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What is income sensitive repayment?

Income Sensitive Repayment (ISR) is the one federal student loan debt relief plan that allows you to consolidate all FFEL and Stafford student loans. The monthly payments are set based on your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), which often makes it more affordable to pay your loans back on a limited budget.

What types debt can be included in an ISR?

Income sensitive repayment plans are specifically designed to address challenges with FFEL and Stafford loans. The following types of federal student loan debt can be included:

  • Federal Stafford loans, subsidized and unsubsidized
  • FFEL PLUS loans
  • FFEL consolidation loans

You cannot use an ISR to repay Direct Loans or any private student loan debt.

How does income sensitive repayment work?

  1. First choose which loans you want to include in your ISR
    1. You are not required to include all eligible loans
    2. You may want to leave some loans out of the plan even if they’re eligible for strategic payoff purposes, such as including those loans in another plan
  2. The term of the loan is 10 years.
  3. The interest rate is set by taking a weighted average of the rates on all loans you include in the ISR.
  4. The monthly payment is set based on your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)
    1. Payments will generally be less than 25% of your AGI
    2. The payment amount must at least cover accrued monthly interest charges
  5. Your payments will remain fixed for one year. However, after that year you must recertify each year to maintain program eligibility. As a result, if your income changes, your payments may change, too.

Advantages of an ISR

The main benefit of income sensitive repayment is that it allows you to consolidate and lower the payments on most FFEL student loans without needed to consolidate them with a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan first. For most other plans, FFEL and Stafford loans are only eligible if you take the extra step on consolidating before you apply for the program.

Disadvantages of an ISR

The first payment is usually comparable to what you’d pay on an ICR. However, unlike other hardship based repayment programs, this plan limits the term to 10 years. There is also an extra requirement that the monthly payment amount, at minimum, must cover accrued interest charges. As a result, payments may be higher and slightly more difficult to manage easily on a limited budget.

In addition, there is no Public Service Loan Forgiveness option with an ISR.