Student Borrowers Should Do These 7 Things Before January

Millions of borrowers are eligible for recently announced student loan forgiveness initiatives. But at the same time, many of those borrowers who won’t have their loans fully forgiven will resume paying off their remaining balances within weeks.

After nearly three years and several extensions, the ongoing Covid-related student loan pause is set to end on December 31, and there is no indication that it will be extended again.

“We’re relieving student debt, but we’re also resuming student loan repayments that were put on hold during the pandemic,” President Biden said in public comments this week. “In January, people whose debt is not fully forgiven … will start paying off their student loans again.”

Student borrowers should start taking steps now to maximize their loan forgiveness opportunities and prepare for repayment. Here’s what you can do.

Review Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

The Biden administration has rolled out several new student loan forgiveness programs in recent months, and there are still opportunities to apply. Borrowers should take the time to assess their potential eligibility and determine what steps, if any, are necessary to receive the benefits. Here are some of the most important student loan forgiveness initiatives currently available:

Find out if your student loan officer has changed

While most federal student loans have been on hiatus since March 2020, a lot has changed within the federal student loan system. Several loan managers left the Department of Education’s federal student aid system and new loan managers stepped in. Somewhere between 10 and 20 million borrowers have experienced loan service changes since the start of the payment pause – and many may not even realize it.

Some of the biggest changes involve Navient transferring its entire government-held federal student loan portfolio to Aidvantage. And MOHELA took over the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) from FedLoan Servicing. Other accounts that previously belonged to FedLoan Servicing have been transferred to other loan servicers, such as EdFinancial.

Borrowers should verify their current Federal Student Loan Service details by logging into their Department of Education account on StudentAid.gov. If you have a new loan manager, also be sure to create an online account with that new loan manager for the most up-to-date loan details and communications regarding your student loans.

Update your contact information with your student loan officer

A lot has changed for many student borrowers since March 2020. You may have moved or gotten a new phone number or email address. As repayment is about to resume, now is a critical time to ensure your contact information is up to date with the Department of Education and your student loan officer. The lack of significant correspondence regarding student loan repayment or cancellation opportunities could cause significant problems.

Take advantage of the fresh start to get your student loans in default

For borrowers with federal student loans in default, the Department of Education is offering a unique opportunity called the Fresh Start initiative that will allow many borrowers to emerge from default and restore their loans to good standing. Getting out of default is important not only to avoid detrimental outcomes like continued negative credit reports or wage garnishment, but it may also be necessary to qualify for certain student loan forgiveness programs.

Fresh Start isn’t available yet, but it should be by January. You can learn more here.

Certify your employment for Public Service Loan Exemption (PSLF)

Borrowers applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) — a student loan forgiveness program for borrowers working for nonprofits or government organizations — may only receive credit for “qualifying payments” only if submit PSLF employment certification forms. Borrowers must periodically resubmit a new certification form signed by their employer to obtain an updated PSLF-eligible payment tally.

Although the limited PSLF waiver ended on October 31, borrowers can still receive retroactive credit for the PSLF, and in fact can only do so by continuing to periodically resubmit PSLF employment certifications. If you haven’t certified your PSLF job in a while, now is a good time to do so. You can start the process using the Department of Education’s PSLF Support Tool.

Borrowers on income-contingent repayment (IDR) plans should prepare for repayment

Borrowers who were on an income-based repayment (IDR) plan when the payment pause began in March 2020 should return to the plan they were in, at the payment amount they were paying before, when payments resume in January (provided they have not applied to switch plans or recalculate their IDR payments). Borrowers will not have to recertify their income for their IDR plan until 2023.

Borrowers who were on an IDR plan but have experienced a change in financial circumstances since 2020, such as loss of work or reduction in income, may consider requesting a recalculation of their IDR payments before January. Borrowers have the right to request a recalculation of their IDR payments at any time based on changing circumstances. You can start the process here.

Assess student loan repayment plan options

For all student borrowers, now would be a good time to evaluate your repayment plan options. Borrowers can get monthly payment estimates under all available repayment plans using the Ministry of Education’s repayment simulator.

Borrowers who cannot afford their monthly payments under a standard, extended, or graduated plan may consider an IDR plan instead. The Education Department is also developing a new IDR plan, and details about it could be released before January.

Further Reading on Student Loans

Court block on student loan forgiveness continues, but there’s a big update

When will you receive student loan forgiveness? Key schedule details

A new, bigger student loan forgiveness initiative is about to be launched – and it’s not what you think

In Reversal, Biden Administration Announces New Student Loan Forgiveness Eligibility Limits

Comments are closed.