Loans with the Most Repayment Flexibility
If you went to college and have student loans, chances are you have a Federal Direct Unsubsidized and Subsidized (Stafford) Loan, as these are usually a student's best choice when they need to borrow for college. These loans offer a great array of benefits, from low interest rates and fees to extended, income-based, Pay asYou Earn and other repayment options.
If you have a Stafford loan, remember that as long as you are in school at least part time, you don't have to make payments on your loan. So if you are in school and receiving bills, make sure to explain your situation to your lender. Also keep in mind that you should have an additional 6 months of time to get your adult life together after graduation before you need to begin making payments.
If you are having trouble making your payments on a Federal Stafford or Perkins loan, call your lender and ask what you can do. They will have plenty of options to offer to you!
The next level of college borrowing
Unlike the federal student loan options, PLUS loans and non-federal loans typically don't offer quite the same level of repayment flexibility. Don't get us wrong, there are plenty of programs out there to help borrowers manage their payments, but they aren't quite as vast as the programs available on the Stafford loans.
How non-federal loans work
Borrowing is a cyclical process. Like you are borrowing money to pay for college, your lender is likely borrowing from someone else to give you that money. In the case of banks, they may be borrowing from the people making deposits into their accounts or investors. In the case of smaller state-based organizations like RISLA, they are issuing bonds that need to be repaid to those investors in a term agreed upon by both parties.
If you are feeling frustrated at your lender, try to remember that they are not necessarily out to make a big profit (most state-based lenders are actually non-profit organizations!), but just like you they have someone they need to make payments to.
If you are having trouble making payments on non-federal student loans...
Repayment flexibility does vary considerably between lenders and loan programs. RISLA offers income-based repayment to help borrows who are having financial difficulty and many lenders have deferment programs for those in school or the military. Likewise, many lenders offer what is called a "forbearance" which can temporarily reduce or postpone your payments but the length of time you can put your loans in forbearance varies from lender to lender.
And remember, if you are having trouble making payments on your college loans, give your lender a call and ask what they have available to help you out. Ignoring them is not the way to solve the problem.