Looking Back on How COVID-19 Has Impacted Student LoansJune 26, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s life in one way or another. For many Americans, this included their student loans. Whether you are unable to make payments or benefiting from a lower interest rate, it can be confusing to know how all of the ways the pandemic may be affecting your situation.
By Caroline Farhat
The impact on student loans is different depending on whether you have federal or private student loans. If you do not know what type of loans you have, you can log in to your account on the StudentAid.gov site that will show you any federal loans you have borrowed. If you think you have any private loans, be sure to request your free credit report to see the information on them.
COVID-19 Impact on Federal Student Loans
On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law. The CARES Act impacts most federal student loans, but not all. Perkins Loans and FFELP loans that are not owned by the U.S. Department of Education are not included in the benefits provided by the Act. Most federal student loans are covered. Here’s how the CARES Act affects all other federal student loans:
The covered student loans were automatically placed on administrative forbearance from March 13, 2020, through September 30, 2020. This means no payments are required during that period and no action was required to receive this benefit. If you decide to make payments during this time the amount will go towards the principal of the loan after the interest accrued as of March 13 is paid. Any payments made after March 13 through September 30 can be requested for a refund.
The interest rate on the covered federal loans is temporarily set at 0% from March 13 through September 30. You do not have to do anything to receive the reduced interest rate. This reduced interest rate is beneficial because your loans will not be increasing during the paused period.
Student Loan Forgiveness
The non-payments during the March 13 to September 30 timeframe count towards payments made for student loan forgiveness. This is especially beneficial if you are in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. As long as you are employed at a qualifying employer, you do not have to make any payments during the period and the months will still qualify towards your required number of payments.
- For example: if you have 48 payments remaining until you are eligible for loan forgiveness under the PSLF and you do not make any payments from March 13 to September 30, your required number of payments until forgiveness will be reduced to 42 payments.
Collection on Defaulted Loans
If you currently have federal defaulted student loans, the collection on those loans is paused from March 13 through September 30, 2020. You should not receive letters or phone calls regarding the collection of these debts. In addition, your tax refund, social security benefits and wages cannot be garnished during this time. However, keep in mind after this paused period, collections will resume on your defaulted loan.
Rehabilitating Defaulted Loan
If you are in a rehabilitation agreement for your defaulted loan, the suspended payments will count toward your rehabilitation during the suspended payments period.
Employer Educational Assistance Programs
The CARES Act allows employers to contribute up to $5,250 per year towards an employee’s student loans tax-free through December 31, 2020. This is a savings for the employee who can have extra money paid on their student loans with no taxes owed on the money. This provision of the Act allows employers to use student loan assistance as a benefit to offer to employees, while not having to pay payroll taxes on the money. Corporations looking to add this benefit for their employees can find out more information here.
COVID-19 Impact on Private Student Loans
Private student loans are not covered by the CARES Act, however, you may still be eligible for some relief if you have been financially impacted by COVID-19.
Lender Relief Measures
Many lenders are providing relief measures, such as forbearance, in which you will not be required to make payments for a certain period. Every lender is different so be sure to check with your provider if you need any assistance.
Some states’ attorney general offices have made agreements with private student loan lenders to provide relief to borrowers impacted by the pandemic. As of this writing, nine states plus Washington D.C. have made agreements with lenders. Some of the benefits in the agreements may include:
- 90 days forbearance, which means no payments would be due
- Waiver of late fees
- No negative reporting to credit bureaus
If you do not live in a state that is helping to provide relief, refinancing your student loans may be a great option for you. Refinancing can reduce your monthly payment to make it more affordable for you. Refinancing allows you to borrow a new loan to pay off your old student loan. The new loan can save you money by having a lower interest rate or obtaining a new loan with a longer term length to lower the payments, but extend the number of months you have to pay. Check out our Student Loan Refinance Calculator to see how much you may be able to save.*
During this unprecedented time, it’s helpful to have some relief from student loan payments if you are unable to make them. Explore all your options to see what works best for your financial situation.
*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.
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