For Love or Money

Vol. 42 No. 9


Heather Jarvis is an attorney, a student loan educator, and the founder of

Married couples with student loans should also consider how marriage, family size, and tax filing status affect student loan payments. Here’s how you can begin talking about how student loan debt fits into your life and your plans.

“Joint” or “Separate” Student Loans?

Law students finance legal education with primarily federal student loans including unsubsidized and GradPLUS loans. These loans are issued to individual borrowers. There is no option to borrow a joint federal loan together with a spouse. Married borrowers may not consolidate their federal student loans into a joint federal consolidation loan (years ago such a loan was available, but it was problematic for borrowers and is no longer available). Student loan borrowers should not refinance federal student loans into a private joint consolidation loan without seriously considering the risks including losing valuable borrower rights and flexibility unique to federal loans.

Student Loan Repayment Plans

Federal loans offer a lot of different repayment plans. To decide which one is right for your family, consider the family’s current financial situation and your short- and long-term financial goals. Consider your current cash flow and your expectations over time. Think about saving or maintaining an emergency fund, whether you have insurance coverage to protect your family, and whether you have other debts that may be more expensive than student loans like credit card debt.

Evaluate the various federal student loan repayment options including the Standard Repayment and Income-Driven Repayment plans:

Standard 10-Year Repayment results in fixed equal monthly payments over 10 years. You’ll pay off your loans quickly so you pay less interest, but monthly payments are likely to be high. There is also no penalty for early repayment so if you are in a position to do so, you may save interest charges over time by paying more than is required. Standard repayment can be a good choice for those whose income and financial circumstances allow them to repay their student loans aggressively.

Income-Driven Repayment Options provide for reduced monthly payments based on a percentage of income. The income-driven repayment plans (including Income-Based Repayment and Pay As You Earn) limit a borrower’s student loan payments to an affordable level given her income.

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