How to Get Free Help With Your Student Loans

What's Hot


2 Types of Black Marks Might Vanish From Your Credit File SoonBorrow

6 Ways the Obamacare Overhaul Might Impact Your WalletInsurance

7 Dumb and Costly Moves Homebuyers MakeBorrow

This Free Software Brings Old Laptops Back to LifeMore

Obamacare Replacement Plan Gets ‘F’ Rating from Consumer ReportsFamily

Beware These 12 Common Money MistakesCredit & Debt

21 Restaurants Offering Free Food Right NowSaving Money

17 Ways to Have More Fun for Less MoneySave

House Hunters: Beware of These 6 Mortgage MistakesBorrow

30 Household Uses for Baby OilSave

25 Ways to Spend Less on FoodMore

Nearly Half of Heart-Related Deaths Linked to These 10 Foods and IngredientsFamily

5 Surprising Benefits of Exercising Outdoors in WinterFamily

10 Ways to Save When You’re Making Minimum WageSave

Boost Your Credit Score Fast With These 7 MovesCredit & Debt

7 Painless Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Years EarlierBorrow

The Most Sinful City in the U.S. Is … (Hint: It’s Not Vegas)Family

The True Cost of Bad CreditCredit & Debt

10 Companies With the Best 401(k) PlansGrow

This Scam Now Tops ID Theft as the No. 2 Consumer ComplaintFamily

6 Stores With Awesome Reward ProgramsFamily

6 Ways to Save More at Lowe’s and The Home DepotSave

6 Healthful Treats for Your DogFamily

New Study Ranks the Best States in the U.S.Family

Thousands of Millionaires Moving to 1 Country — and Leaving AnotherGrow

Strapped for College Costs? How to Get the Most From FAFSABorrow

6 Overlooked Ways to Save at Chick-fil-AFamily

Ask Stacy: What’s the Fastest Way to Pay Off My Mortgage?Borrow

Where to Sell Your Stuff for Top DollarAround The House

8 Ways to Get a Good Price on a Shiny New AutoCars

Ask Stacy: How Do I Start Over?Credit & Debt

Secret Cell Plans: Savings Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Don’t Want You to Know AboutFamily

30 Awesome Things to Do in RetirementCollege

14 Super Smart Ways to Save on TravelSave

The Rich Prefer Modest Cars — Should You Join Them?Cars

You’ll Soon Pay More to Shop at CostcoSave

10 Ways to Save When Your Teen Starts DrivingFamily

Are you crushed by student loan debt or know someone who is? Here are some free ways to get relief -- and what to know if you choose to pay for help.

In pursuit of higher education, Americans have racked up nearly $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. While some may debate whether this amount represents a crisis, it may certainly be a problem for you personally if you have loans you can’t pay off.

Not paying off your loans simply isn’t an option. However, there are ways to reduce your payments or even wipe out your debt, and the federal government and the states are adding new ways to help every year.

Possibly before the end of this year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will finalize its new program called the Payback Playbook, which should help give borrowers a clearer idea of how their loans work and their repayment options. The bureau also offers a handy guide to repaying student debt. There are a number of existing programs that can offer help.

Government options for reducing student loan debt

Before we talk about the private companies professing to help you wipe out student loan debt, let’s start with the official debt relief options offered by the government.

The government does offer ways to defer, consolidate or even forgive certain student loans. The catch is you must have loans through the government — private loans aren’t eligible — and you may have to commit yourself to a career in public service.

Here’s what you can get through the government:

Deferment or forbearance: If you’re having trouble making payments, your first course of action should be to contact your loan servicer to ask for a deferment or forbearance. While the details differ somewhat, both work by suspending your payments for a period of time.

Deferments can last longer, and the government may even pay your interest during that time. However, you typically need to be unemployed, in the military or in school to get one. Forbearances can be mandatory or discretionary, and discretionary forbearances include the catch-all category of “financial hardship” as a reason for eligibility.

Loan consolidation: Another option to reduce payments may be to consolidate your loans. If you have multiple government loans, you can apply, at no cost, for a consolidation loan. This turns your multiple loans and monthly payments into one loan and one (hopefully lower) payment amount.

However, be aware that while selecting a longer repayment term may lower your monthly payments, it could also increase the overall amount you’re paying in interest over the life of your student loans.

Income-based repayment plans: The standard government repayment plan is 10 years, but that certainly isn’t your only option. Other repayment plans go as long as 20, 25 or, in the case of consolidated loans, 30 years.

There are also several income-based repayment options:

  • Income-Based Repayment Plan
  • Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan
  • Income-Contingent Repayment Plan
  • Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan

These plans all have monthly payments tied to your income and can be ideal if you find yourself stuck in a low-wage job. For some programs, you may need a partial hardship to qualify, but after 20 to 25 years of repayment, any remaining debt is forgiven.

The new REPAYE program (the acronym stands for Revised Pay as You Earn Plan) falls here. While the initial Pay as You Earn program had only been for recent borrowers, the revised version, which opened Dec. 17, 2015, is open to borrowers regardless of when they took out their loans. The U.S. Department of Education estimates it will allow an additional 5 million people to qualify for assistance.

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 1,965 more deals!