The federal government is extending student loan payments until at least August 2023. It’s a move President Biden announced in November to keep his administration’s debt-forgiveness plan from being blocked by courts.
But the pause still means borrowers will be responsible for repaying their loans in 2023, regardless of what happens with the Supreme Court’s lawsuits. Borrowers in standard repayment plans will have their balances grow, minus any debt cancellation that survives court challenges.
1. Legal Issues
Among the legal issues surrounding Student Loans Paused Until is whether borrowers have any standing to bring lawsuits against the government. A few lawsuits have been blocked based on a lack of standing, but many others are still in the works and could result in more delays.
But regardless of what happens in the courts, it’s likely that borrowers will continue to see their payments suspended until at least 2023. That’s because the Education Department announced an eighth extension of the pause, which will run through June 30, or 60 days after either the U.S. Education can resume implementation of the one-time debt cancellation or the lawsuits reach a conclusion, whichever comes first.
That’s an extremely long time to suspend payments, especially for borrowers with high balances and whose loans haven’t been capitalized yet. But it’s important to remember that borrowers will have to pay their loans back once the pause ends.
2. Repayment Schedule
Since March 2020, federal student loans have been paused, with no payments required or interest charged. The pause will extend until June 30 or when the administration is allowed to implement its mass forgiveness plan and legal challenges are resolved.
While the extension is a good news for many student loan borrowers, it could also mean that some borrowers will end up paying more than they should. Experts estimate that resuming repayment without any relief in place could result in millions of borrowers defaulting on their loans.
If you aren’t sure about what your loan payments will be during this period, contact your student loan servicer to get more information. They will be able to tell you how much you’ll pay and what you can do to lower your payments, such as enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan.
The Education Department emphasized that the extension of the pause is part of a series of steps the administration is taking to address the issues facing borrowers. They include implementing a revamped Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, forgiving debt for defrauded and disabled borrowers, and clearing the path for borrowers to discharge their student loans in bankruptcy.
3. Income-Driven Repayment Plans
Income-Driven Repayment Plans help borrowers reduce their monthly loan payments by calculating them based on a borrower’s income and family size. These plans can be a great option for borrowers who are struggling to make payments on their student loans.
But, even with these plans, borrowers still have some challenges when it comes to repaying their student loans. In addition, a growing number of borrowers say that their monthly payments are too high under these plans.
In some cases, borrowers experience negative amortization in these plans, which means that their balances grow instead of get paid down more quickly. This can cause borrowers to become discouraged and frustrated.
There are several things that can be done to make income-driven repayment easier for borrowers. One of the best ways is to simplify these plans and give borrowers a single payment amount that’s based on their income and family size. This would allow borrowers to choose the repayment plan that fits their needs and goals best, while also making the program more accessible for servicers.
4. Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a program that forgives federal student loans for certain borrowers who work full-time in qualifying jobs. These include teachers, firefighters, nurses, government workers, public interest lawyers and military servicemembers.
Borrowers must be employed by a qualifying employer for at least 10 years to qualify for tax-free forgiveness of their outstanding federal student loans. They also need to make 120 qualifying payments during that time.
Borrowers who are eligible for PSLF during the pause will continue to receive credit toward their eligibility, as long as they meet all the qualifications and submit a qualifying application. This includes lump-sum or early payments made up to August 2020, as well as payments on other non-Direct Loans that are part of their PSLF eligibility.