Come this fall, borrowers will again have to make room in their lives and budgets for monthly student loan payments. It’s been a good run. The U.S. Department of Education first gave borrowers the option of pausing their bills without interest accruing in March 2020. (Most federal student loan borrowers accepted that offer.)
“Student loan payments have been out of sight, and out of mind,” said Elaine Griffin Rubin, senior contributor and communications specialist at Edvisors.
To ease some of your anxiety (and my own!), I spoke to experts about what you need to know about the change and how to best prepare for it.
When will bills be due again?
In October. Your exact due date will vary depending on the time of the month you began paying your student loans.
There’s still a chance borrowers could get more time: Recently, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that an extension was under consideration.
“It will likely depend on the state of the economic recovery by then,” said higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz. “I doubt they’ll extend it beyond the end of the year.”
Don’t count on getting more time, said Betsy Mayotte, president of The Institute of Student Loan Advisors, a nonprofit.
“While it is still a possibility, it is not guaranteed,” she said. “It’s best to prepare now — student loan servicer call centers will get busier as we get closer to October.”
What should I do now?
Over the next three months, borrowers should make sure that their student loan servicer has their current contact information, Kantrowitz said. If you’ve moved, for example, they may not.
If you were enrolled in automatic payments and your banking information has changed, you’ll also want to notify your servicer of that.
Putting aside some money for when payments begin again may also make the transition less painful, experts say.
What if I’m worried I won’t be able to start making the payments again?
If you’re still unemployed or dealing with another financial hardship because of the pandemic, you’ll have options come October.
First, put in a request for the economic hardship or the unemployment deferment, experts say. Those are the ideal ways to postpone your payments because interest doesn’t accrue under them.
If you don’t qualify for either, though, you can use a forbearance to continue suspending your bills. But keep in mind that interest will rack up and your balance will be larger (sometimes much larger) when you resume paying.
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