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When do I have to start paying my federal student loans after I leave school or graduate?

Once you are "separated" from your school, there is a grace period that begins before payments are due on your federal loans. How long that is depends on the type of loan. For Stafford loans it is 6 months; for Perkins loans it is 9 months. PLUS loans (Parent or Graduate) do not have a grace-period, but there is a 6-month deferment available to help line-up the start date for repayment.

But What is "Separation"?

Notice, however, that I said that the grace period runs from "separation" from your school, not "Graduation." This is because separation occurs at completion of a program or when enrollment falls below half time.

Half time is defined by the school, though, not the lender, since some schools use a 4 credit hour system while others use a 3 credit hour system. So if you drop out or go to one or two classes a semester, your lender can declare you "separated" and start the grace period running!

Can I Get More Than One Grace Period?

Also, there is only one grace period per loan. So if a student returns to school but has used up their grace period, there is no new one. This often happens where the student takes some time off after graduating from college before attending a graduate school. Upon graduating from grad school, his grad school loans start a 6 month grace period, but his undergraduate loans enter into repayment immediately.

If you live in southern New Jersey and would like to consult with me on your loans, please feel free to call my office at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule an appointment in my Woodbury office to discuss your case.

If you would like more information about student loans, you can dowload my free book, I Graduated; Now What? A Guide to Dealing with Your Student Loans.

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Steven J. Richardson
Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.