The information below is taken directly from http://www.direct.ed.gov/postpone.html
Deferment and Forbearance
If you want additional information on loan default, visit the Department's Debt Resolution website.
A deferment is a postponement of payment on a loan, during which interest does not accrue if the loan is subsidized.
You may qualify for a deferment while you are:
- Enrolled at least half time in an eligible postsecondary school or studying full time in a graduate fellowship program or an approved disability rehabilitation program.
- Unemployed or meet our rules for economic hardship (limited to 3 years).
You may also be eligible for a deferment based on qualifying active duty service in the U.S. Armed Forces or National Guard. Refer to the MPN for your loan or contact your servicer for more information about specific qualifications for deferment based on military service.
In most cases, you need to submit a deferment request to your loan servicer along with documentation of your eligibility for the deferment.
If you've gone back to school and your loan servicer receives enrollment information that shows you're enrolled at least half time, it will automatically put your loans into deferment and notify you. You have the option of canceling the deferment and continuing to make payments on your loan.
If you are in default on your loan, you are not eligible for a deferment or forbearance.
If you can't make your scheduled loan payments, but don't qualify for a deferment, we may be able to give you a forbearance. A forbearance allows you to temporarily stop making payments on your loan, temporarily make smaller payments, or extend the time for making payments. Some common reasons for getting a forbearance are illness, financial hardship or serving in a medical or dental internship or residency. See your copy of the Borrower's Rights and Responsibilities Statement for more examples. You can also get more information by contacting your loan servicer.
Under certain circumstances, we can automatically give you a forbearance, for instance, while we're processing a deferment, forbearance, cancellation, change in repayment plan or consolidation, or if you're involved in a military mobilization or a local or national emergency.