There are many people who don’t know how to handle federal student loan payments starting on January 31, 2022. It’s been nearly two years ago that Congress passed the CARES Act a massive, coronavirus-related aid package. The payments were temporarily suspended to give immediate student loan relief. Millions of Americans have used this break to obtain much-needed cash to cover basic needs during a national emergency or to pay off other loans.
The payment pause was extended by President Trump and Vice President Biden, but in August, the Biden administration announced the final extension. Forbes claims that experts don’t believe the extension will be extended.
To understand how the student loan payment freeze caused financial hardship and what the borrowers are doing next, we conducted a survey of borrowers with federal and private student loans.
Which Country Are Most People Starting From?
A third of respondents used both federal and private loans to finance their education. About two-thirds of our survey respondents rely solely on loans from the U.S. Department of Education (Perkins Loans), Federal Family Education Loans FFEL, and Direct Loans.
People’s current loans balances can vary from a few hundred dollars to more than $190,000. An estimated 59.4% of people have more student loan debt than $30,000, while nearly 39% are paying down balances above $60,000.
The CARES Act will end its deferment period. Federal student loans will resume their pre-pandemic interest rates, even though they are currently at historic lows. A third of respondents said they felt overwhelmed by the expiration or suspension of payment. Nearly half of those surveyed didn’t think they had a plan for reaching their financial goals.
Do not be overwhelmed – it’s normal. There are many options. To begin, you could take a closer look at your spending habits over the past two years and make adjustments to your budget to meet your goals. Some of our budgeting recommendations can be found here.
- What’s in the American Covid-19 Rescue Plan?
- Biden Aims to Extend or Pause Student Loan Payments
- Biden Administration Extended Student Loan Pause To 2022
The CARES Act pauses and the student loan payment pauses
Every person we surveyed benefited from the administrative grace period of the CARES Act. But people report using it in different ways.
- 35 percent of those who continued to make payments during suspension were still able to do so.
- 22 percent stated that they had invested the money in student loan payments.
- 36 percent said they had worked toward the payment of other debts
- 51 percent of respondents indicated that they have used their student loan money for groceries or other essentials.
Refinancing and CARES Act
Many people find that the interest rates for loans taken out today are lower than the federal loan rates. A lot of people are thinking about working with a private lender for refinancing federal debt. For example, this woman refinanced her Federal student loans in the payment pause.
Most survey respondents stated that they have already made plans to refinance their loans or are contemplating doing so after the CARES Act expires. Nearly 44% stated they are not certain and 35% indicated they do not intend to refinance. Private lenders will not offer the same debt relief as the federal government. Income-driven repayment plans (IDR) can be used to reduce your payments temporarily if you are earning less. For individuals in certain careers, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program offers debt forgiveness.
Refinancing student loans through a private servicer could lower your interest rate and your monthly payment and help you get rid of debt more quickly.
If you’re curious, you can instantly check your rate before you make any financial decisions.
The CARES Law and Student Loan Forgiveness
Many Democrats campaigned for platforms that would cancel student debt. These promises would be instant forgiveness for millions of borrowers carrying student debt of tens of thousands of dollars. Many are wary of refinancing because they fear that they will lose out if they borrow with a private lender.
Have you heard about the possibility of student loan forgiveness through the media?
Yes. It’s making my plans to refinance seem a bit rushed: 40.58%
Yes, I have decided to stop refinancing my federal loans. 6.28%
The White House has not issued executive orders to cancel any debt. Neither have any similar bills made significant progress in the House or Senate.
Unfortunately, student debt cancellation may not be possible, unless you have a qualified career in PSLF. Visit studentaid.gov to learn more about PSLF as well as other federal student aid programs.
The CARES Act offered nearly two years’ worth of relief from federal student loans, which helped millions of people to remain afloat in the face of the pandemic. The payment pause is now over, so it may prove difficult to arrange your budget to make the necessary payments.
You are not the only person struggling to figure it all. Most people must make substantial financial changes in order for student loans to be paid back. If you are struggling to pay your student loans back in, or if the payments are too high, you can get assistance. Learn more about studentaid.gov’s income-based repayment options, consolidation, or forbearance.