What’s the Difference Between Mandatory and General Forbearance?

Sara Lindberg Updated on May 13, 2019

If you’re looking for ways to make your student loan payment each month, the last thing you want to hassle with is the complicated terminology that comes with all of the choices, right?

Let’s take forbearance, for example. This option allows you to temporarily put your federal student loan payments on pause. But, that’s not the only thing you need to know.

Girl looking at city-521955-edited.jpeg

Forbearance for federal student loans can be broken down even further into two categories: mandatory forbearance and general (or discretionary) forbearance.

Let’s discuss what forbearance is, and then go into the two types.

What is student loan forbearance?

Forbearance is the temporary relief from your obligation to make payments on your federal student loan.

Your lender may grant you a forbearance if you’re facing a financial hardship, such as a serious medical issue that leaves you unable to work.

However, it’s important to remember that during forbearance, your regular loan payments are put on hold, but the interest continues to accrue. In other words, the unpaid interest gets added to the principal. This increases the total amount you owe.

In order to get a forbearance on your federal student loan, you need to submit a request to your loan service provider.

Learn more about federal student loan forbearance.

What is mandatory forbearance?

If you meet the eligibility requirements for a mandatory forbearance, your federal loan servicer is required to grant you the forbearance. A forbearance may be granted for no more than 12 months at a time.

Eligibility requirements for Direct Loans and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans include:

  • You are serving in a medical or dental internship or residency program.
  • Payments on your federal student loans are greater than 20% of your total monthly gross income.
  • You are serving in an AmeriCorps position for which you received a national service award.
  • You are in a teaching position that would qualify you for teacher loan forgiveness.
  • You qualify for partial repayments of your loans under the U.S. Department of Defense Student Loan Repayment Program.
  • You are an active member of the National Guard, but you are not eligible for a military deferment.

New call-to-action

What is general forbearance?

Your federal loan servicer can decide whether or not to grant your request for a general forbearance. That’s why it is often referred to as a “discretionary forbearance.”

General forbearances may be available for Direct Loans, FFEL Program loans, and Perkins Loans.

You can request a general forbearance if you’re experiencing a general hardship that doesn’t quite fall under the rules for mandatory forbearance. Some examples might include:

  • Financial difficulties
  • Medical expenses, or
  • A change in employment that caused a drop in income.

Time limits on mandatory and general forbearance

It’s important to note that both a mandatory and general forbearance can be granted for no more than 12 months at a time.

Once the 12 month-period is up, you can apply for a new forbearance if circumstances require it.

Just know that your loan servicer can set a limit on the maximum period of time you can receive a general forbearance, but mandatory forbearance does not have a limit.

In any case, remember that forbearance may inflate the size of your loan, so it's best to avoid it if you possibly can. Learn how to lower student loan payments.

Thanks to Ian Atkins, Chief Financial Analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com, for his contributions to this article.

Published in: Paying Off, Lower Payments

About the Author
Sara Lindberg

Sara Lindberg, B.S., M.Ed., is a freelance writer specializing in business, finance, health, and wellness. She holds a Bachelor's of Science degree in Exercise Science and a Master's Degree in Counseling. When she’s not writing, Sara can be found at the gym lifting weights, running the back roads to train for her next half-marathon, and spending time with her husband and two children. Read more by Sara Lindberg

Refinance and Save Today With These Lenders

#1 - Nitro Recommended View More Details

Credible is an online marketplace that provides borrowers with competitive, personalized loan offers from multiple, vetted lenders in real time.

  • Free to use, no hidden fees
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • No refinancing maximum amount
View More Details
Visit Credible View Loan Disclosure

Credible is a multi-lender marketplace that empowers consumers to discover student loan refinancing options that are the best fit for their unique circumstances. Our integrations with leading lenders and credit bureaus allow consumers to quickly compare accurate, personalized loan options ― without putting their personal information at risk or affecting their credit score. The Credible marketplace provides an unrivaled customer experience, as reflected by over 2,000 positive Trustpilot reviews and a TrustScore of 9.5/10. Credible is headquartered in San Francisco, California.

For more information, click here to apply now with Credible.

  • Compare prequalified rates from multiple, vetted lenders in 2 minutes.
  • Refinance federal, private and ParentPLUS loans.
  • San Francisco-based customer support 7 days a week.
  • Checking your rates won't affect your credit score.
  • Get your final offer in as little as 1 business day.
  • Credible’s partner lenders do not charge prepayment penalties, loan application fees, or origination fees.
  • Free to use, no hidden fees: Requesting rates can take just minutes and costs you nothing.
#2 View More Details

Earnest empowers people with the financial captial they need to live better lives.

  • APR: 2.05% - 6.99%
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Refinance up to $500K
View More Details
Visit Earnest View Loan Disclosure

Using technology, data, and design to build affordable products, Earnest's lending products are built for a new generation seeking to reach life's milestones. The company understands every applicant's unique financial story to offer the lowest possible rates and radically flexible loan options for living life.

  • Commitment-free 2 minute rate check
  • Client Happiness can be reached via in app messaging, email, and phone 
  • No fees for origination, prepayment, or loan disbursement
  • Flexible terms let you pick your exact monthly payment or switch between fixed and variable rates
  • Skip a payment and make it up later
  • Online dashboard is designed to make it easy to apply for and manage your loan

Click here to apply with Earnest and to see how much you can save.

#3 View More Details

Operates in all 50 states; 2nd largest student loan refinancing lender

  • APR: 2.25% - 7.02%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • No refinancing amount maximum
View More Details
Visit Laurel Road View Loan Disclosure

Laurel Road is a national online lender with customers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Many of our non-bank competitors are not able to lend in all 50 states.Laurel Road has grown to be the second largest player in the student loan refinancing space in large part because of our reputation as the go-to low rate provider.

Laurel Road Student Loan Refinance Review

  • National reach - Online lender that is available in all 50 US states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
  • No fees & the lowest rates in the space - Laurel Road is the most transparent about the rates they provide customers, and offer the lowest rates where it counts. Our customers will save more than $20,000 over the life of their loans on average. 
  • Customer service reputation - Laurel Road's customer service representatives are no rookies. With 19 years of experience on average, Laurel Road’s Customer Service team delivers an experience that is best in the industry. They work to build meaningful, life-long relationships with our valued customers to improve their overall financial wellness.
  • The stability & security of a bank - They are a division of Darien Rowayton Bank, a stable and secure FDIC-insured bank, regulated by the FDIC and the Connecticut Department of Banking.

Get your personalized, pre-approved rates in less than 5 minutes.

#4 View More Details

For every loan they fund, they contribute to the education of a child in need

  • APR: 2.14% - 7.24%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Refinance up to $500K
View More Details
Visit CommonBond View Loan Disclosure

CommonBond was founded in 2011 by three MBA graduates from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who wanted to help their peers escape from high-interest student loan debt. Its original focus was on grad students, but it has since expanded to cover undergrads as well.

Of all the companies we reviewed, CommonBond has some of the best customer service. The company prides itself on being easy to reach by email, phone, or live chat. It offers networking events, expert panels, insider newsletters, and even has a program help borrowers who lose their jobs to find new ones. CommonBond also makes you feel good about choosing to refinance with them by donating money to an education nonprofit for each loan they write.

CommonBond Student Loan Refinance review

  • Unemployment protections - If you lose your job or decide to go back to school, you can delay your payments for up to 24 months.
  • Social promise - For every loan they fund, they also contribute to the education of a child in need.
  • Hybrid loan option - Offerings include a 10-year hybrid loan with fixed interest for the first five years, and variable interest for the final five.
  • Referral bonus - For every friend you refer who refinances their loans with CommonBond, you’ll earn a $200 cash bonus.
  • Qualification - Borrowers must have graduated at least 2 years prior if they want to apply without a co-signer. And borrowers in 6 states – Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, and Vermont – cannot currently refinance through CommonBond.

Get a personalized review of your refinancing options with CommonBond today.

#5 View More Details

Offers unemployment protection and career/coaching/networking

  • APR: 2.27% - 7.94%
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Refinance up to 100% of student debt
View More Details
Visit SoFi View Loan Disclosure

SoFi, which stands for “Social Finance,” was created by a group of Stanford business students who found themselves with a mountain of debt after graduation. They set out to change the student loan industry and help borrowers like themselves to get lower interest rates. SoFi has some of the lowest interest rates and, unlike the other lenders we reviewed, it has no maximum amount you can finance. However, Nevada residents can’t currently refinance with SoFi. Minimum loan balances are higher in Arizona, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania due to state laws. Additional state restrictions may apply.

SoFi Student Loan Refinancing Review

  • Low interest rates - For well-qualified borrowers, SoFi offers some of the lowest rates we have found.
  • Strong customer service - It has more than 350 customer service reps available to help applicants through process.
  • Career coaching and networking - Perks include career services representatives who can help you find a job or negotiate a higher salary. SoFi also hosts networking events, happy hours and educational lectures on topics like buying a home in major cities around the country.
  • Unemployment protection - Borrowers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own may apply for Unemployment Protection. If approved, SoFi will suspend their monthly SoFi loan payments and provide job placement assistance during the forbearance period. These benefits are offered in three month increments, and are capped at 12 months, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. Note that interest will still accrue while loans are in forbearance.

Find out what interest rate SoFi can offer you here.

#6 View More Details

Works with 300+ community lenders for higher approval chances

  • APR: 2.01% - 8.88%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Refinance up to $300K
View More Details
Visit LendKey View Loan Disclosure

Connecting student borrowers to a network of over 300 community lenders with low interest rates. By partnering with these lenders, LendKey is able to give consumers direct access to the best rates available from the most borrower friendly institutions. As the servicer of all loans obtained through its platform, you can rest easy knowing your personal information will be safe and that the best customer service team will be ready to answer your questions from application until your final payment.

LendKey Student Loan Refinance review

  • Lightning fast rate check - 2-minute rate check with no impact on your credit score
  • More lenders, more options - see the best offers from over 300+ community lenders for higher approval chances
  • Life of loan relationship - With LendKey, your personal information will never be sent or passed on to third parties. Their customer service team is with you from the moment you land on their website until you've completely repaid your loan.
  • Unmatched benefits- Community lenders put people over profits and offer unique benefits like cosigner release after 12 on-time payments, interest only repayment options to keep monthly payments low, the largest unemployment protection period in the market, and more.

Get a personalized quote from LendKey now.

#7 View More Details

Many ELFI customers save hundreds per month month and thousands over the length of the loan term.

  • APR: 2.39% - 6.69%
  • Minimum credit score: 680
  • No refinancing maximum amount
View More Details
Visit ElFi View Loan Disclosure

Education Loan Finance is designed to assist borrowers through consolidating outstanding education loans into one single loan that effectively lowers your costs of education and/or makes repayment very simple. Education Loan Finance - backed by the strength of SouthEast Bank - combines the benefits of traditional education loan refinancing with the superior products, service, and support found in the private market.

Education Loan Finance (ElFi) review

Check out their low rates today to see how much you can save.

  • Get Your Rate. With Education Loan Finance's Find My Rate tool, you can complete a short application to receive a preliminary quote on your eligible rates and terms, all without affecting your credit score.
  • Apply in Minutes. Education Loan Finance's online application is fast and simple.
  • Outstanding Personalized Service. Our Personalized Loan Advisors specialize in student loan refinancing and help busy professionals find the option that's right for them.
  • Student Lending Experience: Education Loan Finance isn't a start-up company - we have a longstanding history and expertise in serving student loan borrowers.

Attractive Bonus and Referral Programs:

  • Education Loan Finance Fast Track Bonus**: Education Loan Finance's application process is streamlined and simple, and you can earn a $200 bonus just for closing your loan within 30 days of your initial application.
  • Education Loan Finance Referral Program**: Earn $400 for each new Education Loan Finance Client referred by you!
#8 View More Details

Special offers for medical resident and fellow refinance products

  • APR: 2.43% - 7.60%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • No Maximum when refinancing
View More Details
Visit Splash View Loan Disclosure

Splash Financial is a leader in student loan refinancing with new rates as low as 3.25% fixed APR which can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loans. No application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties. Splash Financial is in all 50 states and is intensely focused on customer service. Splash Financial is also one of the few companies that offers a great medical resident and fellow refinance product. You can check your rate with Splash in just minutes.

  • Low interest rates – especially for graduate students
  • No application or origination fees. No prepayment penalties.
  • Co-signer release program - you can apply for a cosigner release form your loan after 12 months of on-time payments
  • Specialty product for doctors in training with low monthly payment

Click here to see more of Splash's offerings and to see how you can save money.

Comments

I reduced my student loan payment by $152 per month, by refinancing thru Nitro:

Save Money Now