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Federal vs. private student loan repayment options

When it comes to repaying student loans, there are distinct differences between federal and private student loans.

Federal student loans generally do not require payments during school but they don't have in-school repayment options. After your grace period, you can generally request one of several types of plans. Standard, extended, and graduated plans can help you adjust the amount of time you have to pay, while income-based repayment plans can help base your payments on income.

Private student loans can offer both in-school and deferred repayment options. After your separation or grace period, you will be required to make principal and interest payments. There may be programs available for budget flexibility, such as the Graduated Repayment Period.

To find out the repayment term for your student loans, log in to your Sallie Mae account.

Sallie Mae® private student loan repayment options

Private student loans don’t have the same repayment options as federal loans and those specific options can differ from lender to lender. We offer a number of repayment options over the life of your loan.

Payment options while you’re in school

When you apply for a Sallie Mae Smart Option Student Loan® or a graduate student loan like the Graduate School Loan, MBA Loan, Graduate Loan for Health Professions, Law School Loan, Medical School Loan, or Dental School Loan, you can choose one of three in-school repayment options:

  • Deferred repayment—Make no scheduled loan payments while you’re in school and during your separation or grace period.
  • Fixed repayment—Pay a fixed amount every month you're in school and during your separation or grace period.
  • Interest repayment—Pay interest every month you’re in school and during your separation or grace period.

Please Note:
Because the Medical Residency and Relocation, Dental Residency and Relocation, and Bar Study loans are designed to cover post-graduate school expenses, deferred repayment is the only in-school repayment option available.

In-School Payment Assistance
In-School Payment Assistance lets you temporarily postpone your in-school repayment option. It can also help you avoid delinquency if you're facing temporary financial difficulty. Since it may increase your Total Loan Cost, you should first see if your cosigner (if you have one), a family member, or friend can help you with your payments for a short time.

Repayment programs after you leave school
Once you’ve left school and are past your separation or grace period, you’ll make principal and interest payments for the remainder of your repayment term. If your circumstances change, we have programs to help you manage your loan repayment:

  • Graduated Repayment Period.
  • Deferment if you attend undergraduate or graduate school or are in an internship/clerkship/fellowship/residency program.
  • Deferment or forbearance during military service.
  • Forbearance, if you’re having trouble paying your loans.

The Graduated Repayment Period
This benefit, specifically created for our loans, gives you time to transition after school before you have to make principal and interest payments.

  • You can make interest-only payments for a year after your separation period.
  • You can use it for Smart Option Student Loans or any of our graduate loans.
  • You can apply for the benefit as early as six billing periods before and no later than the 12th billing period immediately after you begin principal and interest payments.
  • Learn more about the Graduated Repayment Period.

    Deferring your student loans when you return to school at least half-time or are selected for a program
    With a deferment, you can reduce or postpone payments while you resume undergraduate studies, attend graduate school, or begin an internship, clerkship, fellowship, or residency.

    Learn more about deferring loans while in graduate school.

    Deferment or forbearance during military service
    You may be able to postpone payments on your student loans during military service. For more information and eligibility requirements, please chat or call us at 855-534-2668.

    Forbearance, if you’re having trouble paying your student loans
    Forbearance lets you temporarily postpone your student loan payments. It can help you avoid delinquency and default if you're facing temporary financial difficulty. Since it may increase your Total Loan Cost, you should first see if your cosigner (if you have one), a family member, or friend can help you with your student loan payments for a short time.

    We’re committed to working with you if you’re having financial difficulties. Call us at 800-472-5543 when you realize that you and your cosigner (if you have one) can’t make your payments. We can discuss options to help you.

    Learn more about facing financial difficulties.

    Options for our delinquent customers

    Your eligibility for any of the following options depends on a review of your financial situation, so please call us at 800-472-5543 and talk with an account manager who will review the repayment options available to you.

    Rate Reduction lowers your loan’s interest rate and monthly payment for a limited time.

    Term and Rate Modification can lower your loan’s interest rate and monthly payment for a limited time, while also extending the term of your loan.

    3Pay allows you to bring your loan current. You must make payments that are equal to or greater than the Current Amount Due for three consecutive months.

    Disability or death

    If a serious event occurs or to find out how we can help you manage your student loans when your circumstances change, chat with us or call 800-472-5543.

    Disability or death – if the student becomes totally and permanently disabled or passes away, we’ll waive the Current Balance of the loan (less any refund provided by the school). Learn more here.

Available for loans used to pay qualified higher education expenses at a degree-granting institution. Graduated Repayment Period (GRP) allows interest-only payments for 12 billing periods after principal and interest repayment begins. At the time of the GRP request, the loan must be current (not past due). Customers may request GRP during the six billing periods before and the 12 billing periods immediately after the loan first enters principal and interest repayment. GRP does not extend the loan term. It increases the Total Loan Cost and monthly payments after the GRP will be higher than they would have been without it.

Interest is charged starting at disbursement, during school and the separation/grace period, and until the loan is paid in full. With the Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options, the interest rate is higher than with the Interest Repayment Option and Unpaid Interest is added to the loan’s Current Principal at the end of the grace/separation period. Payments may be required during the grace/separation period depending on the repayment option selected. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan.

To apply for internship/clerkship/fellowship/residency deferment, customers and an official from the internship, clerkship, fellowship, or residency program must complete and submit a deferment form to us for consideration. If approved, the loan will revert back to the same repayment option that applied during the in-school period for up to 12 months. Smart Option Student Loan customers can apply for and receive a maximum of five 12-month deferment periods and customers with graduate loans can apply for and receive a maximum of four 12-month deferment periods. Interest is charged during the deferment period and Unpaid Interest may be added to the Current Principal at the end of each deferment period, which will increase the Total Loan Cost. If you receive the return to school deferment, the Current Amount Due required each month will reflect the same repayment option that applied to your loan during the in-school period. You can receive a maximum of 48 months of deferment. Interest is charged during the deferment period and Unpaid Interest may be added to the Current Principal at the end of each deferment period, which will increase the Total Loan Cost.