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What is income contingent repayment?

An income contingent repayment (ICR) plan is one of three income-driven repayment plans available through the federal government. These programs consolidate student loans into a single monthly payment. It matches the payment amount to your income and family size.

This reduces the required monthly payment it’s easier to stay ahead of your loans. On average, an ICR reduces monthly payments to roughly 20% of your Adjusted Gross Income. The reduction may be more or less, depending on your family size. This program also qualifies you for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

What types of debt can I include?

With income contingent repayment you can consolidate most federal student loan debt. However, in some cases you may need to consolidate with a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan first in order to qualify.

You can include any of the following debts in an ICR:

  • Direct student loans, subsidized and unsubsidized
  • Stafford loans, subsidized and unsubsidized (with consolidation)
  • PLUS loans (Direct or FFEL) for graduate students
  • PLUS loans (Direct or FFEL) made to parents, only after you consolidate
  • Direct and FFEL Consolidation Loans
  • Federal Perkins Loans (only eligible once consolidated)

You cannot include private student loan debt in this program.

How income contingent plans work

  1. Evaluate which of your loans you wish to include in the program; you are not required to include all of your federal student loans. In some cases, you may choose to certain loans out.
  2. Depending on the mix of loans you have, you may need to consolidate your debts first with a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan.
  3. The term of this program is set at 25 years.
  4. The interest rate is determined by taking a weighted average of the rates on the individual loans included in your ICR plan.
  5. The monthly payments are set based on your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) and family size and must be lower than what you would pay on a Standard Repayment Plan in order to qualify.
  6. Your payments remain fixed for one year, but each year you are required to recertify. Your AGI and family size are evaluated each time you certify, so your payments may change if you have a change in your income or your family grows.
  7. If you work in a public service profession, such as teaching or nursing, then you can qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness after 10 years of making payments on this plan.
  8. If you’re not a public servant then the end of 25 years, if you still haven’t paid off all of your debt, the remaining balances are forgiven without penalties.

Advantages of an ICR

The main benefit of an income contingent plan is to provide lower monthly payments that are easier to fit into your budget. An ICR provides the highest level of lower payments – this plan sets payments around 20%, while an IBR sets payments at 15% and PayE sets them at 10% or less. The advantage of paying a slightly higher percentage is that you eliminate your debt faster. This may help minimize total interest charges paid out over the life of your loans.

The other advantage of the program is that you can qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness after 10 years if you’re a public servant. This includes most nurses and teachers, as well as first responders and Military Service Members.

ICR disadvantages

As mentioned above, anytime you decrease monthly payments and extend the term on a loan, you are also increasing the total interest charges you will pay over the life of the debt. As a result, your total cost to repay your student loans will be higher.

You also must remember to recertify every year in order to maintain your eligibility. This means yearly paperwork to fill out. Hiring a document preparation service can make this easier.