The pause on student loan payments courtesy of the pandemic is officially over. The U.S. Department of Education paused payments and interest on student loans in March of 2020.
However, on Friday, Sept. 1, interest will begin to accrue on student loan debt and payments are due Oct. 1.
NewsChannel 3 spoke with an expert about the restart of monthly payments, plus ways borrowers can reduce that amount.
“The first step for people is to take a deep breath and put their patience pants on,” said Betsy Mayotte, the President and Founder of The Institute of Student Loan Advisors. TISLA is a non-profit that offers free, student loan advice to borrowers.
“There is likely going to be long call hold times,” she said. “It may take longer for paperwork such as income driven plan applications to be processed.”
Mayotte says a crucial step for borrowers is to know where there loans are.
“Seventeen million accounts change servicers during the pause,” said Mayotte. “From there, you want to log on to your servicers account and make sure that they have all your up to date contact information.”
Mayotte also says it’s critical for borrowers to read everything and not ignore mail about their student loans.
“We all have the bad habit where maybe you don’t open your mail right away or all the time and it builds up and whatever the spot, the mail builds up in your house. But right now, with student loan repayments restarting and all these waivers, it’s critical that people open all the things, read all the things to make sure they don’t miss any important deadlines,” she said.
Mayotte explained that while borrowers are checking their servicer account, they need to check on their actual payment amount.
“Is it affordable? Does it match your long term strategy? If the answer to any of those questions is no, go back to studentaid.gov, use their loan simulator tool and see which payment not only will fit your current budget, but your long term strategy,” Mayotte said.
Ways to Save on Student Loan Debt
The Biden Administration recently announced a new repayment plan called SAVE.
It’s an income driven repayment plan that calculates payments based on a borrower’s income and family size rather than loan balance. It also offers loan forgiveness sooner than some other repayment plans. In addition, borrowers won’t see their balance grow due to unpaid interest as long as they keep up with their payments.
Mayotte said if your payment is less than the amount of interest that accrues every month, the government will pay the remaining interest. “So, for example, if you’re accruing $100 a month in interest and your calculated payment is $50, the government will pay the other $50.”
Also, because SAVE takes into account a greater percentage of the poverty level, Mayotte says more people will see their payments reduced and some won’t owe at all.
“For someone who’s just a family size of one, if their income is lower than, say, you know, $30,000 or 35,000 a year, they’re going to have a $0 payment and no interest accruing.”
Get Free Advice on Your Student Loans
TISLA offers free counseling about student loans. The non-profit can also provide dispute resolution in some cases. The agency can also assist employers that want to help employees with their student loans.
Watch out for Repayment Scams
Mayotte says it’s also important for borrowers to be on the lookout for scams as it relates to student loan repayments. Crooks try to take advantage of payments restarting. Some red flags are too good to be true promises, aggressive language and demands for particular types of payments and personal information.