation. If you decide on rehabilitation, the loan holder may start out with a certain monthly payment amount. You should tell them if this is more than you can afford. The loan holder should then ask for documentation of your income and expenses so that you and the agency can come up with an amount that is truly reasonable and affordable. The loan holder will most likely ask you to fill out this form or something similar to determine the monthly reasonable and affordable payment amount. (Alert: If the on-line form is not available, you should contact your loan holder and request a financial disclosure form).
|Common Rehabilitation Problems
REHABILITATION TIPS AND FAQs
Q: Can my loan holder charge collection costs after I rehabilitate my loans?
A: Yes, but no more than 18.5% of the unpaid principal and accrued interest at the time of the sale of the loan.
Q: Can my loan holder continue to collect even after I have signed a rehabilitation agreement?
A: Yes. To avoid this problem, you should insist that the loan holder agree in writing to stop all collection efforts other than routine billing while you are current on your rehabilitation payments.
Q: Do I have the right to rehabilitate defaulted private loans?
A: Only if your private lender has a rehabilitation program. Most do not.
Q: What if my lender won’t agree to a rehabilitation payment amount that I find reasonable and affordable?
A: The lender will probably say that minimum payments are required so that the lender can sell your loan at the end of the rehabilitation period. Private collectors will almost always tell you this because they get paid a higher commission if they set up rehabilitation plans where borrowers pay certain minimum amounts. Despite what they tell you, you have the right to pay only what is reasonable and affordable. Although this is difficult, the best way to deal with this problem if it arises is to tell the lender that you are aware of your right to a reasonable and affordable payment plan and to keep pushing until they give it to you. You should be prepared to provide detailed documentation of your income and expenses. Most lenders will require you to use this form or something similar. If you still don’t get anywhere, you should try contacting the Department of Education ombudsman office or one of the guaranty agency ombudsman offices. If you still can’t get anywhere, you might consider contacting a lawyer.