For students in the United States who are looking to obtain post-secondary education, Stafford loans are a common form of financial aid. These federal student loans can be obtained by completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Unlike a car loan or a mortgage, however, federal Stafford loans are not awarded based on your credit score. Financial need alone determines if you can receive federal Stafford loans and whether or not you are eligible to receive a subsidized loan in which no interest accrues while you are still attending school.
Stafford loans do not need to be repaid as long as you are attending school at least half-time. Once you graduate or drop below a half-time enrollment, you'll have six months to find a job and get your affairs in order. During this time, you'll receive a packet with lender details and the due date of your first Stafford loan repayment.
The length of your Stafford loan repayment depends on what type of payment plan you select as well as the total amount of your loan. The standard plan places even monthly payments over a period of ten years, while the extended payment plan stretches even monthly payments over periods ranging from 12 to 30 years. Graduated repayment plans start out with low monthly payments, then payments slowly increase over the 12 to 30 year repayment period. Income sensitive repayment increases or decreases your loan payment amounts as your salary changes, with the total loan repayment taking from 12 to 30 years.
If you're having trouble meeting the obligations of Stafford loan repayment, there are a few different options to consider. For those who have several different loans to repay, federal Stafford loan consolidation may be able to help by combining all debt into one loan with a lower interest rate. If you are temporarily unable to make payments due to an illness or medical emergency, your lender might allow you to request forbearance for a limited time. Loans can also be deferred for up to three years due to unemployment or economic hardship.
Getting your Stafford loan repayment obligations permanently discharged isn't easy. Your loan won't be forgiven because you didn't like the program, didn't graduate, or couldn't find a job after earning your degree. Stafford loans are commonly discharged only for those who work in designated public service areas such as teaching in a school with a high percentage of low income students. Loans can also be forgiven if you become permanently disabled. A cancellation of Stafford loan repayment obligations after bankruptcy is possible only if you meet very specific eligibility criteria.