What is a Hardship Deferment for Student Loans?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A hardship deferment is a temporary suspension of student loan payments granted to someone who is experiencing difficulties with repayment. Depending on the lender and the nature of the difficulties, the length of the deferment varies, and typically interest will continue to accrue on the loans for the duration of the deferment. In order to receive a hardship deferment, someone must specifically apply to the lender to ask for hardship consideration.

Students struggling to afford basic living expenses may qualify for a hardship deferment.
Students struggling to afford basic living expenses may qualify for a hardship deferment.

Many lenders are very flexible about granting hardship deferments, within reason. If someone loses his or her job, experiences unexpected expenses, or lives in an area with a very high cost of living, a deferment for hardship will often be readily granted. Especially if the lendee only wants to put off payments for one month, a deferment can usually be obtained.

Students unable to find employment soon after graduation may file for a hardship deferment.
Students unable to find employment soon after graduation may file for a hardship deferment.

To apply for a hardship deferment, it is usually necessary to contact the lender and explain the situation. For temporary deferments like a one month deferment, sometimes a loan officer can simply make a note in the account granting the deferment. For longer deferments, usually an application will need to be filled out detailing the applicant's income, expenses, and the situation for which the deferment is requested.

It is a good idea to apply for a hardship deferment as soon as a hardship is identified, rather than to wait until right before a payment is due. While some lenders will suspend payments as they review the deferment, if the deferment is rejected, the applicant will be expected to make up for any missed payments. Others expect payment until the deferment is granted, and missing a payment can be grounds for denial.

Once a hardship deferment is approved, a formal letter will be sent to the applicant stating that he or she has been granted a deferment, and what the length of the deferment is. Fewer are longer than six months: people who need long-term deferments may be required to keep applying. A lender may also revoke a deferment if it decides that the applicant is capable of making payments again, and applicants can also end the deferment by making a payment if they feel that they are ready to start paying on their loans.

In addition to hardship deferments, most lenders offer a six month “grace period” during which no payments are due. Many people choose to use this period during the six months after graduation, but grace period months can often be used at other times. Some lenders also allow people to periodically miss payments by arrangement, especially if people always pay on time and have good reasons for needing to miss a payment.

A hardship letter should outline the situation that led to missed payments.
A hardship letter should outline the situation that led to missed payments.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@julies - I have firsthand experience at missing some student loan payments, and know how persistent they are at calling you. I think it is hard for many people to admit they are in trouble and the easiest thing is to hope it will just go away.

That is the worst thing you can do though. I was close to being in default on my loans, and I knew this was serious, so I applied for the student loan deferment economic hardship.

My only regret is that I didn't do this sooner. It would have been so much easier if I had done this right away instead of trying to play catch up later. Trying to avoid all the phone calls wasn't any fun either.


@Mykol - I agree that many lenders are good to work with you. When I sign in to make a student loan payment, they have a link and phone numbers right on the home page if you are having trouble making your payments.

One thing with student loans though, is that they never go away! Even if someone were to claim bankruptcy, they would still be responsible to pay back their student loans.

They all work differently too. For some companies you have to write a letter of hardship, and for others you simply fill out an application with all of your income and expenses.

As soon as you know you might have trouble making a payment, you need to let them know. If you keep skipping payments, they will start calling you and anyone you put down for a reference. They are very aggressive when someone starts missing payments and they haven't contacted the loan company.


When my son lost his job, he had to apply for an economic hardship deferment request. This was granted to him and he had 6 months where he didn't have to make any payments.

The interest kept accruing, and he had the choice to make interest payments or defer it as well. Since he didn't have any money coming in, he chose to defer the interest payments too.

This was a big relief for him knowing he had 6 months to find another job before making another student loan payment. I think that most student loan companies work with someone who truly has an economic hardship. If you have good reason for it, they will work with you until you get on your feet again.


I think it is nice to have a 6 month grace period after you stop being a full time student before you have to start paying back your student loans.

This gives you a chance to find a job and get settled before you have to begin making your student loan payments. After I graduated from college, it took me about 3 months before I found a job.

Once I had to start paying back my student loans I felt like I was in a good financial position to do that. I didn't have to apply for this or contact my lender, they just sent me information telling me when my first payment would start.

I know this is different than sending in a hardship letter once you have begun paying your loans and lose your job or something, but either way, knowing you have a grace period is helpful.

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