income-based repayment plan

Posted : July 8, 2009
Last Updated : February 11, 2015

income-based repayment plan

Income-Based Repayment (IBR) is a repayment option for federal student loans. IBR can help make your student loan payments more manageable by determining your payment amount based on your income and family size.

You may be eligible for IBR if your federal student loan debt is high relative to your income and family size. Your loan servicer will determine your eligibility, but you can use an IBR calculator to see if you may benefit from this repayment plan.

Federal student loans that are eligible to be repaid under an IBR plan include:

  • Stafford loans
  • Grad PLUS loans
  • Consolidation loans (that do not include Parent PLUS loans)

Loans that are not eligible include:

  • Parent PLUS loans
  • Consolidation loans that repaid a Parent PLUS loan
  • Perkins loans (unless included in a consolidation loan)
  • Private student loans
  • State loans

Payment Amount
IBR caps monthly payments at 15 percent (or 10 percent for new borrowers on or after July 1, 2014) of the difference between Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) and 150 percent of the Department of Health and Human Services poverty line that corresponds to your family size. That amount is then divided by 12 to get the monthly IBR repayment amount. The formula is as follows:

Monthly payments are calculated as 1/12th of:
15% x [AGI – (150% poverty line applicable to family size)]

AGI is your adjusted gross income as reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you are married and filed jointly, then your AGI includes both your and your spouse’s income. If you are married but filed separately, then your AGI includes only your income.

Family size is determined by counting you (the borrower), your spouse, and your children (if they receive more than half of their support from you). Family size also includes other individuals who live with you and receive more than half of their support from you and will continue to receive support for the year the family size is certified. Support includes money, gifts, loans, housing, food, clothes, car, medical and dental care, and payment of college costs.

Pros and Cons
Income-Based Repayment has benefits as well as disadvantages. You should weigh the pros and cons and make the best decision for your situation.

The benefits of IBR include:

  • Lower monthly payments - IBR monthly payment amount is less than the monthly payment amount under the standard 10-year repayment plan.
  • 25-year balance cancellation - If you repay under the IBR plan for 25 years (or 20 years for new borrowers on or after July 1, 2014) and meet other requirements, any remaining balance will be cancelled.
  • 10-year Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program - If you work in a public service job and have Direct Loans, then your remaining loan balance could be cancelled after 10 years. Read more about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

The disadvantages of IBR include:

  • Longer repayment period - A reduced payment in IBR usually extends your repayment period.
  • Increased interest payment - An extended repayment period causes you to pay more total interest over the life of the loan.
  • Annual documentation - You have to submit updated information about your income and family size each year or your payment reverts to the standard 10-year repayment amount.

For more information about this repayment option, visit

Find a student loan refinancing plan that works for you.
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