After 27 months of paused payments and 0% interest, student loan relief is scheduled to end on August 31, 2022. Are you ready to make federal student loan payments again?
Many borrowers have put that money to use elsewhere and may struggle to come up with the cash once payments start up again. Here are several student loan strategies to help you handle resuming payments.
Find Out When Your First Student Loan Payment Is Due
Although the pause may end on August 31, your payments probably won’t begin right away. According to the U.S. Department of Education, you’ll get a billing statement at least 21 days before your payment is due. If you were enrolled in auto-debit before the pause started, you’ll likely have to re-enroll to continue making automatic payments.
Update Your Contact Info
Update your contact information to make sure you don’t miss the new payment notice. You’ll need to check your details with:
Even if you haven't moved or changed your phone number or email address, make sure your profile has the right information (especially if your loan servicer recently changed).
Confirm Your Payment Amount
It's been so long since you made a payment that you may not remember what your monthly bill was. But it might not matter, because your amount due might be different than it was before. If you can’t afford your payment, you have a few options to make it more affordable:
- If you’re already on an Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan. Recalculate your payment amount if you had a drop in income compared to before the pandemic.
- If you’re not on an IDR plan. Apply for an IDR plan to get payments based on your income. Your payment can be as little as $0, depending on your situation.
- If you don't benefit from forgiveness or other federal benefits. Check to see if refinancing your federal student loan through a private lender would be beneficial to you — but be sure you understand the benefits you would be giving up. A word of caution: Refinancing a federal student loan will make your loans ineligible for benefits such as payments based on your income, student loan forgiveness, forbearance and deferment. You can’t undo a refinance, so make sure it’s the right step before you take that route.
- If you qualify for a lower interest rate. A lower rate can lower your monthly payment amount and save you money over time.
- If you have a private student loan. Check your rates from other private lenders to see if you qualify for a lower interest rate and/or longer repayment term (both can lower your monthly payment amount).
Understand Student Loan Forgiveness Options
Nearly every borrower with a federal student loan qualifies for student loan forgiveness. If you work for a nonprofit or government entity, you may be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). PSLF forgives your remaining balance after you make 120 qualifying payments.
PSLF-eligible borrowers can take advantage of a temporary waiver through October 31, 2022. The waiver lets you get credit for past periods of repayment that may not have previously counted as a qualifying payment for PSLF.
You can also get your loans forgiven if you don’t work for a nonprofit or government employer. The Department of Education offers four IDR forgiveness plans. Each has payments based on your income and forgives any remaining loan balance after 20 or 25 years of payments.
The government has released a temporary program for IDR plans, too. The one-time payment count adjustment can give you credit for payments made on an IDR plan that might not have previously qualified. However, you must act before January 1, 2023, to take advantage of this option.
Your Next Steps
Preparing for the return of student loan payments requires planning ahead. Between the many federal repayment options, payment pause extensions, and the temporary PSLF waiver and IDR adjustment, you may not know which path is right for you.
Reach out to your loan servicer for more information and consider using StudentAid.gov’s Loan Simulator to get a recommended plan. For more personalized help in choosing a loan repayment strategy, reach out to a financial advisor. A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional can walk you through the options and create a custom student loan strategy to fit your unique situation.