Income-Based Repayment (IBR) is that fantastic federal student loan repayment plan where borrowers pay a unique monthly payment based on their income, even if they have a large federal student loan balance. For many borrowers, it is the only affordable repayment plan out there.
Under IBR, federal borrowers must “re-certify” their eligibility for IBR every 12 months by completing an application and submitting updated proof of income, such as a tax return. The federal student loan servicer then crunches the numbers and recalculates the borrower’s monthly payment for the next 12 months.
This process is, in theory, supposed to be smooth and relatively easy. Unfortunately, as many of you know, that’s not always the case. Last year, I blogged about my own horrible experience re-certifying my income eligibility for IBR, and even as an expert in student loans, the process was a nightmare. My loan servicer failed to notify me when it was time to re-certify, thenbumped me off IBR and drastically increased my monthly payment. In the end, it all worked out, but it took a lot of time, effort, and frustration, and it was not an easy process.
This year, my loan servicer proactively notified me three months prior to the end of my 12-month IBR period that it was time to re-certify my income to remain on IBR. This is certainly encouraging, and it is already an improvement from last year, when I received no notification at all. I promptly sent in my IBR re-certification application and proof of income. I followed up by phone and confirmed that they are processing my application. Now, I am waiting for a response. I will keep all of you updated on how this goes, and hopefully, this will go more smoothly than last year.