BALTIMORE — Student loan borrowers are getting another break.
A recent executive order signed by President Trump extends the suspension of payments and interest on federally-held student loans from September 30 to December 31, but certain details are still unclear.
“The language isn’t super clear, so we student loan nerds are anxiously awaiting the Department of Education’s guidance, which we are expecting in the next couple of weeks for sure,” said Betsy Mayotte with The Institute of Student Loan Advisors (TISLA).
Borrowers have reported their loan servicers are also awaiting direction from the Department of Education.
Aside from a break in payments, Mayotte said there are programs borrowers in default should take advantage of during this COVID period.
“Loan rehabilitation is kind of an awesome and unique thing for the federal student loan program. If you make nine consecutive on time payments in an amount that’s based on your income, so the payments can be as low as $5, not only are you taken out of default, but they remove the default line from your credit report like it was never there. And the collection costs are significantly reduced,” said Mayotte.
And right now, suspended payments will count toward rehabilitation.
According to the department’s Federal Student Aid office:
“If you enter a new rehabilitation agreement between March 13, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2020, suspended payments that would have been made from the beginning of your agreement until Sept. 30, 2020, will count.”
“They’re counting this period like you’re making those rehab payments even though you don’t have to make them,” said Mayotte.
It's still uncertain whether the same treatment will continue under the president’s executive order.
Mayotte added that private student loan borrowers may want to consider refinancing now that interest rates have gone down.
And even though payments for many borrowers have been suspended, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay anything, especially for those still employed.
With interest waived, anything you pay now will go directly towards your principal, so when payments resume, interest will collect on a lower balance.
If you have questions about your loan, or need help with a dispute, TISLA offers free advice.
Also check out StudentAidPandemic.org for up-to-the-minute guidance on student loans and financial aid during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If borrowers need additional assistance with their student loan servicer, they should contact the Maryland Student Loan Ombudsman by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 410-230-6185.