Since March, federal student loan payments have been paused with interest rates set to 0% as part of the CARES Act. Payment suspension was set to expire on December 31, 2020. However, U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, extended the administrative forbearance period on Friday, December 4th. The extension grants borrowers an extra month of relief as federal loan payments are no longer due through January 31, 2021.
The one-month extension is key amid a Presidential transition. It temporarily avoids a confusing and chaotic scenario for borrowers and servicers alike, where payments could have been due in January only to see a Biden administration inaugurated on January 20th potentially extend relief or offer new policies altogether.
While a Biden administration may introduce new policies that could impact your student loans, let’s explore some ways you can prepare when payment suspension expires on January 31, 2021.
While you may remain optimistic that payment suspension will be extended with a new administration, it never hurts to plan ahead. Consider the following ways to start your preparation:
- Track down your loan statements from earlier in the year (prior to payment suspension). This can give you a sense of what your payments may look like when bills are due again.
- Contact your loan servicer directly. They may be able to provide more insight into their specific policies when payments resume. For example, if you were set up on auto-pay, your servicer may be able to inform you whether auto-pay will need to be set up again.
Keep Making Payments
Even though mandatory payments do not resume until February 1st, if you have the means there is no better time to make a dent in your student debt. During this period, every payment you make to your Federal student loan is applied 100% to the principal balance, which means your payments effectively save you double! FutureFuel.io has a suite of tools to help you crush your student debt even faster:
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- Round Up: Sweep spare change from everyday purchases straight to student debt
- Auto-Crush: Schedule one-time or recurring payments to your loans. Save an average of $13,500 and become debt-free 4 years sooner with an extra $50 payment per month
Perhaps you don’t have the means to make extra payments at this time. Moreover, perhaps you already anticipate that you will struggle to make your monthly payments when the bill arrives. You could consider the following options to lower your monthly payment or request a further extension:
- Reassess: Many borrowers find themselves on standard repayment plans. FutureFuel.io developed a tool called Reassess to demystify eligibility requirements for alternative repayment plans. These are income-driven programs, so your monthly payment will be commensurate with your income and family size (typically 10-20% of monthly discretionary income).
- Deferment: If you need to temporarily reduce or postpone your monthly payments, you could explore putting your loans into deferment status. This is generally a short-term option that you will need to qualify for.
- Forbearance: Another way to reduce or postpone your monthly payments is by requesting forbearance. With forbearance, interest will accrue despite payments being paused so you will end up paying more in the long run.
Only weeks remain until the current payment suspension period is set to expire. While some remain optimistic that suspension will be extended, it’s best to prepare for a scenario where payments resume come February 1st. Use the next few weeks to get organized, and take stock of whether you will be in a position to meet your payments when they resume. If not, consider some alternative options like enrolling in an income-driven repayment program to lessen the monthly payment burden.