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How to Sign Up for SAVE: Mistakes to Avoid When Switching Repayment Plans

The new SAVE plan offers considerable savings for IBR, PAYE, and REPAYE borrowers, but care is necessary when enrolling.

Written By: Michael P. Lux, Esq.

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Signing up for the SAVE student loan repayment plan is easy, and borrowers can do it right now.

SAVE offers most borrowers lower monthly payments and a faster path to student loan forgiveness. However, it isn’t the best option for everyone.

This article will cover the SAVE enrollment process and help borrowers determine whether or not SAVE is the best option for their individual student loan situation.

Signing Up for SAVE: Enroll in About Ten Minutes

The SAVE plan isn’t technically available until July 1, 2024. However, borrowers can take all the steps necessary to enroll today, start receiving benefits as soon as the payment and interest pause ends, and enjoy full SAVE benefits as soon as it is fully available.

It might seem complicated, but the situation is relatively straightforward.

The REPAYE plan will become the SAVE plan on July 1, 2024. Any borrower enrolled in REPAYE at that time will automatically convert from REPAYE to SAVE.

Additionally, REPAYE as we know it, is changing when the payment and interest pause ends on September 1, 2023. This temporary version of REPAYE will lower payments for borrowers, offer a better interest subsidy, and help out married couples.

To enroll, borrowers just need to sign up for the REPAYE plan. The easiest way to apply is to use the Department of Education’s IDR Enrollment Request. They estimate that the online form takes about ten minutes to complete. The IDR enrollment page can help borrowers already on an IDR plan and borrowers who need to sign up for an IDR plan for the first time.

Estimate Your Payments: Because the SAVE plan uses a new formula and REPAYE will use a temporary formula, estimating monthly payments going forward can be tricky.

This SAVE calculator will help borrowers estimate their REPAYE payments for this fall and SAVE payments starting next summer.

FFEL and Perkins Borrowers: Extra Steps to Apply for SAVE

Borrowers with Perkins loans and FFEL loans will have to do some extra work to sign up for SAVE.

Even though FFEL and Perkins loans are not technically eligible for SAVE enrollment, they can become eligible through federal direct consolidation.

At this particular point in time, consolidation may appear a bit complicated. For example, many student loan resources and guides state that consolidation will restart the forgiveness clock, making it a risky choice. While this was previously true, the IDR Payment Count Update will allow borrowers to consolidate without losing progress toward debt forgiveness.

The critical detail for FFEL and Perkins borrowers is that they need to consolidate their debt before December 31, 2023. Missing this deadline could mean missing out on the full benefits of the IDR Count Update.

As part of the consolidation process, borrowers can select which repayment plan they want for their consolidated loan. Those who wish to sign up for SAVE should enroll in REPAYE. When REPAYE sunsets in July 2024, these borrowers will automatically get put on the SAVE plan.

Switching from IBR, PAYE, and REPAYE: How SAVE Impacts the Forgiveness Clock

I’ve gotten dozens of emails from readers worried that switching to SAVE will delay their progress toward PSLF or IDR Forgiveness.

In the vast majority of cases, there is no impact. For example, PSLF borrowers simply need to make 120 certified payments. PSLF eligibility does not depend on which repayment plan is selected — so long as the borrowers are on an eligible repayment plan.

Likewise, a borrower currently enrolled in the REPAYE plan won’t lose their progress toward IDR forgiveness when REPAYE converts to SAVE.

However, there is one potential downside for borrowers pursuing IDR Forgiveness…

The Risk for Graduate Borrowers on PAYE and IBR for New Borrowers

If you attended graduate school and you are eligible for either the PAYE plan or the IBR for New Borrowers plan, you may have a bit of math to do.

Borrowers with graduate debt on the SAVE plan earn IDR forgiveness after 25 years of payments.

Borrowers with graduate debt on the PAYE or IBR for New Borrowers plans can get forgiveness after 20 years.

These borrowers are allowed to stay on their current repayment plans. However, they are limited in their ability to switch back to these plans once they sign up for SAVE.

Switching to SAVE means lower monthly payments. Sticking with PAYE or IBR for New Borrowers can mean forgiveness arrives five years earlier.

This wrinkle for those with graduate school debt is one of the most significant risks/dangers of signing up for SAVE.

SAVE for Parent PLUS Borrowers

Unfortunately, Parent PLUS loans are not eligible for SAVE.

Worse yet, the consolidation path available for FFEL and Perkins borrowers is not available for Parent PLUS borrowers.

If you have Parent PLUS loans, the only IDR plan available is ICR (Income-Contingent Repayment).

Learning More About SAVE

Before enrolling in SAVE, it is a good idea to learn about the many new provisions in the new repayment plan and the implementation timeline.

In most cases, SAVE will be the best option and help borrowers find considerable savings each month. For these borrowers, the biggest mistake would be waiting to sign up for SAVE and potentially missing out on $0 per month payments or an interest subsidy.

Stay Up to Date: Student loan rules constantly change, and temporary programs create deadlines that can’t be missed. To help manage this issue, I’ve created a monthly newsletter to keep borrowers updated on the latest changes and upcoming deadlines.

Click here to sign up. You’ll receive at most one email per month, and I’ll do my best to ensure you don’t overlook any critical developments.

About the Author

Student loan expert Michael Lux is a licensed attorney and the founder of The Student Loan Sherpa. He has helped borrowers navigate life with student debt since 2013.

Insight from Michael has been featured in US News & World Report, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other online and print publications.

Michael is available for speaking engagements and to respond to press inquiries.

49 thoughts on “How to Sign Up for SAVE: Mistakes to Avoid When Switching Repayment Plans”

  1. I have been advised that if I consolidate my current loan with Navient, which consolidated several Parent Plus loans between 2003 – 2005, into an ICR (only IDR for which I can apply), and then submit an application to switch my new ICR into the SAVE plan before 7/1/24, I will be eligible for SAVE and the forgiveness clock will start with my original Parent Plus repayment start date (2003). As such, if this advice is accurate, I would achieve forgiveness in 2028 (25 years following original 2003 Parent Plus repayment start, subsequently consolidated into Navient loan). Hopefully my description makes some sense. Thanks in advance for your advice.

    • To break down this scenario, I think it is helpful to look at the two key items that might help you get where you want to go.

      First, we have the one-time IDR count adjustment. As part of this program, you can consolidate loans and keep your progress from before consolidation (in the past this would have restarted the progress).

      That new consolidated loan, if it includeds Parent PLUS loans would not be eligible for SAVE. However, it would be eligible for the ICR plan. Parent PLUS loans are not eligible for the SAVE plan.

      The one possible workaround to get Parent PLUS loans eligible for SAVE called the “double-consolidation loophole”. It’s not a subject I’ve covered on this site as it is technically a loophole in the federal record keeping, but the Department of Education has recently acknowledged the situation and seems to be temporarily blessing it. NPR did a great article explianing the loophole and how to utilize it.

      Hopefully this will give you a bit of clarity on your situation.

      • Michael – thank you for your thoughtful and informative reply. I looked at the NPR article you linked as well (again thanks). Additionally, I have attended one of the Massachusetts AG’s Student Loan Unit Assistance presentations. At the end of the day, it’s clear that those of us in situations where reliance is loophole-driven, are in a much more risky position which could result in higher costs and no loan forgiveness available on the 25th year of repayment. The latter outcome being the result of loophole elimination via administrative and/or political forces. As such, I am going to stay with my 2005 Parent Plus consolidated Navient-loan and perhaps increase my monthly principal payments.

        Thanks again – very much – for your time and attention!

  2. My wife went to school from 2002-2007 (in school deferment) then paid on her loans for a couple years then returned to school for a year in 2010 (in school deferment) from 2011-2014 was in an income driven repayment way under interest. When we got married in 2014 she had to switch to a 20 year standard repayment because my income would have bumped her income driven repayment way up (of course we learned about capitulation at that point adding an extra 12k). We also paid roughly half of the covid months we didn’t have to. My question is would her standard repayment months count towards her 240 months if we did the use one time adjustment and switched to save? With the 5% discretionary income limit our monthly payment goes down slightly even with my income added filing jointly. She still has roughly 12 years left in standard repayment and if the standard repayment months qualify I would think she’d be in the 180 qualifying payment range which might be worth switching to as her balance is actually still higher than her original loan amounts way back when.

  3. Hi, I applied yo consolidate my loans from Navient to the government to get the one time adjustment. I applied 9/20/2023 & selected the Payer IDR because I have graduate loans. I was confirmed for Payee, everything was consolidated & my first payment was due Nov 16th. When I went to signup for auto pay I found I was moved to SAVE. I did nit approve this change. I don’t want SAVE. I had to reapply for Payee. Is it legal yo be moved between plans without my approval? It was my understanding only people in Repayee would be automatically moved.

  4. Hi!

    I’ve been on an income contingent payment plan for the last 10 years or so. Previously, I was a W2 employee at a grooming shop. In 2020 I started my own business and am an LLC (S corporation).
    When the SAVE plan application asks for my AGI, my taxes seem a little confusing. For example, the AGI will say $60K, but I definitely didn’t pay myself that much last year. Most of that business profit stayed there for large business purchases.
    My taxable income is closer to $41K last year. Will the form figure all of that out (if it even matters)? Can we have them access our tax documents and it will understand? It’s so weird not having simple taxes anymore.
    Thanks for the help!

    • That is a tricky one. My understanding of the tax rules is that the AGI should reflect all of your business expenses, but you should definitely consult a tax pro for certainty on that issue.

      There really isn’t an analysis of the tax forms. They just pull the AGI and plug it into the equations for determining monthly payments. If your income has dropped since your last tax return, there a also alternative ways to document your income.

  5. Question: I just graduated and will be starting my payments on Nov 1st. I have always filed married jointly, but have decided to file married separately in order to lower my payment for SAVE.

    My question is how do I apply for SAVE without them basing it on previous tax returns? Or do I just pay the standard loan payment through the end of the year and then apply for SAVE after I file my 2023 taxes married separately?

    I hope these questions make sense. I have spent hours trying to find an answer or who to call about it with no luck.

    • Your questions make sense.

      It is technically possible to apply using alternative documentation, such as recent pay stubs, but that is only done if you have experienced a drop in income. Additionally, your spouse’s income will still get included in the SAVE calculation because you filed jointly most recently.

      The standard repayment plan is usually the one with the highest monthly payment. Have you estimated your payment on SAVE using the AGI from your last joint return? You might be better off using that number for now and then having them immediately recalculate it as soon as you file separately.

      • Thank you for the reply, my payment with the standard repayment plan would be lower than the one with SAVE ($700 vs $825). I have not worked full time since being a graduate student, so my income on 2022 taxes are minimal.

  6. If you were on Old ibr plan (25 years until forgiveness) and switch to Save… Will you get forgiven at 20
    Or 25 with only undergraduate loans?

  7. Hi Michael,
    I worked for a county hospital before COVID-19 started, and I had 8 years of PSLF accrued before being laid off. My loan is down to $10,000.00 (it has an 8% interest rate “ouch”). From reading some of your responses I see that I had to stay at that county hospital when I completed my 10 years. I assume that I should sign up for SAVE. Is that correct?

  8. I’m just trying to get confirmation of what I have been reading, I had Parent Plus loans that I consolidated two years ago. Is it true that because they were Parent Plus loans that I will not qualify for SAVE?

  9. I owe $9500. Been paying for 22 years on a $50,000 graduate loan. I am in income contingent repayment. I am a social worker- I do not work for a non profit so there is no PSLF. So should I stay put and and at 25 years loan will be forgiven or enroll in SAVE? I can’t decipher if I would have to start all over or if the loan might be forgiven immediately bc it’s under $12000. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thank you

  10. My daughter is currently on the PAYE plan and she has 17 more years on the 20 year forgiveness. Her loan amount is $245,000 and she earns $125,000 a year. Should she switch to SAVE or just stay with PAYE and it will be done in 17 years versus 22 years?

    And also the rate that they have her paying is from her last certification. At that point she had just gone to work and it was only for 5 months so her income was less than $60,000 so the payment is low. Should she recertify to correct this error now or just wait until next year when they have set her recertification date?

    Thanks for your help this is all so confusing.

    • I’m in the process of writing a detailed article on the faster forgiveness vs. lower payments issue. It should be posted to the site at some point in the morning tomorrow. The short answer is that there isn’t an easy answer between these two options.

      As for the certification, the strategy is that if your income drops, you recertify right away to get your payments adjusted. If your income goes up, you are under no obligation to do anything until it is recertification time.

  11. Hello,
    I am currently on PAYE and have made 70/120 PSLF payments and plan to remain employed with an eligible employer until the PSLF process is completed. All of my loans are from medical school.

    I am due to recertify. The SAVE plan offers savings of ~$130/mo. My understanding is the extended IDR forgiveness for grad loans won’t matter in my case, due to the PSLF plan (as the commenter above). As such, it looks like the main downside of SAVE would be that if my income increases such that the SAVE payment is higher than the standard 10yr plan payment, I wouldn’t be capped at the 10yr plan payment amount. Is that correct? Also, if that occurs, couldn’t I switch to the standard plan for my remaining payments since it is PSLF eligible as well?

    Thanks for your posts and insight!

  12. Nobody can answer these questions. Maybe you will be the first!

    I want to switch from Income-Based Repayment (under the IDR umbrella) to SAVE but nobody can tell me if it is true that I can’t switch right away because if I want to leave the IBR plan I will be placed on the standard repayment plan (first) until either I have made one payment under that plan or a reduced-payment
    forbearance (whatever that means). I read this on the NEW IDR Plan Request. This is horrible and scary!

    Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of going on SAVE? My debt to income ratio is 1 1/2 times. A payment first under the Standard Repayment Plan with my debt to income ratio is obscene.

    Also, interest accrues starting 9/1/2023 and my payment (after the pause end) starts October 26, 2023. That is 55 days of interest. I do NOT want any unpaid accrued interest tacked onto the loan balance on October 26th. I have no unpaid interest right now because I consolidated with Dept of ED effective May 26, 2023 and was put under the payment pause $0% interest rate.

    Also, nobody can answer this question definitively. If I switch from IBR to SAVE, will SAVE incorporate all the payments I have made toward IDR forgiveness under the IBR plan, OR, will I have to start the clock over from scratch under SAVE for 25 more years? I was a graduate borrower.

    I have made 100 payments over 9 years on IBR so far. I am hoping to run out the clock for IDR forgiveness with the lowest payments on SAVE because I have had my loans since 1992 with repayment, forbearances, deferments since after I graduated in May 1996.

    By the way, I received double the restitution payment (chump change nonetheless) distributed to recipients in the Navient AG Multistate settlement in 2022. Navient screwed me that bad.


    • Excellent questions! I had to do a little research into the switch from IBR and the reduced payment forbearance. If you feel like getting technical on it, here is the applicable section of law, and here is the regulation created based on that law. What this all means is that by statute, if you want to leave the IBR plan, you technically have to jump over to the standard repayment plan for one month. However, you don’t need to worry about a massive payment. Instead, you can do a reduced-payment forbearance and pay $5. (I moved from IBR to REPAYE many years ago and had to do the $5 payment for a month and it went smoothly.)

      The good news to report is that you won’t lose progress for your previous IDR payments.

      Because you are currently on the old IBR plan, and you don’t currently have any outstanding unpaid interest, it seems to me that switching to SAVE would be the smart move as your monthly payments in the future would be significantly reduced and it shouldn’t extend your wait for loan forgiveness.

      • Thank you. You see, I don’t have any outstanding, unpaid interest and I want to keep it that way. If I do a reduced-payment forbearance and pay $5, won’t the monthly interest be added to my loan principal?

        Also, that month doesn’t count toward payment credit for IDR forgiveness. The government gets you one way or the other. They don’t want you to benefit or ever get ahead or pay these loans off.

        Question: I wonder if I could insert the total amount of interest I owe for that month (instead of $5) so when the application for SAVE does get approved, no interest will be added. Does that make sense? Bottom Line: I’m trying to avoid interest added to my principal but they are forcing me to be in a forbearance or pay the standard repayment plan amount. Is that your understanding.

        Did your loan servicer ADD the interest you didn’t pay (because you paid $5) to your principal before you got on the REPAYE plan (in your case)?

      • I don’t know how they handle the accounting for that one tricky month for the borrowers who switch from IDR.

        That said, if you are worried about unpaid interest, switching to SAVE could save a ton of money on unpaid interest because of the SAVE subsidy.

        Ultimately, I’d suggest focusing on the bigger picture: debt elimination. The statutorily required transition from IBR is definitely weird, but that one month probably isn’t enough to change the analysis on which repayment plan is the better option.

  13. Is it true that the SAVE plan will prevent interest from accruing as long as your monthly payment is met, and is it also true that this is NOT true if you change from an IBR plan? As in, if I’m on IBR and I change to SAVE, my interest will still accrue if my monthly payment doesn’t cover it? And if changing from IBR to SAVE does my current owed interest become part of my principle?
    Thank you

  14. Hi Michael! Thanks for all your help and exceptional knowledge. I am in IBR, and want to switch to REPAYE/SAVE immediately. I wish I had done this earlier during the COVID forbearance. I am 9 years into PSLF, and have one year to go. When filling out the StudentAid.gov paperwork, I am going to ask to be put into the $5 admin forbearance for the month it takes to switch from IBR to SAVE. I know, in the past, if this switch was done earlier during COVID, most people did not have to go into a separate admin forbearance at all and thus didn’t miss out on a PSLF payment. My worry is that, if it takes Mohela a long time to make the IDR change from IBR to SAVE, I will be in months of admin forbearance, delaying my PSLF forgiveness. Any thoughts or advice on how to proceed, or should I just go for it and hope it doesn’t take too long? Thanks so much!

    • That is a great question Josh.

      I’ve seen processing times all over the place, and I suspect servicers are about to face peak volume. As such, I’m not sure of the best approach.

      I’d suggest calling MOHELA and describing your situation. Tell them you are working toward PSLF and you don’t want to lose several months of potential progress while your application is processing. They may be able to offer you guidance on getting it through as quickly as possible.

      • Hi Michael – just an update for your readers. I switched from IBR to SAVE two weeks ago and it took less than a week for the entire process to be completed. There will be no forbearance issue because the paperwork was processed before the COVID forbearance ended.

  15. I have FFEL loans that I consolidated back to federal when they dropped the interest rate. I have been through a variety of deferments, forebearance, full payments and finally income based payments since 12/2006, which is my initial repayment date. My assumption is that I should get payment credit for at least 13 years, meaning I could be down to 7 years for forgiveness. My question is that I currently have a very high income due to extra project, which won’t last more than another year or 2. If I change to REPAY right now, it looks like my payments will increase 3x vs. the current extended repayment plan. Can I wait until next year, when the SAVE plan is completely in place and join then AND keep my adjusted payment count, or do I have to do that now, or before the end of this year?

    • That is an interesting question.

      I’ll start by saying that the IDR Count update is backward-looking, not forward. In other words, while the payments from years ago on the extended repayment plan will count, future payments will not count.

      That said, if you sign up for the extended plan, or take a forbearance or deferment, it won’t reset your progress back to zero. If you explore one of these options and then sign up for SAVE, you should be able to pick up where you left off.

      I’d also note that the SAVE plan is partially implemented from day one of the restart. You can use this calculator to estimate payments in September and in July when SAVE is completely in place.

  16. My daughter has 112K in graduate loan debt. She is currently enrolled in PAYE and has made 80 payments towards PSLF forgiveness and plans to remain in PSLF. With regard to your section above regarding the risks for graduate loan borrowers on PAYE, it seems that the risk involved with the extra 5 years of forgiveness associated with REPAYE/SAVE does not apply to those on PSLF. If this is true it seems that the best choice for my daughter is to switch from PAYE to REPAYE/SAVE to take advantage of the 225% of discretionary income associated with REPAYE/SAVE thereby yielding a lower monthly payment.

    Do I have this right? Are there other caveats to be considered in this case?

    • Hi Dennis. Its really cool that you are taking the time to get up to speed on this stuff in order to help your daughter out. I’m always happy to see families working together on this stuff.

      As for your questions, your understanding is correct. If PSLF is in her future, then the five extra years required for IDR forgiveness won’t matter. However, its worth pointing out that finishing PSLF takes on an added importance. If she leaves her public service job and ends up pursuing IDR forgiveness, it could still be a potential consequence to watch.

      Also, as a last tip, remember that PSLF requires 120 certified payments AND for the borrower to be in public service at the time the debt is discharged.

      That all said, SAVE should lower payments considerably, and it will be a great option for PSLF borrowers.

    • Great question.

      There isn’t a payment cap on SAVE. However, there are practical limitations. If your income is large enough that the standard repayment plan results in lower monthly payments, switching out of SAVE into a different repayment plan might be the best strategy. That said, if you are one year away from forgiveness and get a huge raise, you can make high SAVE payments for that last year and still get your debt forgiven.


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