Tip #1: Make Sure Your Contact Information Is Up to Date
Student loan interest will resume on September 1, 2023, and payments will be due beginning in October, according to information provided by the US Department of Education on studentaid.gov. The Department of Education and loan servicers will contact borrowers ahead of time to remind them when they need to start making payments again, so it is important to ensure your contact information is accurate on both your loan servicer’s website and your StudentAid.gov profile. “What you don’t want to have happen is they are sending communications to the wrong place about a bill you owe that you didn’t even know about,” says Will Sealy, Co-Founder & CEO of Summer, a B Corporation that helps student loan borrowers navigate the repayment process and maximize their savings.
Tip # 2: Read the Information You Receive Closely
“We’re seeing one in three borrowers will have a different company collecting loan payments than the company they had collecting payments before the pause,” Sealy says. Although it would be easy to dismiss a message from a new loan servicer as a scam, it is quite possible that it is legit. Borrowers can figure out who their current loan servicers are by visiting studentaid.gov.
Tip #3: Reassess Your Budget
With more than three years of no required loan payments, many borrowers must reevaluate their budgets before they resume making payments in the fall. Emily Irwin, senior director of advice at Wells Fargo Bank, told U.S. News & World Report that it’s important to assess where income is coming from, how much money is going out, and where it’s going. “Take a very fine-tooth comb on both a monthly and an annual basis looking at those expenses,” including loan payments, says Irwin. “That’s your baseline. That’s where you’re going to start with your budget.”
Tip #4: Remember You Have Options
“If you cannot afford your payment, it’s really important that you recognize you have affordable payment options,” Sealy says. His B corp. Summer has helped borrowers enroll in programs like Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans, which peg payments to income. If borrowers are underemployed or unemployed, for example, Sealy says they may qualify for a $0 loan payment. Of the tens of thousands of borrowers Summer has helped enroll in IDR plans, their payments have been lowered by an average of about $300.
Tip #5: Consider a Legal Job Eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Borrowers who work for a government or not-for-profit organization may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The program forgives the remaining loan balance after 120 qualifying payments if the borrower works full-time for an eligible employer. Head to the PSLF page and the PSLF Help Tool on studentaid.gov for more information.
Tip #6: Educate Yourself on New Plans for Student Loan Repayment
Although President Biden’s previous student loan forgiveness plan was unsuccessful, the administration announced on July 14 that it would cancel $39 billion in federal student loan debt for more than 800,000 borrowers. In addition, following the June 30 Supreme Court ruling, the Biden administration released information on two steps it is taking that are “aimed at providing debt relief for as many borrowers as possible, as fast as possible, and supporting student loan borrowers.” Borrowers should familiarize themselves with these efforts. One especially helpful move the Department of Education is making is a 12-month “on-ramp” to repayment, which runs from October 1, 2023, to September 30, 2024. During this period, the White House information says, “financially vulnerable borrowers who miss monthly payments . . . are not considered delinquent, reported to credit bureaus, placed in default, or referred to debt collection agencies.”
The Biden Administration also announced the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) plan, which the administration says “will cut borrowers’ monthly payments in half, allow many borrowers to make $0 monthly payments, save all other borrowers at least $1,000 per year, and ensure borrowers don’t see their balances grow from unpaid interest.” More information about the plan is available from the Department of Education here. Keep in mind that there will likely be court challenges to the plans and further efforts by the Biden administration to cut student loan payments.