The student loan break is about to end soon. It seems unlikely.
On May 1, the federal government is expected to resume collections — for the first time in more than two years — from 43 million borrowers on $1.6 trillion in federal student loan debt.
Virtually no one involved in the collection process thinks it will happen, but no extended break has been announced.
“We’re at 30 days — that’s ridiculous,” said Natalia Abrams, founder of the Student Debt Crisis Center, a nonprofit advocacy group. “Borrowers check the news every day so they can plan their lives.”
The Department of Education, the main lender to Americans borrowing for college, contracts out payment collection work to six outside vendors. Last month he told these loan officers not to tell borrowers that their payments would soon be due.
The services took this as a sign that the payment pause – which began in March 2020 as a pandemic relief measure, and now spans two presidential administrations – would be extended again. But with weeks to go, they are still awaiting advice from the government on whether to start charging borrowers again.
Two executives from different lending services said their businesses had been staffed to be ready for the May 1 restart. The leaders, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid alienating government officials, said they were frustrated by the lack of clear instructions.
These instructions come from the Department of Education, which administers federal student loans. But the department is also stuck awaiting a decision from the White House on extending the hiatus, according to two department employees involved in student loan operations.
Neither the White House nor the Department of Education responded to questions about whether the May 1 restart date would be pushed back. In separate statements, the two said the Education Department would continue to communicate with borrowers and services, including “the type and cadence of borrower services outreach.”
Even congressional lawmakers said they were unaware of the administration’s plans. Both Democratic chairmen of the Senate and House Education Committees — Senator Patty Murray of Washington and Rep. Robert Scott of Virginia — released statements on March 16 calling on the Biden administration to extend the payment break. until 2023.
“The student loan system is broken” Ms Murray said. “It’s ruining lives and holding people back.”
The White House has not publicly responded to this request.
Thursday, more than 90 Democrats in Congress sent a letter to President Biden urging him to extend the pause on payments and take executive action to “cancel student debt now.”
They added, “Restarting repayment will financially destabilize many borrowers and their families, and cause hardship for many who cannot afford to repay.”
A Democratic House aide who was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue said frequent requests to the Department of Education for updates had yielded no firm answers regarding an extension of the moratorium. .
But Ron Klain, Mr Biden’s chief of staff, hinted last month on the “Pod Save America” podcast that an extension was under discussion.
“The president is going to consider what we should do on student debt before the break expires, or he will extend the break,” Mr. Klain said. “Joe Biden is currently the only president in history where no one has paid his student loans during his entire presidency.”