Repay, Your Way (Repost from

Note: This article originally linked each short explanation to longer pieces on the site. I have included it in my portfolio as an example of my ability to write very short explanations of complex issues.

Federal student loans allow you to change your repayment plan at least once a year. Doing this can decrease your monthly payments; however, it can also increase the amount you repay overall.

What You’ll Learn

  • Payment plans that can lower your monthly payment.
  • Benefits and disadvantages of different plans.
  • How to apply for these options.


If you have federal student loans that are not in default, you may be able to change their repayment plan. Some plans depend on your situation—like lowering payments based on your income and family size. However, the key is to look at the following options to figure out which best fits your financial needs.

Your First Option: Standard Repayment
When you start repayment, you automatically enter this plan, which has you make the same monthly payment for 10 years. This plan repays your loans faster than most other plans—and the faster you pay off a loan, the less interest builds up. So, with standard repayment, you may pay less overall than with other plans; however, to do this, your monthly payments may be higher.

Income-Driven Repayment Plans
If you’re having trouble covering a standard payment, you may qualify for an income-driven repayment plan. There are several types of income-driven plans, but you generally only qualify for one or two based on the loans you borrowed and when you borrowed them. Any of the following plans could lower your payments and keep you on track.

Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) is the latest income-driven repayment option for federal student loans, and most federal student loan borrowers can take advantage of it.

REPAYE reduces your monthly payments to no more than 10% of your discretionary income. After 20 years of eligible payments under REPAYE, your remaining balance would be forgiven (25 years if you have any loans from grad school), but that amount is taxable.

Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
Income-based repayment (IBR) can lower your payment based on your income and family size. While not everyone qualifies (you need to prove financial hardship), IBR generally decreases your monthly bill. There are two kinds of IBR. Depending on which you qualify for, you may be able to have your debt forgiven if you haven’t paid it all off after 20 years or 25 years. Just don’t forget that this amount is taxable.

Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
Pay As You Earn (PAYE) is very similar to New IBR. Both require you to prove a financial hardship, and both offer loan forgiveness after a set period of time (20 years for Pay As You Earn). However, the plans do have their differences. For starters, only specific new borrowers can qualify for PAYE.

Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
ICR works similarly to IBR and PAYE, except your monthly payments may be slightly higher. Under ICR:

  • Only Direct loans or Consolidation loans (Consolidation loans may include Parent PLUS loans) qualify.
  • Your monthly payment will be lowered.
  • After 25 years, your remaining Direct loan balance is forgiven.

Income-Sensitive Repayment (ISR)
ISR is very different from the other income-driven repayment plans. You can only use ISR for a maximum of 5 years—then you have to switch to a different plan. For ISR:

  • Only FFELP loans qualify.
  • Your monthly payment will be lowered for up to 5 years (based on your choice between 4%—25% of your discretionary income).
  • After your 5 years are up, you have up to 10 years to finish paying off your loan.


Other Repayment Options

Graduated Repayment
If you want lower payments right now, but don’t want to make payments for the next 15-25 years, graduated repayment might be the option for you. With graduated repayment, you don’t need to provide your income information.

Graduated repayment is available for all federal student loans.
Your monthly payment will be lowered during the first couple years of repayment—but after that it’ll go up significantly.
You finish paying off your loan in 10 years (120 payments).
Learn More

Extended Repayment
If you have a lot of federal student loan debt (more than $30,000), but you don’t qualify for low payments under an income-driven repayment plan, extended repayment may be your only option.

Extended repayment is available for FFELP, Direct, and Consolidation loans.

Your monthly payment will be reduced so you pay one low amount for a longer period of time. You can have up to 25 years to pay back your loan (300 payments) or 30 years and 360 payments for Consolidation loans over $60,000.

Dog whistle

This weekend I mentioned in passing that “everyone knows the phrase States’ Rights is a dog whistle.” And one of my friends replied “I didn’t know that.”

I guess that’s the point of a dog whistle. Not everyone knows the whole story. It’s a sign only to the initiates. As an anonymous right-wing messageboard strategist explains: “Leftists will recognize dog whistles and know we’re crypto, but normies won’t listen to them.”

But I was still surprised to hear someone say they didn’t recognize that one. Look up Dog-Whistle Politics on Wikipedia: “States’ Rights” is the canonical example.

In 1980, Reagan kicked off his presidential campaign at the Neshoba County Fair, near Philadelphia Mississippi, a town famous as the site of several civil-rights-related murders in 1964. So, how did he open his campaign? Praise of states’ rights. This was as clear a signal as possible to anyone who knew anything. Newspapers condemned it. I mean, sure, liberal out of touch coastal elite newspapers, but the New York Times is still a national newspaper. This was a longstanding pro-segregation slogan, used in a major political speech, in a town known for bloody battles over segregation and civil rights.

The use of racist dog-whistles is a deliberate Republican strategy, famously described by Reagan adviser Lee Atwater:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “N*****, n*****, n*****.” By 1968, you can’t say “n*****” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N*****, n*****.”

I thought people knew this. I thought it was obvious. But I think I have just been blind to how effective that dog-whistle really is. Because somehow, after all that, people think the Republican party doesn’t have anything to do with racism, even though Nixon, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Trump all swept to office on tides of racism. It was most explicit for Nixon, Reagan, and Trump, and somewhat less so for the Bush boys. But not that much less.

If you think David Brooks is right, check again

David Brooks has a pretty decent column, for once, in the Times today. He discusses Trump’s strange lack of “theory of mind” and notes that the world is over-analyzing his work.

But Trump seems to have not yet developed a theory of mind. Other people are black boxes that supply either affirmation or disapproval. As a result, he is weirdly transparent. He wants people to love him, so he is constantly telling interviewers that he is widely loved. In Trump’s telling, every meeting was scheduled for 15 minutes but his guests stayed two hours because they liked him so much.

We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.

This seems pretty insightful! And it would seem more insightful if I had not read a nearly identical piece from David Roberts, writing in Vox, four days ago:

On Twitter I talked about “theory of mind,” a basic capacity humans develop around the age of 2 or 3 to recognize that other people are independent agents, distinct minds, with their own beliefs, desires, fears, etc. We learn to “read” behaviors as evidence of those internal states.

Much of the dialogue around him, the journalism and analysis, even the statements of his own surrogates, amounts to a desperate attempt to construct a Theory of Trump, to explain what he does and says through some story about his long-term goals and beliefs.

But what if there’s nothing to understand? What if there’s no there there? What if our attempts to explain Trump have failed not because we haven’t hit on the right one, but because we are, theory-of-mind-wise, overinterpreting the text?