Student loan repayments resume in May: here’s what you need to know

As the Coronavirus pandemic Forced millions of people into unemployment and financial uncertainty in March 2020, federal student loan payments were suspended and interest rates were set at zero. In August, the Biden administration extended the break in federal student loan payments until January 31, 2022 – and, despite the warning that this was a “final extension,” the administration has now reimbursements postponed again to May 2022.

“As we take this step, I call on all student loan borrowers to do their part: Make full use of the resources of the Department of Education to help you prepare for resumption of payments; explore options for reducing your payments through income. – repayment plans based on repayment plans; explore the cancellation of public service loans; and make sure you get vaccinated and boosted when you are eligible, ”President Joe Biden said in a statement announcing the latest extension.

Millions of borrowers will then have to start repaying their loans again, many for the first time in two years.

More than 42 million people had federal student loans of one form or another as of fall 2021, amounting to nearly $ 1.6 trillion in student loan debt, according to data from the Department of Education . This includes over $ 36 million with direct loans totaling over $ 1.35 trillion.

“This is a major effort, and we are doing everything we can to get the message out to make sure borrowers are ready for the start of loan repayments in February,” Under Secretary of Education James said. Kvaal at CBS News. The Department of Education is already working to reach over 30 million borrowers about the change.

As millions of people get ready to pay off their loans, the most important thing officials and experts say borrowers can do before the break is over is to make sure their contact details are up to date. Borrowers can expect to see multiple communications until the deadline, but having their address, email address, and phone numbers up to date is essential to receive all of the information.

Borrowers by the end of April should also review their current budgets and decide what to do, so they can be ready to make regular payments for their federal student loans again, experts say.

Here’s what else you need to know at the end of the break:

When are the first payments due?

Not all loan payments are due the same day – so not all millions of people will make payments on May 1. After COVID-19 forbearance is complete, borrowers will receive a billing statement or notice at least 21 days – 3 weeks – before the first payment is due. Some borrowers may not have to make their first payment until June. Borrowers should ask their loan officers when their first payment after the break is due.

Will automatic payments resume automatically?

It depends. If a borrower had an automatic debit for student loans in place before the pandemic, that doesn’t mean automatic payments will resume after the student loan hiatus ends. Borrowers should check with their providers for automatic payments.

“If they’re not already in an automatic payment or debit plan, they should consider getting one,” said Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert at the college. “The lenders will give them a slight reduction in interest rates as an incentive.”

For those with federal student loans, this incentive is typically a quarter of a percentage point.

Will interest stay at zero when payments start again?

For the moment no. A group of Senate Democrats asked President Joe Biden to waive interest for the remainder of the pandemic health emergency, but the administration has not announced a plan to do so yet.

“We’re still evaluating the impact of the Omicron variant, but our top priority right now is a smooth transition to reimbursement, so that’s our goal, and in the coming weeks we’ll be posting more details on this. that our plans are for it, ”Kvaal told CBS News before the last hiatus.

Federal student loan interest rates are fixed, so they won’t change from pre-pandemic rates. Borrowers would see their interest rates return to the same levels as before the pandemic hiatus.

Interest rate for new federal student loans reset every July and are based on a legislated formula based on the 10-year Treasury note. While interest rates on federal student loans remain near historic lows, loans distributed after last July and before July 2022 had higher interest rates than the previous year: interest on federal loans Undergraduate Direct Stafford loans increased from 2.75% to 3.73%, while interest on Federal Direct Stafford loans increased to 5.28% and interest on Federal Direct PLUS loans increased to 6. 28%.

What if the restarted monthly payments were too high for borrowers?

Borrowers facing financial challenges and fearful that they cannot afford the monthly installments when they opt out may have several options available to them. The most important action they can take is to “get in touch“said the Ministry of Education.

For those with federal student loans, there is an economic hardship deferment as well as an unemployment deferment option. There is also tolerance. Each of them has a three-year limit, but in almost all cases borrowers will still have to pay the interest.

“For the most part, you delay the inevitable, and if you do this for an extended period of time, you dig yourself a deeper hole. But the idea behind the postponement or withholding is to provide short-term financial relief for yourself. when you have short-term financial difficulties, ”Kantrowitz said.

Those with lower incomes now than before the pandemic may be eligible for lower payments by signing up for an income-based repayment plan. To do this, borrowers must complete an application – and borrowers new to an income-based scheme as well as those who need to recertify their income information to update their current situation will need to complete one. Payments under any of these plans can be as low as $ 0 per month.

“As we prepare for the return to repayment in May, we will continue to provide tools and support for borrowers so they can complete a repayment plan that is appropriate for their financial situation, such as an income-based repayment plan. Said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in December.

What happens to borrowers who had past due loans?

Collections on delinquent student loans: For borrowers who had not made their payments and whose federal student loans were in default, collections were also suspended during the coronavirus pandemic. The temporary zero percent interest rate and the hold on collections also increased in early May.

For those who have just landed a new job, wages cannot be foreclosed immediately, but loan holders, in this case the government, can report borrowers to credit bureaus, withhold certain benefits such as social security and loans. Collection agencies can start contacting borrowers again fairly quickly.

Defaulting borrowers have several ways to get back on track, including loan recovery, which includes agreeing to a series of payments, and loan consolidation. Borrowers should contact their loan holder to determine a reasonable monthly payment to help them get out of default.

What happens with borrowers who have a new loan manager?

Some 16 million borrowers could have a new federal loan service when repayments resume. This is because some companies, like Navient, have terminated federal student loan service contracts. For those dealing with a new server, they should receive communications from their old server and the new server regarding the changes and how to set up online accounts.

Experts encourage borrowers with a new server to carefully document all of their loan information from their account with their old server and compare it with what is in the new server’s system. Although information should be transferred transparently to the new provider, as with any move, there is always a risk of error, so it is good to have records of loan amounts, payment details and rates. of interest available and checked just in case.

Is there a chance of another student loan break extension?

When announcing the extension until the end of January over the summer, the Biden administration called it a “definitive extension.” But the White House announced Wednesday, December 22 that the hiatus would continue for an additional 90 days, pushing payments back to May, citing the ongoing pandemic and the need to further bolster the country’s economic recovery.

“We know that millions of student loan borrowers are still facing the impacts of the pandemic and need more time to resume payments,” Biden said in his statement.

The break saves 41 million borrowers $ 5 billion per month, according to a statement from the Department of Education.

“We are committed not only to ensuring a smooth return to repayment, but also to increasing the accountability and customer service of our loan officers as borrowers prepare for repayment,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, in the press release.

Several lawmakers insisted student loan managers before the deadline to see if they’re ready to help millions transition to federal student loan payments.

Will student loan debt be canceled?

A number of Democrats are pressuring President Joe Biden to write off up to $ 50,000 in student loan debt, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Elizabeth Warren. Shortly after taking office, Biden said Congress should act to write off student loan debt. But in the spring, the president asked the education secretary to describe his legal authority to write off student loan debt.

“We are working very hard with the Justice Department and the White House to examine our potential legal authority, and these conversations are ongoing,” Kvaal said.

Although a decision has not yet been made, the administration has taken steps to write off some student debt. Since January, the administration has approved the cancellation of more than $ 12.5 billion in student loans affecting about 640,000 borrowers, according to the education ministry. This includes dismissals for permanent disabilities, those who have been defrauded by schools, and pardon for public service.

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