Forbearance is permission from your student loan servicer or lender to postpone payments or, in some cases, to make smaller payments on your loan. Lenders grant forbearances for many reasons, including temporary financial hardship, and a forbearance can be granted on student loans that are in default status. Interest continues to accrue while a loan is in forbearance, which can greatly increase your total loan balance.
Forbearances are issued for a specific period that cannot be greater than a year, though you can reapply for another forbearance once it has expired. The maximum length of time that a loan can be placed in forbearance is anywhere from three to five years, depending on the type of forbearance that you qualify for.
Alternatives to Forbearance
Before requesting forbearance, check to see if you are eligible for a deferment or a different payment plan. Interest stops accruing on your subsidized loans during a deferment, reducing the amount you will eventually have to pay on your loan. Deferments are issued for a number of reasons, including severe economic hardship, unemployment, military service, and returning to school. You may also have the option of changing to a repayment plan that reduces your minimum monthly payment to something that you can afford.