Use the steps below to help you make a plan for resolving your student loan problem. You can also find self-help packets (English and espanol) on various topics.
What type of loan do you have?
If you are behind on payments, have you already gone into default?
Some programs are available only before you go into default. Other remedies are only available during default. If you are not sure of your status, go to the federal loan default and delinquency section or the private loan default and delinquency section to learn more.
Are you eligible for a loan discharge?
Regardless of whether you are in default, you should consider whether you can discharge your loan outside of bankruptcy. This is the most complete solution to student loan problems, but is available only in limited circumstances.
Is it likely that you will be able to discharge your loan in bankruptcy?
Discharging a student loan in bankruptcy is hard, but not impossible, to do. This may be a good idea if you are in very desperate financial circumstances and your situation is unlikely to improve. Click here to learn more about what courts require to discharge student loans in bankruptcy.
If a discharge is not available, can you postpone repayment?
If you are not yet in default, you should check to see if you qualify for one of the deferment programs. Forbearance, available both before and after default, should also be considered. This may help you collect your thoughts and figure out your next steps without having to deal with collection hassles.
Could you pay your student loan if your monthly payment was more affordable?
If you can afford to pay something each month, just not as much as you are required to pay under your current plan, you should think about setting up a more affordable repayment plan. For example, under the income-based repayment plans for federal student loans, the government will cancel any remaining balance if you have made payments for 25 years. (This period is 20 years for borrowers repaying through the “Pay as You Earn” plan). There are also special programs to help you get out of default on federal loans.
What can you do if collection has already begun?
Your strategy will depend on the type of collection action. If the government is collecting outside of court, you have the right to request an administrative hearing and in some cases to reduce or even suspend collection.
If you are being sued for a federal or private loan, be sure to meet all court deadlines. You should also figure out whether the lender can collect against you if you lose the case.