The Department of Education, starting this week will allow anyone with a federal student loan to apply for a program which will cap monthly payments based on income, and forgive remaining balances after 25 years.

Loans can even be forgiven after 10 years for those in the public service. Eligibility for the income-based repayment (IBR) is determined by the size of the loan, and income of the borrower. The plan will become available Wednesday for those that are interested.

This new IBR program comes from the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007. It allows students that have both Federal Education Loan (FFEL) and Direct Loan Borrowers on all Stafford and graduate PLUS loans to apply.

Monthly payments would be less than 10 percent of an individual's income for most of the expected one million people in the program.  Payments would not exceed 15 percent of any income above $16,000 a year. For those who earn less than $16,000 a year, they would not make any monthly payments.

This plan is supposed to help relieve those with average salaries that are struggling to repay student loans. By stretching the repayment over a longer period of time, monthly payments stay at a reasonable proportion of their income.

IBR "can lower costs and provide light at the end of the tunnel" for borrowers. There is greater financial flexibility to buy a home, pay off a car, save for retirement or save for their children's education. However, the accruing interest can increase the loan.

The wise thing to do would be to maintain your payments and pay off the loan as soon as possible.  However, if someone does decide to go on the program and their salary jumps, and they are disqualified as a borrower for the capped monthly payments; then they are still responsible for the cost of the loan and the interest that has accrued to that point.

Granted this is easier said than done, but try to stay out of debt as much as possible. It's better to be poor while you're in college than being poor later on. There are lots of different options out there on how to finance your education, so check all of the different avenues before taking out a loan.

For those with debt this repayment plan can help those that are struggling to make ends meet; but only use the plan if it's absolutely necessary.  The plan almost guarantees that the borrower will end up paying more on the loan the longer it takes to pay off. Getting an education is very important, but be careful with the loans that are used to finance that endeavor.

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