The Department of Education has extended student loan forbearance through January 31, 2021. Federal student loan borrowers do not have to make payments until February. Monthly payments for most federal student loans have been on pause since March due to the coronavirus pandemic and were set to resume in January until this latest extension.
No interest will be added to what you owe during this forbearance period, and non-payments will count toward the number of payments required under an income-driven repayment plan, a loan rehabilitation agreement, or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
*The federal government could act to change or extend loan relief. If it does, this page will be updated to reflect any new relief and end dates. All information is current as of 12/11/2020*
February will be here before you know it! This year has been financially tough on many people, but the good news is that options exist to make your student loan payments more affordable. Income-driven repayment plans are based on your income and your family size. If you are not making much money – and especially if you have lost your job or experienced a decrease in income during the pandemic – you can even lower your payments to ZERO.
Regardless of your situation, now is the right time to review your finances and reevaluate your payment plan – do this as soon as you can. Log back into your accounts, look at your monthly bill, and see if income-driven repayment is right for you.
You can log into the Department of Education (www.studentaid.gov) using your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. This is a username and password that is unique to each borrower. Not sure if you have an FSA ID? If you haven’t logged into the Department of Education’s website since May 2015, you probably don’t have an FSA ID. But don’t worry – you can easily create one. And if you forgot your username or password, don’t worry – there are options to recover your account information – on most log-in pages, look for links that say something like “Forgot My Username” or “Forgot My Password”.
Unfortunately, private student loans don’t qualify for the Department of Education’s forbearance program. However, many private lenders are offering disaster or emergency forbearance. Typically, that means a short-term pause on payments that won’t count toward any existing forbearance limits. Interest will still accrue during all private loan forbearance periods. If you’re having trouble making payments, don’t wait – reach out to your lender today. Here is a list of relief available from many private lenders.
Payments are automatically suspended for all borrowers, including those who were more than 31 days delinquent prior to March 13, 2020, or became more than 31 days delinquent soon thereafter. That means the loans are in forbearance and won’t default. Default on federal loans happens when a payment is 270 days past due, sending your loan to collections and exposing you to damaged credit, garnished wages and seized tax refunds.
For those with federal student loans in default, all collection activities are suspended through Jan. 31, 2021. You can get a refund for any forced student loan payments made since March 13, 2020 – if you believe you have had wages wrongly garnished or other attempts made to collect on student debt since March, contact Bay Area Legal Aid. If your tax refund was seized before March 13, 2020, it will not be returned.
If your loans were already in forbearance, any interest that already accrued will still be added to your loan principal when your repayment begins, but during this pandemic-related forbearance period no new interest will be calculated.
Maybe – but nothing is certain. The new administration could extend the forbearance period and could work with Congress to offer some amount of debt cancellation. But don’t count on it! Taking action now to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan can lower your payments and save you money – and if there is more help coming from the Federal government, enrolling in a new repayment plan will not impact your eligibility.
Millions of Americans are struggling to repay student loan debt. The National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project is a resource for borrowers, their families, and advocates representing student loan borrowers.
For more information about student loan debt problems, including default, income-driven repayment, disability discharge, and other issues, visit one of our Free Consumer Rights Legal Clinics.