Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans are a true lifeboat for millions of federal student loan borrowers struggling to repay their student loans. The programs provide uniquely-tailored monthly payments for borrowers based on income and family size, with a loan forgiveness safety net at the conclusion of the repayment term (20 or 25 years, depending on the specific plan). For many student loan borrowers, an IDR plan is the only thing standing between them and default.
The problem, though, is that the IDR system is a mess. For one thing, we have a confusing menu of individual IDR plans – there’s Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), and Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE). Each plan has its own formula, unique eligibility criteria, and strange programmatic quirks. Figuring out what plan is right for you – and whether you should switch – can be a daunting task.
The complexities of IDR programs don’t make the struggling student loan servicing system any better, either. The CFPB recently released a report slamming student loan servicers for IDR-related processing delays and mistakes. Borrowers are frequently getting bumped off of IDR plans through no fault of their own, leading to serious negative consequences.
I think the current system is just not sustainable on a long term basis, even as more borrowers rely on these IDR programs to stay afloat. Things must change. Well, I think we’re starting to see the beginnings of reform.Read More