Yes, you can switch back from REPAYE to IBR or PAYE

There has been a lot of confusion from borrowers whether or not REPAYE, with its partial interest subsidy, is a good choice for people with high future income (e.g. residents). The main concern is what happens after training when salaries increase and the possibility of breaking past the monthly payment cap, which could make you lose money (in the context of trying to minimize payments in anticipation of PSLF). Note: If you’re just trying to pay off your loans in an efficient way, breaking past the cap should be mostly irrelevant–you should be trying to pay down your loans as fast as possible anyway.1

If you call your federal loan servicer but don’t ask the right questions, your servicer may lead you astray in how they answer questions about the terms of the REPAYE program. It’s misleading but technically true: if you are making so much money that you break past the REPAYE cap, you absolutely cannot switch back to PAYE or IBR.

That’s NOT because you aren’t allowed to switch out of REPAYE in general (you are), but because at that point you would no longer have a “partial financial hardship” and thus no longer qualify for those plans to begin with. Your servicer is able to provide information and advice, but don’t for a second think that they don’t have a vested interest (see what I did there?) in your payments. A simple rule of thumb is that if you owe more on your loans than you make in a year, you definitely still quality for your income-driven repayment plan.

What is actually used for payment calculations is not your gross income but your discretionary income: your adjusted gross income minus 150% of the federal poverty line for your family size (e.g. family size of 1, 2, and 3 is &17,655, $23,895, and $30,135 in 2015, respectively). The official rule is that if your calculated monthly PAYE/IBR payment (whichever you qualify for) using 10/15% of your discretionary income is less than the standard 10-year repayment, then you still qualify.

So there is a simple solution for forward-thinking borrowers who want to take advantage of the REPAYE benefits but don’t want to tie themselves to higher future payments: Switch back before you make money.

You can switch from REPAYE to PAYE as long as you still qualify for PAYE. Or you can switch back to IBR instead if you had older loans and didn’t qualify for PAYE to begin with.2 Do this at the end of your training and the problem is solved. (Technically, many people could do it even once out in practice; it all depends on how much you borrowed versus how much you/your family makes per year. You can use the calculator to see what household income you’ll need to break past the threshold.)

Also note that since most people generally use tax-returns and not pay stubs to verify income, there is generally a delay between when your income rises and when your taxes reflect that increase. This isn’t the way servicers would like it, but it’s the reality on the ground. You could be an attending as of July 2016, but when you resubmit income verification in the fall of 2016 for REPAYE, you’ll be submitting your 2015 taxes, which is a combination of your last two PGY years of training.

Note that your unpaid interest will capitalize when you switch out of REPAYE, but if it’s all going to be forgiven in PSLF, this is essentially irrelevant. You’ll also sometimes have your accounts placed in an administrative forbearance for a month during the switch, which can delay your PSLF a bit as well.

The bottom line is that you absolutely can switch out of REPAYE—you just have to be a little bit thoughtful on when you want to switch out to not miss the window. REPAYE makes the most sense for many if not most residents. For people who aren’t going for PSLF (especially if they’ve borrowed smaller amounts and won’t enjoy an interest subsidy), no-cost private refinancing may be a better choice.

This plan-switch information comes from this document and FAQ, and I’ve confirmed this interpretation with Nelnet (one of the federal loan servicers). If you talk to your servicer and they say otherwise, ask them to explain exactly why and we’ll get to the bottom of it. Because they should be wrong.



Angel 03.07.17 Reply

I have $410,000 with capitalized interest at 6.8%. Recently switched from IBR to REPAYE after finding out the benefit of the REPAYE over IBR. My expected income for upcoming year is a shy over $200,000. My spouse’s income is around $250-300,000 with no debt. Is it better to stay on REPAYE or switch to PAYE and file as a single filer?

Ben 03.09.17 Reply

I’m assuming you mean better from the perspective of minimizing payments for PSLF. Using the federal estimator,

Estimated monthly REPAYE with a household income of $450k is around $3500.
Estimated PAYE with single filer making $200k is around $1400.

So PAYE filing separately is better. In general, when your spouse has high income and no loans, REPAYE stops being a good deal. Of course, if you actually plan on paying off your loans, then lower payments just means more money wasted on interest.

Aaron Ryoo 05.10.17 Reply

Re: “You could be an attending as of July 2016, but when you resubmit income verification in the fall of 2016 for REPAYE, you’ll be submitting your 2015 taxes, which is a combination of your last two PGY years of training.”

–With PSLF in mind– So at the time you are resubmitting income verification, should you switch from REPAYE to IBR at that time or before income verification? Basically, my question is when would be the most appropriate time to switch?

Ben 05.10.17 Reply

Generally you would want to switch at the last time your taxes will still give your a partial financial hardship. So if the taxes from your first half year of attending salary are high enough that you don’t have a PFH, then you’d want to switch when your taxes are from training only.

So in the example where you graduate in 2016 and are submitting certifications in the fall:
– Fall 2016 certification, 2015 taxes from training only
– Fall 2017 certification, 2016 taxes from last year of training and first half year as attending
– Fall 2018 certification, 2017 taxes from attending only

When to switch depends on which tax year will be the last one that you’d still qualify for IBR during. Many people never have to switch.

The alternative, if one is concerned about being asked for pay stubs or having the Department of Education audit your payment history would be to switch early before starting your attending job. This way when the form asks if your income has changed significantly since you filed your taxes, you can honestly say no. Again, this would only be necessary in the first place if you make enough to not get a PFH.

Tom Z 08.22.17 Reply

“Note that your unpaid interest will capitalize when you switch out of REPAYE”

I was recently (I believe incorrectly) switched from PAYE to REPAYE after recertifying, but interest wasn’t capitalized. Are you sure it would capitalize if I switched back? (Which I’m attempting to do)
I was under the impression capitalization only happens when quitting IBR.

Ben 08.22.17 Reply

See the table under question #4 on the official IDR FAQ:

If you recently switched, you probably don’t have a ton of unpaid interest so it may be less of a big deal that you think.

Tom Z 08.24.17

The outstanding interest still hasn’t capitalized, and I would assume that would happen immediately if it was going to happen at all.
Maybe by “leave the plan” they are referring to IDR in general.

Ben 08.24.17

Your original belief was what I used to think as well, but the language is pretty clear in that FAQ and elsewhere. The servicers aren’t that good at their jobs, it may be something as simple as that. Or it may be related to how this happened to your incorrectly. Feel free to call them and ask of course, no harm in that.

Kyle H 09.05.17 Reply

If you switch from REPAYE to PAYE, do your payments made under REPAYE carry over to PAYE to count towards the 120 payments needed before PSLF? For example, if you were in residency for three years, and thus made 36 qualifying payments towards PSLF, and switched to PAYE, would you need to make 120 payments with PAYE? Or would you only have 84 more payments to be made at that point?

Ben 09.05.17 Reply

Yes, they carry over. It’s 120 total payments made while in any qualifying plan(s). Qualifying plans include all the usual suspects: IBR, PAYE, REPAYE, and Standard 10-year.

Alex 03.25.20

Do you know of anything that verifies that you don’t have to start the PSLF clock over when switching payment plans? That’s what I was told by fedloan, and I’ve read that on other sites as well. But I can’t find anything from the department of education that verifies this. I recently switched form IBR to RePAYE and am 4 years away from PSLF.

Ben 03.25.20

It’s 120 payments per loan while in any qualifying plan(s); this is universally understood, don’t worry about it. They discuss the idea of plan switching and the underlying rules here:

Alex 03.25.20

Cool. Thank you! Also thanks for the work you do (especially the book). This stuff is so complicated and you do a great job explaining it.

Hayley 01.09.22

Hi Ben thanks so much for your help-
My wife is a OBGYN who has been a attending since August 2020 out of residency. She makes 268k and has 460k in federal loans. She has made 43/120 qualifying payments towards SLF so far. We recently got married in June 2021. I have no loans and I make 400k. When I make partner this year my salary will increase to 600-700k. She can not switch to PAYE Because she took her loans out too early (or late) to qualify. We submitted a application to switch to IBR with her 2020 tax return (her income of $140k on the 2020 tax return). We still haven’t got into the IBR program since we submitted the application back in August 2021. We should still be able to switch to IBR correct? What are our options at this point if we can’t get in?

Ben 01.12.22

Yeah, it may just be a backlog on the servicer’s end. I’d contact them asap.

Switching back before it’s too late and utilizing the MFS loophole will be the best way to keep her payments down given your income. Otherwise, she could conceivably switch to the 10-year standard plan. Even though that would cap her payments at a higher amount, she would still earn significant forgiveness thanks to the 4 years of lower payments so far, and that would be a lower monthly payment than the combined payment as married couple in REPAYE.

John 01.16.18 Reply

Lets assume I’m switching from REPAYE to PAYE after ~5 years. Is the total amount of all those interest subsidies I have been taking advantage of going to be tacked back onto my loan balance or does the non-subsidized interest rates just start accruing from the point that I switch?

Ben 01.17.18 Reply

No. The subsidies are not tacked back on, they are basically forgiven/waived interest on that monthly basis; that’s yours forever once applied. Whatever outstanding/unpaid interest you have accrued will capitalize though.

Graham 03.20.18 Reply

Hello everyone, please see if you can help me figure this one out:
I need to know if, and so when, I should switch from REPAYE to IBR to ensure I stay on a PSLF qualifying plan once my income increases. The people at Fedloans were worthless and misleading. For reference, I have 300k in loans, on REPAYE for 2 years, ineligible for PAYE, interest of 4.5%, and am in my last year of fellowship. I just accepted a job starting in July for 300k/year to start. I will qualify for PSLF in 2026.
The main crux of the question is: if I decide to switch to IBR (to cap my monthly payment), do I need to recertify income at the time I do the switch, or will the current income be used? This has significant implications for the total I could save with PSLF, and also about whether I miss the window to switch from REPAYE to IBR.
My monthly payment on REPAYE is behind my income by 1.5 years or so, so right now my payment is based on my R4-R5 year ($316/month). In November 2018 I will recertify with income based on my R5-fellowship year (payment will go to $366), and in November of 2019 will recertify with income from half fellowship/half attending income (payment jumps to $1440).
I plan to remain in REPAYE through that year (where my income is listed as half fellowship/half attending), but then have to decide if I should switch to IBR. From the math (300k in loans at 4.5%), it looks like the REPAYE $/month would equal the IBR (or 10 year standard) payment when my income hits $400k (monthly payment of about $3100), so it makes sense to stay on REPAYE if my income will be less than this (to maximize dollars forgiven with PSLF). If I expect my income to be over $400k, or I get married, the REPAYE payments would be higher than IBR. Using the calculators online, it looks like once my income hits $265k, I no longer qualify as having a hardship and from what I hear can no longer switch from REPAYE to IBR. So if I’m going to switch, I need to do it during the year where my taxes reflect the half year of fellowship (AGI for that year will probably be $190k).
If I decide to switch, and I go along and pay the ~$1400/month on REPAYE at the AGI of 190k, will I need to recertify income again when I switch? The reason I ask is because after 3 months or so of paying at that rate, I will have filed taxes again, and that tax return will reflect my full year as an attending, and from what I understand I would then be stuck in REPAYE if I want PSLF.
I know it may be a gamble to switch since at 300k income I would be paying about $9000/year more in payments on IBR than REPAYE, but I expect to be up to 400 in a few years and I’ll likely get married in there somewhere so REPAYE may burn me in the long run.

Sorry for the long winded post…first time here.

Ben 03.20.18 Reply

They can always ask you for paystubs to verify income. Personally, I would consider making the switch at or near your annual certification time using the last set of taxes that make that a possibility. I wouldn’t try to time it down to the month.

Keep in mind re: the marriage thing that it will depend on how much said future spouse makes if it will make filing taxes separately worthwhile in IBR or not even if you do the switch. If your spouse is in a similar loan situation scenario, then you also wouldn’t need to MFS.

I would consider if it’s worth it at all. If your income is going to be $500k, that’s one thing, but if you earned $420k for a year or two, then the extra 10% of $20k is going to be a rounding error for you at that level of income. If you’re getting an academic job, you’ll probably have access to a 403b and 457b and maybe even a mandatory contribution to a pension or something analogous, so you could reduce your income by $37k+ right there as well. Spouses have access to retirement accounts as well. Are you going to be making more than $440k? You see what I’m getting at here.

Graham 03.21.18

Yes this makes sense, I am leaning toward staying in REPAYE. The extra $ up front it will cost me (about $9000/year) for IBR will be a much higher percentage of my income than the extra it may cost me to stay in REPAYE and have my income jump substantially. That savings could be invested. I’d have to get to over 500k AGI for it to cost $10k more a year in REPAYE, which may not happen.

Kate 03.28.18 Reply

Hi Ben,
Similar question to the one above but with different figures and with no PSLF at this point. I’m a recent med school grad with loans prior to 2007 so not eligible for PAYE. Currently enrolled in REPAYE. Loans around $300,000. Planning on working part-time and making around $50,000/yr. Getting married to someone with NO student loan debt and a salary around $70,000/yr. I know there are more factors to consider, but at these income levels does it makes sense to stay in REPAYE or switch to IBR once we get married? Thanks so much!!

Ben 04.02.18 Reply

That depends on if you’re trying to minimize payments or not. You would pay less in IBR filing separately per month, yes, and if you’re attempting 25-year forgiveness that would result in the most forgiven. But still probably spending around $400k+ even in that scenario.

Adam 04.02.18 Reply

It also may be important for you to consider exactly how “partial financial hardship” is determined at the time you apply to switch into PAYE.

From Section § 685.209 of the Code of Federation Regulations, the maximum payment that you can make under PAYE before no longer being in partial financial hardship is “…calculated under a standard repayment plan based on a 10- year repayment period, using the greater of the amount due at the time the borrower initially entered repayment or at the time the borrower elects the Pay As You Earn repayment plan.”

Practically, what this means is that if your loans have in fact been growing during residency because you’ve been paying very little each month, at the time you apply to switch into PAYE, the threshold standard 10-year payment may actually be higher than it was at the beginning of the repayment period (i.e. the beginning of residency).

Ben 04.04.18 Reply

Very true, good point

Alex 05.11.18 Reply

Hi Ben,
Just wanted to clarify- I am graduating medical school and starting residency in July. I am not a new borrower, since I had some leftover undergrad loans taken out before 2007. I’m weighing my options for the best repayment plan. I, like most people, like the lower REPAYE payments, but I’m just uncomfortable with the lack of a cap on the payments (I always pay more than the minimum when I can, but I like having a cap in case of an unforeseen or untoward life event of some kind). If I understand your post correctly, I could potentially do REPAYE for most of my training (not sure if I’m going fellowship yet) and then switch to IBR, say, last year of training? (I know I’d see an increase in my payments for that year, but then I get my safety cap back before I become an attending). Thanks so much!

Alex 05.11.18 Reply

Also just to clarify, I am not pursuing PSLF

Ben 05.11.18 Reply

Yes, that’s exactly right.

However, due to the difference between 10% and 15% payments, it actually takes substantially more than just breaking past the cap to actually spend less money per month by switching.

Dan 12.06.18 Reply

Hello Ben! Your posts are very informative even for those not in the medical field.
May I pick your brain please?

I am trying to help my girl friend with her massive student loan debt.

In a nutshell she has
1) 8 loans (tokens) that qualify for REPAYE/PAYE with great lakes (all with different rates and amounts etc)
2) 1 Loan with AES FFELP only qualifies for IBR

So far I have concluded that REPAYE or PAYE will be better for her than IBR (if you assume that she will be looking to get loan forgiveness in 20 yrs and then count on insolvency?) and wanted to know what do you think about consolidating the FFELP loan with only 1 of the loans serviced by great lakes (one that is small at only $1500 and has just started accruing interest at 3.2%) and choosing great lakes as the servicer of this consolidated 2 loans? They will have all loans in the end.

The FFELP loan is a subsidized stafford that has been in deferment for many years at $7k 6.8%.

This way she doesn’t consolidate ALL the loans (avoiding interest capitalization on those that have accrued big interest, although I am not sure if this matters when looking for 20yrs forgiveness), just 2 and then all can be put in REPAY or PAYE.

Please let me know what you think of this or if you need more details.

P.S: You mention that those looking at PSLF should not be concerned about interest capitalization if they switch down the road from REPAYE to PAYE just in time to qualify, but what about if you are looking at the 20 yrs forgiveness? Does it matter if there is capitalization then? If she marries someone with no loans and high income in the future, wouldn’t it be better that she gets the PAYE plan from the start instead of REPAYE?

This is all a bit daunting to be honest.

Sorry for the long write up, and thank you in advance for any insight you can provide.

Ben 12.08.18 Reply

Interest capitalization definitely matters for long-term loan forgiveness. That extra principal will accrue more interest over the 20-year period than the original smaller loan amount. Since the forgiveness is taxable, you’re still accountable for a direct fraction of the total forgiven amount. You don’t want it to be larger than necessary.

I would personally not plan to account for insolvency 20 years in the future, but if one were truly insolvent and the feds agreed, then the capitalized amount would not matter.

The forgiveness timelines between IBR, PAYE, and REPAYE are different (25 years, 20 years, and 20/25 undergraduate vs graduate, respectively).

If one is planning on going for PSLF or IDR loan forgiveness, then probably don’t need to keep multiple loans instead of one consolidation, unless she already has payments made counting toward forgiveness with the other eligible loans, in which case sure.

Whether or not the PAYE loophole of Married Filed Separately makes sense for those with high-earning low-debt spouses is not a trivial question and depends entirely on the number and amounts involved. It is possible to lose money in tax inefficiency even if you have lower payments.

dan 12.10.18 Reply

Thank you very much for replying.

This is very complex and even harder to predict the future in order to make the right choice.

Without this being financial advise, would you be more inclined to suggest that Repaye could be a better choice since more interest will be forgiven vs PAYE being that she is single at the moment and making little money?
Also, I need to figure out whether it is better for her to consolidate the FFELP 7k at 6.8% loan with the little $1500 loan at 3.2% vs a bigger 10k at a similar interest rate of 6.5%. I figure it would be better to have a consolidated 9.5k loan at around 5+-% weighted average vs a 17k loan at 6.7+-% right?
Thank you for your time and insight.

Ben 12.11.18 Reply

The long term plan in part dictates what the right choice is to optimize.

If she is in a negative amortization situation currently then REPAYE will have the lower effective interest rate and likely the better choice.

The weighted average takes into account the size of loans.

I recommend reading my student loans book. It’s free as of a couple days ago:

Dan 12.11.18 Reply

Thanks for the reply and the link to the book.

I read on it that you suggest consolidating the loans right away in order to take advantage of the REPAYE interest subsidy because consolidation would capitalize interest.

In this case great lakes has already capitalized the interest since she has now her first scheduled payment under the 10yr plan come due at the end of the month (which we will postpone while the FFELP loan is being consolidated and transferred to great lakes for them to calculate the REPAYE plan and start from there)

So I was wondering if consolidating ALL 9 of her loans in one go will be a mistake vs consolidating the FFELP with just one of the loans and leaving the rest alone.
I understand that the new rate would be the weighed average and additionally they will round it up to the nearest 1/8th%, so it looks like it is not a good idea to add even 1/8th with consolidate them all, correct?

If the capitalization has already happened, and all those loans with great lakes qualify for the REPAYE already, is there any benefit to consolidating ALL loans when I help her fill out the consolidation request on the federal aid website other than getting it all done in one step and having just one big loan vs 9 loan/tokens with a weighted average + 1/8th%?

Thanks for all your insight and time. This probably is the last thing I need to figure out.

Ben 12.11.18 Reply

You can do the calculation (there are consolidation calculators out there if you don’t want to do the math) and see if the rate really goes up. It goes up to the nearest 1/8th—not just automatically by 1/8th—so in many cases that is not meaningfully different.

All things being equal I’d rather have 1 loan. Especially when thinking about loan forgiveness 20 years and 240 payments later, the fewer number of data points the fewer chances for a mistake. That’s a personal opinion, but the services aren’t known for their skill and acumen.

DMC 03.07.19 Reply

I have a sort of obscure question about REPAYE and PSLF.
I have $200K in direct loans, I’m currently on IBR, and I am 5 years along in the PSLF adventure. I want to switch from IBR to REPAYE to lower my payments (I earn $85K, so my payments will decrease from $650 to $430).
I read an article that freaked me out, so now I want to ask this:
If I enroll in REPAYE and subsequently marry a millionaire, my payments would go up higher than they’d be under the standard 10-year repayment plan. Would these hypothetical super-high payments under REPAYE still count towards PSLF? I read an article that said if your REPAYE payments exceed what you would have paid under a 10-year standard repayment plan, those REPAYE payments would no longer count towards PSLF. I think this is wrong, and on the PSLF employer verification form it doesn’t say anything abotu this, but it freaked me out nonetheless. Thanks!

Ben 03.08.19 Reply

Yes they still count. As long as the payment is the calculated payment on a qualifying plan, it counts. You could also file taxes separately and switch back to IBR if you still have a a partial fianancial hardship or even switch to the standard plan and just use the cappped 10-year payment.

Madison Kavanaugh 04.15.20 Reply

Hello Ben!

I have a question about starting in REPAYE and switching into PAYE. My boyfriend and I start residency in July, in IM and pediatrics respectively. We both have ~270k in loans. We both plan to subspecialize (6 years of residency/fellowship combined for both of us). We are likely going to get married at some point during those 6 years. He will likely do gastroenterology and wants to be aggressive with repayment after fellowship, probably refinancing. He has decided REPAYE is the best option for him and the numbers make clear sense.

I have run my numbers and overall it seems PAYE is my best option (least amount paid with most amount forgiven under the 20-year plan and PSLF). My question is about starting in REPAYE and switching to PAYE before getting married. Say I do REPAYE for the 3 years of residency and then switch into PAYE. The REPAYE plan will have saved me half my interest for 3 years (roughly 8k a year, 24k total) but then my unpaid interest will capitalize. This will add roughly 20k to my capital. It is around the same amount as I would have had if I started in PAYE from the beginning. Is doing REPAYE first worth the hassle of this? Obviously, as a pediatrician, I am aiming for PSLF but I don’t want to be naive and have been accruing interest that I didn’t need to be.

Any and all advice would be appreciated. Thank you!


Ben 04.17.20 Reply

Depends on the plan. If one is absolutely set on PSLF, for example, then you do PAYE from the beginning, because the REPAYE interest subsidy would be useless. But many residents will do REPAYE as a healthy middle ground, setting themselves up with PSLF -qualifying payments while also mitigating runaway interest in case they ultimately take a nonqualifying. If you were, for example, to do “REPAYE in residency and then refinance” strategy, then the capitalization was going to happen anyway, and REPAYE helped save you some money.

In terms of switching to PAYE, one basically does this for three reasons:
1. In order to utilize the MFS loophole to exclude spousal income and keep IDR payments low for PSLF.
2. In order to cap payments at the 10-year standard amount when your income is very high.
3. To get the 20 instead of 25-year loan forgiveness. When to do this depends on if your spouse has loans, if you need MFS to get low payments. There’s not one simple answer here. For some people, it makes the most sense mathematically to wait as long as possible to make the switch in order to maximize the number of years with an unpaid interest subsidy.

For you, it’s probably #1. However, you really don’t know your boyfriend’s long term plan either. A lot can happen in SIX years, and he may find himself accidentally in a qualifying job.

Switching will lose you a month of qualifying payments, so you can lose money on PSLF that way. But REPAYE can be a good hedge if you’re not sure, because the money saved will be real if you eventually go on to pay them off yourself. I do recommend you read at least the middle chapters of the my free book if you haven’t already.

Justin 04.26.20 Reply

Hello Ben,

I have been reading through many of the comments on this site and am curious about the situation in which my wife and I are in. My wife has around $115k in student loans. Currently, she is a teacher for a public school system. This debt was acquired prior to marriage. Obviously, post marriage her income increased substantially especially due to us filling joint for 2018 tax year. For 2019 we decided to file separately. I have agi of around $88k, while my wife’s is nearly $40k. We decided to try to file separately to take advantage of perhaps lower payment options while still remaining on a track to have her student loans forgiven through some of the PSLF Programs. Having said that, REPAYE is not a great option for us. We’ve seen simulations that show with the changes in income due to filing nearly 1/2 to 1/3 the payment size. Recently, the tax information was finally updated at the student loan office and REPAYE was recalculated at $780/month. Have you come across any other examples where married couples file separately to try to cut student loan payments down?

Any input on this topic would be appreciated!

Thank you!

Ben 04.26.20 Reply

Yes, this very common. It’s called the Married Filing Separately loophole, but it doesn’t work in REPAYE (must be in PAYE or IBR). I highly highly recommend you read my book on this, particularly the chapter on Maximizing PSLF: (it’s all freely available online)

Mike 10.27.21 Reply

There are a lot of comments here about the number of payments you already made towards PSLF being maintained when you switch, but what about none PSLF forgiveness?

I have about 300k in loans from law school and am enrolled in either the IBR or ICR plan (I can’t figure out how to tell which one and my loan servicer can’t either for some reason =/). I’ve been in the plan for 7 years now and a lot of interest has accrued and I’m trying to analyze if it makes sense for me to switch to a PAYE/REPAYE plan if I’m eligible. I’m terrified, however, that my 7 years of payments won’t count towrds my 20/25 years of payments before forgiveness. I can’t see any feasible way in my field I’ll ever make more than 150k so actually paying off the loan doesn’t seem like it’s ever really going to happen.

Is there any documentation on whether those 7 years will carry over? I don’t think capitilizing my interest and then starting over on the forgiveness period makes sense for me =/


Ben 10.27.21 Reply

Yes, there is. The discussion you’re looking for is in the chapter on long-term loan forgiveness from my book, which you can read here:

H 11.20.21 Reply

Hi Ben,

Thanks for the great tips and insights. I’m currently on REPAYE finishing up fellowship in 6/2022, which would give me 5 years of qualifying payment towards a $250k loan. I am trying to figure out when would be a good time to switch to PAYE to cap my PSLF payments around $2700/month as I am not due for recertification until 11/22 at the earliest. I will most likely make over 450k by then, so would it still be possible to switch out of REPAYE into PAYE after fellowship if I use my tax return from 2021, or can I voluntarily recertify earlier? Would they ask for paystub instead to deny me? Would I be grandfathered into PAYE using my current income for the remaining duration of PSLF regardless of how much my paystub will be?

Thanks very much for your time.

Lucas 01.16.22 Reply

Hi Ben,

Thank you for all that you do. I have found this thread to be very informative. I was hoping to provide my situation and get some input as the big transition at the end of training is taking place this year.

I have a $174k in loans ($163k principal + $11k interest). Interest is at 5.4%. I’m completing fellowship (PGY5) in July of 2022. I will be taking a job that is PSLF qualifying at a salary of $420k starting in August of 2022. Currently I make $70k as a fellow. I have been paying the minimum on the REPAYE plan for all of training, which should return to $395/month on May 1st, 2022 when payments are scheduled to restart from the pandemic (currently not paying anything).

I plan to recertify in June 2022 (when I usually have to recertify) before I leave fellowship to lock in another 12 months of payments at $395/month. This will put me at completing roughly 70 qualifying payments before my attending salary is calculated in (when I recertify in June of 2023). This means I have 50 more payments to make. In order to maximize my forgiveness at the end of the 120 payments, my understanding is that I need to transition from REPAYE to PAYE or standard payment plan with my significant salary increase. With the PFH calculator, my hybrid year (2022 – half fellowship/half attending) seems to be right on the cusp of qualifying for PAYE, so I think I would like to do it sooner rather than later to be conservative and not miss my window). I hope I am understanding this all correctly. My questions are the following:

1. Should I switch to PAYE or standard 10 year plan?
2. When should I apply for the switch?
3. I am getting married in September 2023 to someone who will have $60k in loans and will be making about $240k/year (starting in 2024 after completing school) at a non qualifying job. How does this impact my next moves?

Thank you again for everything!

– Lucas

Ben 01.16.22 Reply

1) You will capped at the 10-year standard regardless because your income is so high, but yes I would pick PAYE. It will keep you best positioned if your situation changes in the future.
2) They use your tax return, so before the next tax return showing a higher salary is available. Paystub requests are pretty uncommon.
3) Won’t really matter if you’re in PAYE or standard (but would in Repaye). In many cases people will want to file separately to remove their spouse’s income from the IDR calculation, but in your case you’ll be capped anyway at the maximum amount so their income won’t make a difference.

Moses 04.03.22 Reply

Hi Ben,

Question about switching. Very strongly pursuing PSLF. I have $400K in student loans and have been on REPAYE (I was ineligible for PAYE) since I graduated med school. I’m a fellow making $75k, my wife makes $80k with income growth around 10% per year. I’m planning to take a job that pay $750,000 after fellowship. I’ll have 6 years or 72/120 payments for PSLF when I finish training. Does the math work to switch to IBR at 15%? If so when should I do it.

Ben 04.04.22 Reply

Yes, at income that high IBR will be maxed out below the REPAYE monthly payment amount. Put your numbers in here to see:

You should switch when your taxes are for your fellow salary and not as an attening, so at your next recertification should be fine.

Mike 02.05.23 Reply

PAYE being phased out? I’m unclear on the timing of this but seems like PAYE will be replaced in the near future with plans that do not have the standard repayment cap. To me this means it’s time tos switch to PAYE from REPAYE asap. I’m in last year of fellowship.

Ben 02.07.23 Reply

Not quite finalized yet, but not before July 2023. But: “The Department also proposes to sunset new student borrower enrollment in the PAYE and original ICR plans.” This apparently has been said to refer to stopping people from switching back, and that’s what some outlets are reporting, but histoically that typically means new students and not old borrowers switching between plans they’re otherwise eligible for. if so that is actually a very large change to the status quo, and one that actually violates precedent in handling the MPN.

This isn’t finalized (and it’s not even entirely clear that’s going to be the final rule), but if so it’s also not clear anyone will fight them on it. We’ll probably know more next month, and people will have time to switch back before the changes take effect to be sure.

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