Loan Debt & Repayment

The Office of Financial Aid (OFA) recognizes the challenges, anxiety, and confusion that students have regarding their loan borrowing, understanding the terms and conditions of various loan programs, and making decisions when it comes time for loan repayment. We hope that this section of our website will give students a basic understanding of how to effectively manage their debt and relieve some of the fears that come with loan repayment. We encourage students to contact our office with any questions or to schedule one-on-one loan counseling for a better understanding of your loans.

Retrieve Your Federal Loans

Students who borrowed Federal Loans, may access their loan history on the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). Student access to NSLDS allows students to locate their federal loans, see who their lenders are, provides lender/servicer contact information, and contains details about the loans to help students manage loan repayment.

Note: NSLDS does not provide loan history for Private Loans (HUECU, Signature, CitiAssist, MEFA), nor does it track university or school-named loans borrowed for education. Students should contact the institution from which they borrowed these loans for further details.

The Federal PIN Number is needed to access NSLDS. This PIN is the same number used to complete the FAFSA.

Managing Your Debt and Loan Repayment

Your Federal Student Loans: Learn the Basics and Manage Your Debt is a brochure published by the U.S. Department of Education which offering comprehensive information on Federal Student Loans and managing debt.

We strongly encourage you to actively manage the repayment of your federal loans by utilizing the NSLDS at This site allows you comprehensive access to information about all of your Federal Perkins and Stafford/Direct Loan(s) including outstanding balances, loan statuses, and loan servicers. This site will be of particular value to those students who have borrowed at multiple institutions and may need assistance tracking their outstanding loans.

Federal Perkins Loans – The Harvard Student Loan Office (SLO) manages and services the Federal Perkins Loan. Contact information: Customer Service and Collections is at the 580 Holyoke Center (1033 Massachusetts Ave, 2nd Floor Cambridge, MA. The phone number is (800) 315-7192 or (617) 495-3782 and email is

For information on deferments or forbearance during repayment of the loan and for forgiveness/cancellation options, please visit the SLO website at Deferment Options and Cancellation/Postponement Options.

Direct Loans – Students who borrow a Direct Loan, will be assigned to a Direct Loan Servicer. The Servicer is the organization where students set up an online account, choose a repayment plan, find the specifics of the loans, make online payments, download deferment/forbearance forms, and manage their Direct Loan debt.  

Check NSLDS for your Direct Loan Servicer – But for the most up-to-date loan information, please view/contact your Direct Loan account(s) at the following links: 

Important Note: New servicers may be added to this current (as of September 2013) list as the volume of Direct Loans increases. For the most updated list of Direct Loan Servicers please visit:

Grace Periods

The grace period is the length of time before the borrower must begin loan repayment.

Federal Perkins Loan

9 months after ceasing to be enrolled at least half-time

Direct/StaffordSubsidized/Unsubsidized Loans

6 months after ceasing to be enrolled at least half-time. For loans previously in repayment, there is not another 6 month grace period granted; the loan(s) enter repayment immediately when no longer enrolled half-time.

Direct GradPLUS Loans

  • For loans disbursed on/after 7/1/08, a 6-month grace period is granted automatically. The borrower is not required to request the grace period but must be given the opportunity to decline the deferment period.
  • For loans disbursed prior to 7/1/08, repayment starts 45 days after the last date of at least half-time enrollment – there is NO GRACE PERIOD automatically granted.  However borrowers may request a forbearance from the lender/servicer so that repayment starts at the same time as the Direct/Stafford Loans (6 months after the last date of at least half-time attendance.)

Repayment Plans

Federal Student Loan Repayment Options

Federal Perkins Loan – Repayment is calculated over a Standard Repayment Plan – 10 years

Direct/Stafford Loans – Refer to Chart below.

Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loans & Direct GradPLUS Loans

Standard Repayment
Direct and FFEL Stafford Loans. Equal monthly installments of principal and interest are made over the loan repayment term (usually 10 years.)  The least amount of total interest is paid using this payment plan.

Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
Direct and FFEL Stafford Loans. A partial financial hardship calculation determines eligibility for the program. The amount of the monthly payment is calculated at 15% of discretionary income (the difference between AGI and the federal poverty line.) Monthly payments are recalculated annually and income documentation is required. The maximum repayment period is 25 years; any remaining balance on the loan after this time will be discharged; however the amount canceled may be taxable. “Ditch Your Debt Gremlin” is a video that helps to explain the Income-Based Repayment option for students entering repayment or who are in repayment.Your best resources for information on this program are IBR Info and Student Aid on the Web – IBR Information

Income Contingent Repayment (ICR)

Direct Loans Only. Monthly payment amounts are calculated as a percentage of monthly gross income; not to exceed 20% of discretionary income  Annual income, family size, and total loan debt are used to calculate the monthly payment.  Students must reapply for this plan every year as annual income changes and documentation is required.  After 25 years, any remaining balance on the loan will be forgiven but taxes may be owed on the amount discharged.

Pay As You Earn (PAYE) 

Direct Loans Only. A partial financial hardship calculation determines eligiblity for the program. Additionally, a student must be a new borrower as of 10/1/2007 AND received a new loan an/after 10/1/2011. Monthly payments are recalculated annualy and income documentation is required. The amount of the monthly payment is calculated at 10% of discretionary income (the difference between AGI and the federal poverty line.) The maximum repayment period is 20years; any remaining balance on the loan after this time will be discharged; however the amount canceled may be taxable.

Graduated Repayment

Direct and FFEL Stafford Loans. Reduced payments are calculated in the earlier years of the loan repayment term, with a gradual increase in payment amounts over time.  The repayment length is 10 years with the increases calculated every 2 years.

Extended Repayment

Direct and FFEL Stafford Loans. For total loan balances over $30,000, students may apply for an extension on the repayment term (up to 25 years.)

  • Fixed: Same monthly payment over the length of the repayment term
  • Graduated: Monthly payments will increase every 2 years throughout the length of the repayment term


Students may pay all or part of their federal loan balance during the term of the loan without penalty. This will greatly reduce the total interest paid on the loans.

Loan Consolidation

A consolidation loan combines several federal student loans into one larger loan from a single lender, which is then used to pay off the balances on the other loans.

Federal education loans that are eligible to be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan:

Subsidized Loans:

  • Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • Direct Subsidized Loans
  • Subsidized Federal Consolidation Loans
  • Direct Subsidized Consolidation Loans
  • Federal Insured Student Loans (FISL)
  • Guaranteed Student Loans (GSL)

Unsubsidized Loans:

  • Unsubsidized and Nonsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans, including Direct Unsubsidized Loans (TEACH) (converted from TEACH Grants)
  • Unsubsidized Federal Consolidation Loans
  • Federal PLUS Loans (for parents or for graduate and professional students)
  • Direct PLUS Loans (for parents or for graduate and professional students)
  • Direct PLUS Consolidation Loans
  • Federal Perkins Loans
  • National Direct Student Loans (NDSL)
  • National Defense Student Loans (NDSL)
  • Federal Supplemental Loans for Students (SLS)
  • Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS)
  • Auxiliary Loans to Assist Students (ALAS)
  • Health Professions Student Loans (HPSL)
  • Health Education Assistance Loans (HEAL)
  • Nursing Student Loans (NSL)
  • Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS)

The interest rate on a federal consolidation loan is the weighted average of the interest rates on the loans being consolidated, rounded up to the nearest 1/8th of a percentage point. Any unpaid interest on unsubsidized loans will be capitalized and added to the loan principal when a borrower completes the Direct Consolidation Loan process.

A consolidation loan often reduces the amount of the monthly payment by extending the term of the loan beyond the standard 10-year repayment plan to a repayment plan length of 12-30 years. This reduction in the monthly payment can make the loan easier to repay for some borrowers. However, by extending the term of a loan, the total amount of interest a borrower will pay is increased.

The Department of Education currently has two Direct Consolidation Loan application processes. (There are electronic and paper options available through both processes.) Use the information below to determine which process you would use to apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Direct Consolidation Loan Application Processes

1.) Direct Consolidation Loans Website

Use this process if one of the following applies to you:

  • You have one or more defaulted federal education loans that are assigned to ED for collection.
  • You need to take action on an application that you submitted via the Direct Consolidation Loans Website prior to Jan. 2, 2014.
  • You need to take action on an application that you submitted via the Direct Consolidation Loans Website on or after Jan. 2, 2014.

2.) Website

Use this process if one of the following applies to you:

  • You have no defaulted federal education loans.
  • You have one or more defaulted federal education loans, none of which are assigned to ED for collection.
  • You need to take action on an application that you submitted via on or after Jan. 2, 2014.

It is critical that you continue making payments, if required, to the holders or servicers of the loans you want to consolidate until your consolidation servicer informs you that the underlying loans have been paid off.

For additional information on loan consolidation, please visit:

Loan Forgiveness/Cancellation Including Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

Loan Forgiveness or Cancellation provisions serve to release students from all obligations to repay all or part of their federal loans. Some cancellation options apply to Direct Loans, some to Federal Perkins Loans, and some to both programs. Be sure to understand which forgiveness provisions apply to which loan type(s). Some examples include:

  • Total and permanent disability or Death
  • Filed for bankruptcy (in rare cases)
  • Forgiveness by some employers (especially certain federal agencies and departments)
  • Handicap/Special Ed Teacher, Head Start Teacher, Title 1 School Teacher, Teacher Shortage field
  • Peace Corp/Vista volunteer
  • Nurse/Medical Technician
  • Nonprofit Family Service Agency
  • Early Intervention Provider
  • US Armed Forces in hostile area
  • Law Enforcement Officer

For Federal Perkins Loan Forgiveness/Cancellation visit Harvard’s Student Loan Office website or review the Cancellation/Postponement Form.

For Direct Loan Cancellation Options visit the Federal Student Aid website or review your Direct Loan Servicer’s website.

$ALT ( has put together an (almost) comprehensive guide to student loan forgiveness and discharge called 60+ Ways to Get Rid of Your Student Loans (Without Paying Them)

Loan Forgiveness for Public Service Employees (PSLF) – enacted in 2007

Through the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to encourage individuals to enter and continue to work full-time in public service jobs. Under this program, borrowers may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on their eligible federal student loans after they have made 120 payments on those loans under certain repayment plans while employed full time by certain public service employers. Since borrowers must make 120 monthly payments on their eligible federal student loans beginning after October 1, 2007 before they qualify for the loan forgiveness, the first cancellations of loan balances will not be granted until October 2017.

Please visit the sites/documents for more information:

FSA Ombudsman Office

The Ombudsman’s office is a resource for borrowers when other approaches to resolving student loan problems have failed. Contact: toll-free at 1-877-557-2575 or online at

Loan Deferment Eligibility and Process


Deferment is a period during which loan payments are postponed. No interest accrues on either Subsidized Direct or Perkins Loans. Interest is charged on Unsubsidized Stafford/Direct Loans and GradPLUS Loans and may be paid or allowed to accrue and capitalize.  Borrowers must meet specific eligibility criteria and in certain cases must request the deferment form from their lender/loan servicer.


Forbearance is a period during which borrowers do not meet the qualifications for a deferment and may either suspend payments or reduce their scheduled monthly payment amount on a temporary basis.  Interest continues to accrue and may be paid or will be capitalized after the forbearance period ends.  Forbearances are generally approved for up to 12 months at a time and for a maximum of 3 years over the life of the loan repayment.

For Federal Perkins Loan Deferment Options visit Harvard’s Student Loan Office website, or review Harvard’s SLO Deferment Eligibility Requirements, the Deferment Form, or Deferment Options Chart.For Direct Loan Cancellation Options visit the Federal Student Aid website orHarvard’s SLO Website review your Direct Loan Servicer’s website.Federal Direct Loans, Federal Perkins Loans, and many private and institutional loans have in-school deferment options. These options allow students returning to school or continuing on at a new school to defer their loan payments. Most in-school deferments require that a student be enrolled in a degree-granting program at be enrolled least half-time (10 credits per term at HSPH) to be eligible. Students should always contact their lender/servicer regarding the loan terms and conditions and for deferment qualifications. Students are ultimately responsible as the borrower to check on their loan status (es) and to keep their loan records up-to-date.Follow these easy steps to ensure a smooth loan-deferment process:

1: Know who your lenders/servicers are

Access your Federal Loan History on the National Student Loan Database (NSLDS)For further guidance or for more information on private or institutional loans borrowed, students should contact the institution(s) from which they borrowed the loans.

2: Update your address with your lenders/servicers

While many lenders/loan servicers communicate with borrowers electronically, it still important to maintain an accurate address with all lenders/loan servicers. Borrowers who move should forward their mail through the post office. Forms may be completed online at:  However, still contact your lenders.

3: Deferment – Paper form or is the deferment process automated?

For federal loans the “in-school” deferment process is automated*. Schools, lenders, and loan servicers submit information electronically to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) which manages “in –school” deferments for students who are enrolled at least half-time (10 credits per term at HSPH.)However, based on the timing of registration and the electronic enrollment updates, there may be cases when enrollment information may need to be updated manually.

If after the start of school, loans are not listed in the correct enrollment/deferment status, request/download a paper deferment form from the lender(s) and submit the document to Donna McLean in the Registrar’s Office for processing. Also, private loans may not update automatically based on enrollment information in NSLDS.  Check with any private loan lenders regarding deferment procedures and if a paper form is required, please submit it to the Registrar’s Office, during or after the term registration period, located at 677 Huntington Ave. Kresge G-4, Boston, MA 02115.Additionally, for other types of deferments such as unemployment, economic hardship, and graduate fellowship deferments, the paper deferment form, available at the lender/loan servicer websites, must be completed and returned with documentation to the lender/servicer for approval.

* Harvard University participates in The National Student ClearinghouseHarvard University Student Receivables Office (SRO) collects enrollment information from each school’s Registrar’s Office (registered students with a valid U.S. Social Security Number) and reports this information to a company called The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC). The NSC then transmits the enrollment data (half-time, full-time, graduated, withdrawn, etc.) to NSLDS which you can view at The first scheduled date to send information to the NSC for the fall term is a the end of September after the first add/drop period for the fall. The first scheduled date to send spring term enrollment information is at the end of February after the first add/drop period for the spring.  SRO send files to NSC five times per semester.

4: Follow up with your lenders/servicers mid-term

Regardless of whether a loan can be deferred through NSC or whether a paper deferment form is required, it is the borrower’s responsibility to follow up with the lenders/servicers to ensure that all loans are in the proper deferment status.Borrowers notified that their loan(s) have gone into delinquency status because the loan did not get deferred, should contact their lender(s) immediately. The OSFS is always more than willing to work with students and to assist a student with making sure that their loan status is correct.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The repayment period for the Direct GradPLUS Loan technically begins 45 days after the loan is fully disbursed. However, borrowers who are enrolled in school at least half-time will be placed on an in-school deferment status; so will not be required to make payments on the loan(s) until after they graduate or drop below half-time status.

Exit Counseling

Federal regulations require that all federal student loan borrowers complete an exit interview prior to graduation, or when dropping enrollment to below half-time status (10 credits per term). These counseling sessions revisit the information learned during Loan Entrance Counseling which was required before borrowing the loan(s); and reminds students about the obligation to repay all federal loans. During these counseling sessions borrowers will learn about loan repayment options, managing debt, and the conditions for deferment, forbearance, and forgiveness/cancellation.Students who are withdrawing, taking a leave of absence, or dropping below half-time status, should contact OSFS at 617.432.1867 to receive personalized attention regarding their student loans and the exit process(es). Graduating students will be invited to attend group exit counseling sessions in April, and will complete the online interview(s) prior to Commencement.Student who borrowed institutional or private loans from another college/university or private loans while attending HSPH, please contact your lender(s)/servicer(s) directly for information regarding current balances, repayment, and deferment options.

Exit Sessions – to view an Exit Presentation click on the link: Domestic Student Loan Exit Presentation

Before students begin the exit counseling session process, the should review their federal loan history at the NSLDS website The same federal PIN used in completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be used to log in to the NSLDS website.Note that there are separate exit interview processes based on which types of loans borrowed:

  • Federal Direct or Direct GradPLUS Loan borrowers – will complete the online exit counseling at:
  • Federal Perkins Loan borrowers – will complete exit counseling via ECSI. Harvard University has partnered with ECSI (Educational Computer Systems, Inc.) to provide our borrowers with on-line services. The exit interview process is one of those services and exits are completed at:
  • HUECU Private Loan and CitiAssist (formerly HELP) Loan borrowers – will complete exit counseling via ECSI at: