What to Do if You Can’t Pay Your Student Loans

The anxiety of falling behind on student loan payments can be overwhelming. However, the worst thing you can do in this situation is give up. Here are 5 possible solutions to consider if you're worried about paying your upcoming student loan bills.

Key Takeaways

Making payments on your student loans is incredibly important, and should always be looked at as a priority. However, as a result of job loss or other difficult circumstances, we sometimes find ourselves struggling to pay the bills. In this situation, it is critical to find a solution as soon as possible. 

If you find yourself in a financial predicament that leaves you unable to make your student loan payments, don’t panic. You may have options to avoid consequences such as damage to your credit score and garnishment or debt collection.

Options for those who can’t pay student loans

Here are five methods that might help you navigate student loan payments in a pinch:

1. Evaluate your budget

When someone is struggling financially, one of the first things that should be done is a budget evaluation. This is where your income and expenses are placed underneath the microscope and evaluated for their importance. 

Do you know where all your money is going? Keep an eye out for unnecessary payments, like unused streaming services, dining out too often, or expensive gym memberships. Paying off your student loans is so much more important than any of these monthly bills, which is why they should be kept a priority.  

Explore: How to save money as a new college graduate

2. Find the right repayment plan for you

Not every payment plan works for every person. If you’re struggling on your current student loan repayment plan, it might be time to consider reaching out to your lender to help you with your goals. One of the most helpful options, especially for new graduates, are the income-driven repayment plans.

These customized payment plans adjust your monthly payments based on your income and family size, making them a much more realistic payment option. Some government-backed repayment plans worth looking into include:

  • Income-Based Repayment
  • Income-Contingent Repayment
  • Pay as You Earn Repayment
  • Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment

Explore: How to pay your student loans down fast

3. Look into assistance programs

Though it might seem like an isolating experience, you’re not the only one in the world struggling to make student loan payments on time. In fact, it’s such a common experience that dozens of different programs exist to help make things easier. And, while these options aren’t a quick fix for everyone, they are beneficial for certain populations. 

Some well-known forgiveness and assistance programs include:

  • Public service loan forgiveness
  • Military student loan forgiveness/assistance
  • Teacher loan forgiveness
  • Student loan forgiveness for nurses

4. Consider loan refinancing

For some people, especially those who have private student loans, refinancing can dramatically lower your monthly payment. It’s definitely something that everyone should look into and consider as an option though. This is especially true because loan refinancing is one of the best ways to extend your loan repayment plan and agree to terms more beneficial for you. 

5. Ask for a deferment

Those experiencing true financial hardship should consider reaching out to their student loan lender and asking for deferment. Deferment puts a temporary halt on your student loan payments, typically for a few months at a time, and allows you to get back up on your feet. It can, however, be difficult to qualify for this option. Some of the most common student loan deferment options include:

  • Unemployment deferment
  • Military deferment
  • Economic hardship deferment
  • Cancer treatment deferment

Keep your credit score in shape no matter what, with StellarFi

StellarFi helps you build credit just by paying the bills you already have. While you find student loan solutions, you can still keep your credit healthy by using StellarFi’s simple credit builder. Plus, there’s no credit check to join and no interest fees.


StellarFi (StellarFinance, Inc.) and its affiliates do not provide financial, tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own financial, tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. StellarFi receives a referral fee from the partners mentioned in this article.