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Should I switch to the "Pay as You Earn" student loan payment plan?

January 3, 2012: 5:05 AM ET

Is the new "Pay As You Earn" program better than income-based repayment for my son's old student debt? — Bob Munderville, Albany, N.Y.

Pay As You Earn is a new government program designed to keep debt manageable for low-income graduates by limiting federal loan payments to 10% of their discretionary income. Unpaid balances are forgiven after 20 years. The hitch: The program doesn't cover loans made before 2012. So your son doesn't qualify.

Instead, he can apply for the older income-based repayment program, which sets higher payment caps and erases any balances after 25 years, or 10 years of public service work. (See the IBR calculator at studentaid.ed.gov.) If his earnings rise, he can switch to a 10-year payment plan that will cut his interest costs.

— Beth Braverman

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