Many borrowers are struggling to make their student loan payments. With the average class in 2016 taking on $37,172 in student loan debt, it is no wonder that many are finding it hard to pay it off. Whether it be you are struggling to find work that pays well, or you aren’t making as much as a new graduate, having the burden of that debt can transform into financial hardship. That is when forbearance or deferment may be able to help you stave off the crippling debt until you can get to a better place financially.

What Is Forbearance?

Forbearance allows you temporarily halt your monthly payments on any federal loans for 12 months. Only federal loans are eligible. If you took out a private loan, you are going to have to work out something with your lender.

Though it may seem great initially, there is a catch to place your loans into forbearance. The government will not pay the interest on your loans while it is in forbearance. So, if you do end up taking this route, it is highly recommended that you at the very least make the interest payments that way your debt doesn’t balloon even further.

Qualifying for Forbearance

If you have a federal loan and are suffering from illness or financial hardship, you can qualify for discretionary forbearance according to Wise Bread. To get this process started, you will have to contact the servicer that is handling your loans. There are also situations where you may qualify for forbearance.

For instance, the government may force your lender to grant you mandatory forbearance for any of these following reasons: serving in a medical or dental internship, you are in a  residency program, the total of you have to pay in student loan payments is more than 20% of your monthly gross income, you qualify for the Department of Defenses’ Student Repayment System, you are serving in a national service program, qualify for the teacher loan forgiveness program, or you are in the U.S. National Guard and have been called to duty but are unable to qualify for military deferment.

What About Deferment?

Usually mentioned together with forbearance, deferment is a different option that is available to those with federal loans. Deferment is the better of the two options because not only does it temporarily halt payments, the government may also make the interest payments if you do not have an unsubsidized or PLUS loan.

What Circumstances Qualify You for Deferment?

There are certain situations that make you eligible for deferment. These include being unemployed, are unable to find full-time work, or you are going through financial hardship. To get this process started, you will also need to call your loans servicers. If you have Perkins loans, then you will need to contact the school where you took the loans out. To figure out which option is best for you, consider consulting a student loan professional.