Student Loan Debt Repayment

Paying back student loans can seem overwhelming. Making sure you understand who your loan servicer is (who you make your payments to), how to choose a repayment plan that is right for you, and where to turn to for help if needed will make the process more approachable.

Know Your Loans

You can’t manage your student loan debt unless you understand what you owe. Make sure you know the balance on each of your loans, when payments are due, and where to send them. If you don’t know the basic terms of your student loans, contact your loan servicer. And if you’re not sure who or how many loan servicers you have, visit the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) to look this information up.

The following are loan servicers for federally held loans made through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program and the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program.

Loan ServicerContact
Default Resolution Group1-800-621-3115 (TTY: 1-877-825-9923)
EdFinancial Services1-855-337-6884

Understanding the Total Cost of Your Loans

Aside from the amount you borrowed, other factors can increase the total cost of your student loan in the long run. Understanding what these factors are and how to mitigate them will help you successfully pay down your student loans:

  • Late fees: Loan servicers may charge a fee if a payment is late. To help avoid late payments, set up auto debit. Your payments will be automatically deducted from your bank account at the same time every month. Just make sure you have enough money in your account each month to cover your payments.
  • Payment-related fees: Loan servicers may charge a fee for returned checks or insufficient funds in your bank account.
  • Variable interest rates: Variable interest rates may go up or down due to an increase or decrease to the loan’s index. This may impact your monthly payments and total student loan cost. If you’re looking for predictable monthly payments, consider a fixed interest rate. But keep in mind that you could have higher monthly payments with a fixed interest rate than you would with a variable interest rate.
  • How you choose to repay your loan: If you choose a loan that does not require you to make payments while you’re in school, interest will keep adding up and will increase your total student loan cost. Choosing a repayment option where you make payments while in school will help reduce your total student loan cost.
  • Deferment and forbearance: A deferment allows you to temporarily suspend payments on your student loan under certain circumstances, which may include going back to school, or enrolling in an internship or residency program. Keep in mind that while in deferment, interest may keep adding up and increase your total student loan cost.
  • Forbearance: may let you temporarily postpone your loan payments. It can help you avoid delinquency and default if you’re facing temporary financial difficulty. While you’re in forbearance, you may not have to make payments. However, interest may continue to accrue. At the end of your forbearance period, the interest may capitalize (be added to your loan’s principal), so your total loan cost may increase.
The calculators listed on our Loan Repayment Calculators page can help you plan for repayment.

Choosing a Repayment Plan

When it’s time to start paying back your student loans, you will likely have a variety of repayment options, from a standard ten-year plan, to extended plans that base your payments on how much you earn. Learn about the plans available for each of your loans and choose the options that allow you to get out of debt as fast as possible. Many experts say that your student loan payments shouldn’t exceed 8% to 10% of your gross monthly income. You may want to use that as a rough guide, keeping in mind that if you extend the life of your loans, you’ll significantly increase the amount you pay in the long run.

To compare repayment plans, you can use the Repay Student Debt Calculator offered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Whether you have federal student loans, private loans, or both, this calculator is a great place to start evaluating your repayment options. If your lender offers an electronic payment option, sign up for it if you can. Your payments will never be late, and you may also qualify for a reduced interest rate.

The direct loan program offers five different repayment plans:

  • Standard Repayment – The borrower will pay a fix amount each month for the life of the loan.  The payment would be determined by your borrowed amount, interest rate, and term of the loan.
  • Graduated Repayment – The borrower makes payments lower than the standard repayment plan, but payments increase every two years.
  • Income Contingent (ICR) – In this plan, the borrower would make payments based on their income, family size, loan balance, and interest rate. Borrowers in the ICR can have a payment as low as $0.00/mo.
  • Income Based (IBR) – This plan bases the borrower's payment strictly on their income and family size.  The balance of the loan and interest rate are not used in calculating the monthly payment.  The borrower would be responsible to pay 15% of their discretionary income to their federal student loans. Borrowers in the IBR can have a payment as low as $0.00/mo.
  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE) – This plan usually has the lowest monthly payment and is also based on your income but uses 10% of your discretionary income as a payment instead of the 15% used in IBR.  Qualifying for the PAYE repayment plan is more difficult than the others. Borrowers in the PAYE can have a payment as low as $0.00/mo.
  • Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) formerly the REPAYE plan – The SAVE Plan replaced the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan. Borrowers on the REPAYE Plan automatically get the benefits of the new SAVE Plan. The SAVE Plan eliminates 100% of remaining monthly interest for both subsidized and unsubsidized loans after you make a scheduled payment. This means that if you make your monthly payment, your loan balance won’t grow due to unpaid interest that accrued since your last payment. Like other IDR plans, the SAVE Plan calculates your monthly payment amount based on your income and family size. The SAVE Plan decreases monthly payments by increasing the income exemption from 150% to 225% of the poverty line.

Once you are enrolled in a payment plan that fits your budget, it's is important to not miss your first payment! Most student loans come with a grace period — a period of time after you leave school when you aren’t required to make payments. Grace periods are usually six or nine months, but they vary depending on the type of loan. A surprising number of student loan borrowers default on their loans because they don’t know when their grace periods end. Mark payment due dates on your calendar, and know that you are required to make on-time payments even if you never receive notice from your lender.

Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

  • Income-Based Repayment Plans: After 20-25 years of qualifying payments in one of the U.S. Department of Education’s income-based repayment plans, your loan balance is forgiven.
  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness: Offers up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness for teachers who teach full time for five years in certain low-income schools and meet other program qualifications.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): Forgives the balance on your Direct Loans after you make 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer.
  • Perkins Loan Forgiveness: Provides up-front loan forgiveness for certain types of public service or for full-time work in certain occupations.
  • Volunteer Work: AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and Peace Corps service qualify for several types of student loan forgiveness.
  • Health Professions: Several federal agencies provide student loan forgiveness programs for health professionals who work in specific locations or specialize in certain fields.
  • Law School Loan Repayment: Several programs provide forgiveness to law school graduates who practice public interest law (public defenders).
  • Government Employees: Many agencies provide up to $60,000 ($10,000 per calendar year) in student loan repayment assistance in exchange for a minimum commitment of 3 years of service.
  • Military Service: Different branches of the U.S. Armed Forces offer a number of different forgiveness and student loan repayment programs.

Wisconsin Student Loan Help Hotline

This new Wisconsin Student Loan Help Hotline was created in partnership with the Wisconsin Coalition on Student Debt and Ascendium Education Solutions. This dedicated, toll free number was created to help student loan borrowers navigate repaying their loan. Reach the hotline at 833-589-0750

Student Loan Debt Relief Scams

So-called student loan debt relief companies promise to defer, lowe​​r, consolidate, or eliminate federal student debt, but end up costing you more money and may not reduce your federal student loan debt at all. These companies typically just offer services you can get for free from the federal government or your loan servicer. And often these companies are just fraudsters who are after your money. For more information about Student Loan Debt Relief Scams visit the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Contact Us

Cheryl Rapp
College Investment Program Finance Officer
Office of Financial Capability
Phone: (608) 640-6161
Mailing Address:
Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
Office of Financial Capability
4822 Madison Yards Way, North Tower
Madison, WI 53705
Physical Address:
Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
Office of Financial Capability
4822 Madison Yards Way, North Tower
Madison, WI 53705