If you need a break from your federal student loan payments, you may be able to postpone them temporarily with a deferment. This is a great option for borrowers—especially since the federal government may pay the interest on subsidized loans during an approved deferment.
Deferment is your right as a student loan borrower. If you qualify, you can’t be denied this option. However, the time you can use this option is limited, which means postponing your payments isn’t right for every situation. So, choose wisely when pressing pause on your payments.
What Types Of Deferments Are There?
Nearly all federal student loan borrowers have access to the following deferments. Different deferments come with different paperwork—sorry, there’s no common application. Complete the right form, and send it to all of your servicers.
You qualify if you are working less than 30 hours a week, trying to find permanent full-time employment, and either:
- Currently getting unemployment benefits.
- Registered with an employment agency within 50 miles of your home. Basic employment websites, temp agencies, and your college career office don't count.
You can use this deferment for 6 months at a time for up to 3 years. You must keep looking for work while using the deferment.
Economic Hardship Deferment
You qualify if you are receiving state or federal public assistance, earning less than 150% of the poverty line for your family size, or are in the Peace Corps.
You can use this deferment for 12 months at a time for up to 3 years.
In-School Deferment (Includes Leave Of Absence)
You probably qualify to postpone your student loan payments if you're enrolled in an accredited school at least half time or on an approved leave of absence. You can use this deferment for as long as you qualify for it.
You will usually be enrolled in this deferment automatically; however, you may want to check with the financial aid office or registrar’s office at your school to see if your enrollment information has been sent. If it hasn’t, fill out the form and send it to your servicer. You’ll need proof of enrollment or an approved leave, which you can get from your school’s registrar.
Military Service And Post-Active Duty Deferment
You qualify during active military service—or qualifying National Guard duty—during a war, a military operation, or a national emergency. Additional deferment time is also available for several months after your service ends.
This deferment will end 180 days after you are demobilized, or 13 months after demobilization if your studies were interrupted by your service.
To apply, fill out the form and send it to your servicer. You’ll need to enclose a copy of your military orders to prove that you’re on active duty. For the Post-Active Duty qualification, you will also need proof of enrollment in college.
Graduate Fellowship Deferment
You qualify if you are enrolled full time in an eligible graduate fellowship program. You must hold at least a bachelor's degree. You can use this deferment as long as you’re in the fellowship program.
To apply, fill out the application form and submit it to your servicer. A program official must certify your enrollment.
Rehabilitation Training Deferment
To qualify, you must be engaged in a full-time rehabilitation program: at least 30 hours a week for at least 3 months.
The program may be vocational rehabilitation, drug and alcohol abuse treatment, or mental health treatment, but it must be licensed, certified, or otherwise recognized as providing rehabilitation training by a responsible state agency or the Department of Veterans Affairs.
You can use this deferment until you withdraw from or complete the rehabilitation training program.
To apply, fill out the form and send it to your servicer (it's the same form as the graduate fellowship deferment). A program official must certify your enrollment.
Summer Bridge Deferment
If you’re finishing the spring semester and resuming studies in the fall, you can apply for this deferment. Normally, this deferment is applied automatically, but if you’re switching schools or previously applied for an in-school deferment, call your servicer to make sure your deferment is still active. You can use it all summer, until you qualify for in-school deferment again. There is no specific form for this deferment, so call your servicer to apply.
Other deferments are available based on oldest outstanding debt or loan type (for example, concurrent deferments for Perkins loans or post-enrollment deferments for PLUS loans). If you have older loans or aren't sure if you qualify, contact Salt's experts for details.
Some lenders will offer private loan deferments, but they’re more likely to let you pause your payments with forbearance, which is slightly different.
Be Money Smart
Avoid deferring unsubsidized loans, if you can. Interest always accrues on unsubsidized loans, even in deferment.
When your loan goes back into repayment after deferment, the interest that accrued will capitalize (be added to your principal balance), meaning any new interest that accrues would be based on your new, higher balance. This may increase your future monthly payments. If you can’t afford the full monthly payments and have to defer your unsubsidized loans, try and pay the monthly interest that accrues to avoid this from happening.
Remember that some deferments are limited to a certain number of months per borrower (not per loan), so it may be wise to save those months for a very, very rainy day and try a lower payment option instead.
- $35,000 in unsubsidized Stafford loans costs you about $43,100 over 10 years (at 4.29% interest).
- Deferring these payments for 12 months adds around $1,000 in interest to your balance.
- That new $36,000 balance bumps your total payment amount to $44,300.
- So, that break actually costs you $1,200, not $1,000——and every little bit counts when it comes to repaying your loans.