Sallie Mae Forbearance & Deferment

Piggy Bank & Student Debt
  • Sallie Mae offers income-based repayment plan.
  • Sallie Mae offers payment plans for some of its private student loans.
  • Contact the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman if Sallie Mae does not help with your federal student loans.

How to Ask Sallie Mae for Deferment or Forbearance on a Federal or Private Student Loan.

If you cannot afford to repay your Sallie Mae student loan, you have options to avoid default (non-payment). Before reading any further, stop and review your student loan contract(s) to learn if your loan is federally insured (the US government is guaranteeing repayment of the loan), or private. If your loan is FFEL, Perkins, or Direct, it is federal. If the Sallie Mae loan is federally insured, Sallie Mae must follow federal rules for student loan collections. See the resource Default on Federal Student Loan to learn more about your rights, options, and liabilities as the borrower of a federal student loan.

Federal Sallie Mae Student Loan

If your loan is federal, Sallie Mae offers income-based repayment plan (IBR), for which you may qualify. Login to your account on the Sallie Mae Web site and find the IBR section. readers have said that Sallie Mae customer service representatives (CSRs) try to discourage customers from applying for IBR. This does not seem to be a stated company policy, and is more likely poor training of CSRs who do not understand IBR, or have a negative incentive for recommending it.

Quick Tip: Need a student loan? See the resource Student Loans resource page. Problem with a student loan? Learn more about Student Loan Consolidation.

If you are at an impasse with Sallie Mae regarding a federal student loan, contact the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman, who may be able to help you with your negotiations with Sallie Mae.

Private Sallie Mae Student Loan

If you cannot afford your Sallie Mae private student loan payments and your situation is temporary, login to your Sallie Mae account, select the Postpone Payments section, and request a deferment. According to Sallie Mae, deferment is available for some private student loans. It lists the following reasons for granting a deferment:

  • Economic hardship
  • Unemployment
  • Military deployment
  • Enrollment in school
  • Internship
  • National service
  • Similar situations

Some Sallie Mae loans also allow forbearance. Forbearance allows the borrower to suspend payments up to one year at a time. Interest continues to accrue during forbearance, so you should apply for forbearance if your financial situation is dire.

If your income is reduced, Sallie Mae will also negotiate a reduced monthly payment. According to the Sallie Mae Web site, “Eligibility for Sallie Mae private student loan repayment plans may vary by loan type, loan balance, and disbursement date.” The Sallie Mae postponing payments page outlines these options. Also see the Sallie Mae graduated payment plan page, which outlines payment options for private student loans issued before June 1, 2009.

If the Sallie Mae loan is private, then Sallie Mae will follow the borrower’s state laws and the rules in the loan contract the borrower signed. Private student loans are similar to unsecured debt. If the borrower defaults on a private student loan, the creditor or collection agency must sue in civil court to collect. If it wins a judgment, the creditor or collection agency can garnish wages, place a lien against property, or a levy financial accounts. The only thing that separates a private student loan from other unsecured debt, such as credit card debt, is that private student loans are not dischargeable in a bankruptcy filing, generally speaking.

A student loan consolidation may help by increasing the term length, thereby lowering the monthly payment. There are basically two types of consolidation loans — unsecured and secured. To learn more about unsecured student loan consolidation, see the Student Loan Consolidation page.

Sallie Mae at a Glance

SLM Corp., also known as Sallie Mae, was the US’s largest originator of federal student loans until 2010 when the Dept. of Education started originating federal student loans itself. Sallie Mae now services federal student loans on behalf of the Dept. of Education, and originates private student loans. Sallie Mae employs 8,000 people, and manages more than $180 billion in debt for more than 10 million student loan borrowers. The company was originally created in 1972 as a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) and privatized its operations in 2004. Sallie Mae also originates and services private student loans.

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Comments (22)

Sarah G.
Pittsburgh, PA  |  November 05, 2013
I was $17,000 past due with Sallie Mae -- WAY past due. I had just received the letter that they were about to garnish my wages. I was VERY past due. For the next 6 weeks or so, I got into the habit of calling them when I was drunk, every freaking day (the Sallie credit collection agency), and even hanging up on them! They wanted $4,000 down, I only had $400 (yes, the zeros are correct). They wanted $600 a month, there was no way I could do that. After weeks of (drunk) negotiations, I got them to agree to $400 down, $165 a month for 48 months. Let me do that math -- I had to guarantee I would NOT miss a payment -- and that adds up to $8,320, roughly half of my original bill! Ha! All with drunken negotiations with the collection agency! Even better, whenever I call to just check my account, they put me on hold for 20 minutes because they cannot BELIEVE that payment arrangement was agreed Sallie Mae!

Just keep trying! Don't give up! Take care of it before they do garnish you. Stick to what you know you can actually pay. Stick to your guns! It will work! No one can believe I got this deal! But if I miss one payment, I'm screwed...I WON'T!!! :D
Marilyn W.
Terre Haute, IN  |  December 06, 2011
Dear Bill, I want to first thank you for this article, I never knew this info was even out there. I am just about at the point where I need to repay my loans. However I am on of those people who knows nothing about this and what my options are. SLM are jerking my brother around, he works for a news station so he makes very little and lives with my parents and they tale his whole paycheck. I however do not have the option to live with my parents. With my brother living there, they dont have room for me. Also they live 4hours away from me & I cant find a job back home. So I live in southern Indiana where I have a job. Its a decent job but if I pay what sallie mae wants me to pay, I cant pay for gas to get to work,& if I cant work then I cant pay rent. I would like to buy a house so that my $ doesnt just get thrown away on rent every month but with my student loan debt I cant get financed for anything & I havent been able to save up for money down on a rent to own home. SLM has lowered my payment to $900/mo to $764/mo but thats still over half my paycheck & more than what I pay in rent. I want to pay my loans, even if it takes me forever. But I have a right to cloth & feed myself & still have a roof over my head. I want to play hard ball with them but am lost on where to start.
December 06, 2011
You don't have a lot of options. Essentially, you can pay as agreed or default and risk collections. If the largest payment the creditor can obtain, after suing you and getting a judgment against you, is less than what you have to pay them in an approved payment plan, you may want to default and pay via a wage garnishment. If you choose this route and a judgment ensues, make sure you know your state's collection laws, so you protect your bank account from a bank levy.

I have heard of people successfully negotiating reduced balance settlements with private student loan lenders, when the lender feels it cannot otherwise collect on the balance owed. Given what you owe and the ability for Sallie Mae to collect via a garnishment, a settlement may be a long-shot, but is worth keeping in mind.
Allie M.
Tulsa, OK  |  October 18, 2011
Hi! All of these comments sound like my husbands situation with Sallie Mae. We need HELP badly! Here is the quick of it. My hubby makes about $1,400 a month, we live in OK so we barely get by. We have a toddler and are on food stamps, Im currently in college and we are trying out hardest to make it by and we are working on improving our lives financially. Recently, Sallie Mae has started taking out $461 out of our bank account every month without our permission, obviously. This means we cannot pay rent and bills if Sallie Mae keeps on doing this. My husband has tried SO HARD to get them to do lower payments and/or start Income based payments, but they act like they don't now what IBP is, and say that they will continue to take out the $461 a month. PLEASE PLEASE help us, we don't know what to do & we cannot afford for Sallie Mae to be taking out money from out account, over drafting our bank account and paying overdraft fee's every month. :,(
October 19, 2011
Close your bank account, and switch to a different bank or credit union. If the loans are federal, then talk to the Dept. of Education Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group about Sallie Mae's refusal to discuss IBR. If the student loans are private, you may wish to consider a chapter 13 bankruptcy, where the student loan would not be discharged, but Sallie Mae would be forced to accept what a federal judge decides your spouse can afford to pay.
Sara J.
Langhorne, PA  |  October 13, 2011
Hello! I just spoke with Sallie Mae about my private student loans. Given the current economic times, I was fortunate enough to find a part time teaching position. My loan payments however are more than I make each month. I spoke to a customer service rep. and they explained I could be placed on the interest only payment plan. It sounded all well and good , but with paying my loans, my car payment and car insurance(which I need in order to get to work)... I would have 15.00 to live on. My question is, Can SM fault be for making partial payments??? Hope to hear soon!
October 14, 2011
Please see the resource If I Pay a Small Amount on My Debt, Can I Be Sued? for a discussion of partial payments to creditors.
Linda G.
Fitchburg, MA  |  June 23, 2011
Yes, hi. I got laid off from my job, and went back to school for my masters in Forensic Psychology. Direct Lenders was my lender for subsidized and unsubsidized loans, and then my loan was transferred to Sallie Mae, and for some reason my loan went up by $10,000 dollars (from $18,000 to $27,000??). How is that possible? I cannot find a decent job, the economy stinks, and they want me to pay $356.00/month which I cannot afford. I took a deferment for a year and now have to pay this amount in 2/2012. What are my options?? I rent an apartment,and have no assets or debts except this one which I cannot pay. What options to I have??
June 24, 2011
Do not allow Sallie Mae (or any other creditor) to arbitrarily reset your loan amount to $10,000 more than you owe. Consult with a lawyer who has consumer law experience to negotiate with Sallie Mae on the amount due. If you cannot afford a lawyer, call your county bar association and ask for the name of the organization that provides no-cost legal services to people in your area with low- or no-income. Make an appointment with that organization, and bring all of the documents you have regarding the debt to your meeting. The lawyer you meet will advise you accordingly.
Tyler T.
Rochester, NH  |  July 19, 2011
I have 5 years of education debt with Sallie Mae. The private loan balance is $158,462.93 and the Federal loan balance is $11,282.94. Grand total 169,744.93!! I also owe $7,813.12 to Ed Financial. I make 12/hr through a temp agency and still live at home at age 25. My entire income goes to the monthly payments. SM (variable rate "interest only")$927.43, $90.93 to EF loan, my auto payment and auto insurance. I do not want to have to live with my parents forever, but there is no money left after these loans! Every time I call them I get someone different and they tell me something different. I am sooooo tired of it! I asked SM to work with me to reduce payments to something affordable. (Interest only for me is double and triple what most pay for their whole payment) It is of no help on a balance that large! Sallie Mae will not budge. I have 12 months of deferremnt left but want to save that for desperate times. Are there any government bills or congessional support that would help with leverage? I am not aksing to skip out on my debt...just reach an agreement that is affordable enough for me to have a life!
Cody A.
Indianapolis, IN  |  May 20, 2011
I have around 100k in loan debt to SLM. My problem is this, I work two jobs, do not have my degree, and SLM charges me more each month than I actually make. Even if I work 3 jobs with decent working class wages I wouldn't be able to afford the payments + cost of living. So far SLM has said there is absolutely nothing they can do with my private loans to help out, ie IBR. In addition to that, it seems like every time I talk to SLM customer service they have absolutely no idea about anything that occurred in my last conversation (according to a friend that works for SLM they don't take any notes in calls until one is 90 days past due). I also know for a fact that once you are in collections and have been assigned an account manager, that account manager is changed every week. A SLM rep told me that this is standard company procedure. So by the time I have some sort of repoire with the account manager and get a few things figured out I get a new one that has no idea about any deals I made with the last account manager. Meanwhile my credit and families credit keep getting worse. They might tell me that making a partial payment will catch up this loan or that and then they turn around and sent it to collections anyways. This is all very frustrating since so many mortgage banks are getting in trouble for these sorts of practices while SLM seems to be more or less ignored by the government. If it weren't for SLM I would probably be on my way to a doctorate by now, instead I'm working 2 crap jobs with no hope in sight of anything changing. I would really appreciate any suggestions you might have.
May 20, 2011
You are not alone. Student loan debt has become one of the top issues raised by readers in 2011. Thank you for sharing what you learned from SLM employees.

The sentence that gave me pause in your message was, "They might tell me that making a partial payment will catch up this loan or that and then they turn around and sent it to collections anyways." Keep notes, and perhaps make an electronic recording of your conversation with Sallie Mae customer service representatives when they encourage you to make partial payments on the promise, I assume, to temporarily cease collections activities. Consult with a lawyer who has consumer law experience to learn if this misbehavior is actionable in your state.

Unfortunately, Sallie Mae's hardball customer service practices are forcing borrowers to ignore contact with the company. If borrowers ignore a private student lender long enough, the lender may file a lawsuit against the borrower (which is costly) to get a judgment, and then obtain a wage garnishment against the borrower where the maximum a private student lender can garnish is 25% of the borrower's net income. This is a negative outcome for both parties, and Sallie Mae seems bent on finding the least creative means to solve the problem for private student loan borrowers.
Rochelle M.
Stone Mountain, GA  |  January 13, 2011
Hey Bill, I've been fighting with Sallie mae for over 2 years now regarding my account (I took out a $10,500 private loan in 2006, I now owe $17,019). As it stands, I have never made enough to make payments on my account (I barely made poverty level wages), and have relied on my forbearance to extend the time before payments would kick in. I graduated in 2008, and had found employment, but the job never paid enough to allow me to afford even a minimal standard of living. As it stands, I lost that job in April of 2009 due to my worsening health, which was not a factor when I took out the loan, and I have been unable to find employment since. To add to this, I am a disabled veteran with a current rating of 20%, and I am working with a lawyer to gain an additional rating for health issues that have made an even larger impact on my life (to include trying to find employment I can actually do). I am not sure what to do about Sallie Mae because I currently am unable to make any sort of monetary payment to them, and I am not sure if I will be able to find employment with my worsening health problems (As of June 2010, I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, anterolisthesis, and vertrbral instability all of the L5/S1). If you have any sort of advice, I would love to hear it. My final forbearance ended on 12/28/2010, and the first payment is due on Jan 28 of $160, but I have no funds with which to pay (and will be in a VA homeless program as of that point).
January 14, 2011
Talk with your attorney about the student loan. If the loan is federal, then if you are totally and permanently disabled, which by your description appears to be the case) then see the Dept. of Education Web page Discharge/Cancellation. If your loan is private, you may be able to discharge your student loan in bankruptcy due to your total disability. Please see the resource Student Loan Cancellation.
Ann D.
Ada, OH  |  December 29, 2010
I have co-signed private student loans for a daughter. I am currently paying Sallie Mae and one other creditor a monthly payment. I retire June 1 and my income drops to less than half of what I make now. The state teachers retirement tells me my retirement cannot be garnished. What other problems might I face? We will own no property.
December 29, 2010
If you default on the federal student loans you co-signed for your daughter, then you put yourself at risk for collection efforts. If your creditor gets a judgment against you, you could have income garnished, bank accounts levied, and income tax refunds diverted.
October 07, 2010
I think you are saying you paid Sallie Mae a lump-sum, and apparently Sallie Mae did not credit this to your account because the number of loan payments until your debt is retired has not changed. Is that a fair interpretation of your facts? If so, then you need to prove to Sallie Mae that you made the lump-sum payment by providing a canceled check, or some other means. If you are expecting Sallie Mae to refinance your debt simply because you made a lump-sum payment, then you are mistaken. Review the loan contract you signed with Sallie Mae to see the terms and conditions of your loan.
Andrew .
October 07, 2010
I had a LARGE refund post back to my account but SLM refuses to lower my payment to a sensible amount based on the CURRENT balance. They keep telling me I have to pay the same amount for the same amount of time (based on the original loan amount) or it will default, meaning I will greatly overpay the account. Does anyone know how to help me lower the payment to what it should be?
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