A student loan deferment is a temporary solution that allows you to stop making monthly loan payments for an agreed-upon period of time. This can be just the solution you are looking for if you are finding it difficult to repay your federal student loans and are at risk of getting into default.
One of the biggest advantages of student loan deferment is that—for certain loans—the interest does not accrue on the balance of your loan during the deferment period. This mean once the deferment period is over, you pick up with your loan where you left off. This is unlike forbearance where the interest keeps accruing during the forbearance period.
However, it’s not as straightforward as it seems. You have to meet certain requirements to qualify for this option. Moreover, it may not always be the right option for everyone.
Asking yourself these few questions will help you determine whether you qualify for student loan deferment and also whether it is the right choice for you.
Do I qualify for student loan deferment?
You may be able to defer your loans if you meet the following requirements:
- You are employed as a full-time teacher in a school that is located in a designated teacher-shortage area or in public health services
- You are on active military duty either in the Armed Forces or the National Guard
- You are enrolled in any of these programs—rehabilitation training, medical internship, medical residency or graduate fellowship
- You volunteered full time for at least one year in the Peace Corps
- You have a medical disability that has make it challenging for you to find a well-paying job
How long can I defer my loan payments for?
If you meet the qualifying criteria, you will usually be allowed to defer your loan payments for up to three years. These three years will buy you some time that you can use to build up your finances. You will have to resume your monthly payments when the deferment period lapses.
Can I get an extension after the deferment period is over?
In most cases, no extensions are given after the 3 years are up. It may be considered only under the most extenuating circumstances but that is at the discretion of the lender.
Is the deferment the best way to avoid defaulting on my loan?
Deferment is a great alternative in that it allows you to regroup and build up your finances over a period of time, without worrying about accruing interest on your unpaid loan amount. However, you have to be absolutely sure that you will be able to make the payments regularly after the deferment period. If you still cannot make the payments after the deferment period and the lender does not extend, your loan will go into default creating a lot of associated problems. Your credit history will be adversely affected and you will have to pay higher interest rates if you wish to take a loan for any other purpose.
Before you choose deferment, you must first talk to your lender about consolidating or refinancing your loan. If you can consolidate or refinance your loan with a lower interest rate, these may be better alternatives to deferring your loan.