fbpx Deferment | Harvard Kennedy School

As a borrower in deferment, you are not required to make payment on your federal loans during this period of time, but your Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Grad PLUS loans, or private loans continue to accrue interest.

Deferments While Enrolled at HKS

You are eligible to defer your federal loan payments while you are enrolled at Harvard Kennedy School on at least a half-time basis. This applies to loans taken out to attend HKS as well as other federal loans you may hold from attending undergraduate or other graduate programs.

HKS partners with the National Student Loan Clearinghouse. The HKS Office of the Registrar uploads enrollment information to this database three times each semester.

As a student enrolled at HKS, you may ask the HKS Office of the Registrar to provide you with a completed deferment form in hard copy if you hold older loans. You can do this by getting the deferment form from your lender and sending it to the registrar for certification. Deferment forms cannot be completed until after the semester’s first day of classes.

Deferments After No Longer Enrolled at HKS

Your repayment period typically starts six months from your last day of classes after you are no longer enrolled at HKS on at least a half-time basis. This is called “a grace period” if you hold Direct Unsubsidized loans or “a post-enrollment deferment” if you hold Grad PLUS loans.

A grace period is a one-time event only. If you exhausted the grace period previously, you are not eligible for an additional one. In these cases, your repayment period begins within 30 days of when you are no longer enrolled at HKS. 

If you have a hard time meeting your repayment obligations after you are no longer enrolled at HKS, you may be able to take advantage of some post-enrollment deferment options. They are only available for federal loans—Direct Unsubsidized, Perkins, and Grad PLUS. If you have private loans and are having difficulty meeting your repayment obligations, contact your lenders to talk about your options.


If you are unemployed but actively looking for gainful employment, you may be able to defer your loans for a cumulative period of three years. Unemployment deferments are typically granted in six-month increments, but you will need to file a new request every six months.

Economic Hardship

If you are employed but struggling to meet your repayment obligations, you may be eligible to defer your loans due to economic hardship. Your eligibility will be based on calculating the amount of your outstanding debt and required monthly loan payments relative to your earnings. Contact the U.S. Department of Education (1-800-848-0979) to determine your exact eligibility calculation and learn about deferments.


You may think about applying for forbearance if you do not qualify for deferment, but are having short-term difficulty with meeting your repayment obligations. Forbearance is similar to deferment. You may reduce or stop making payment on your loans for a cumulative period of no more than three years. However, unlike deferment, interest will accrue on the entirety of your borrowed amount, not just the unsubsidized portion.