Student loan repayments will resume soon. Here’s what you need to do now
The other day, I did something that I hadn’t done in over a year: I logged into my student loan account. Or at least that’s what I tried to do. Turns out I forgot my password and couldn’t enter. Instead of following the steps to change it, I closed the browser and went back into denial.
This fall, borrowers will once again have to make room in their lives and budgets for monthly student loan payments. It’s a good race. The US Department of Education first gave borrowers the option to suspend their bills with no accrued interest in March 2020. (Most federal student loan borrowers have accepted this offer.)
Many borrowers have grown accustomed to living without a hefty monthly student loan bill and are unlikely to look forward to the hiatus over in October.
“Student loan payments have been lost in sight and out of mind,” said Elaine Griffin Rubin, senior contributor and communications specialist at Edvisors.
To alleviate some of your anxiety (and mine!), I spoke to experts about what you need to know about change, and how best to prepare for it.
In October. Your exact due date will vary depending on when in the month you started paying off your student loans.
There is still a chance that borrowers will have more time: recently Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that an extension was under consideration.
“It will probably depend on the state of the economic recovery by then,” said higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz. “I doubt they’ll extend it beyond the end of the year.”
Don’t count on more time, said Betsy Mayotte, president of The Institute of Student Loan Advisors, a nonprofit organization.
“Although it remains a possibility, it is not guaranteed,” she said. “It’s best to prepare now – the student loan service call centers will get busier as October approaches.”
What should I do now?
Over the next three months, borrowers should make sure their student loan officer has their current contact information, Kantrowitz said. If you have moved, for example, this may not be the case.
If you were signed up for automatic payments and your banking information has changed, you will also need to notify your server.
Putting money aside for resuming payments can also make the transition less painful, experts say.
The lives of many people have been turned upside down by the pandemic.
If your situation seems different from what it was over a year ago, it may be a good idea to look at the payment plans available to you and find the one that works best for your current situation.
In the meantime, the law has also changed.
Cancellation of student loans is now tax-free until at least 2025, thanks to a provision included in the $ 1.9 trillion federal coronavirus stimulus package that President Joe Biden enacted in March. The policy will likely become permanent.
This can make income-oriented repayment plans more appealing, as they often come with lower monthly bills and borrowers will likely no longer be faced with a massive tax bill at the end of their 20 or 25 years of payments.
But if you can afford it, the standard repayment plan is only for 10 years.
To calculate your monthly bill amount under different plans, use one of the calculators from Studentaid.gov or Freestudentloanadvice.org, Mayotte said.
If you decide to change your repayment plan, Mayotte recommends that you submit this request to your manager by the beginning of September.
“I am very concerned that there are big service delays,” Mayotte said.
Is student loan cancellation still possible?
Biden has called on the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Education to review his legal authority to write off student debt through executive action. The fact that these reports are still pending may explain why we have yet to hear anything more definitive, experts say.
“He will not take any action until this report comes back,” Kantrowitz said.
Even if government officials conclude that Biden does not have such authority, there could still be hope.
While Democrats may struggle to pass a bill forgiving student debt in Congress, given their very slim majority, they could turn such a bill into law through the budget reconciliation process in the fall. This avenue would not require the support of Republicans.
Should I be thinking about refinancing my student loans?
Borrowers think refinancing their federal student loans into private loans at a lower interest rate might want to wait, Kantrowitz said. For one thing, the interest rate on most federal student loans is 0% for at least three months.
Plus, “they’ll feel stupid if they only refinance for the federal government to announce the loan cancellation,” Kantrowitz said.