COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A moratorium on student loan payments first enacted by the federal government in the spring of 2020 proved to be a help for many Americans struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That moratorium, however, is set to expire at the end of the month.
As one local borrower said, he, like many others, is concerned about what comes next.
According to a student loan expert, there are ways to prepare for the weeks to come.
For months, thousands of current or former students have been excused from federal loan payments because of the financial strain of the coronavirus pandemic.
“There was initial relief to know that this isn’t going to just increase over the next, well, almost a year now, that they postponed these payments and stopped accruing interest,” said student loan borrower Joshua Moore.
Moore, from New Albany, started his college education in 2005, getting his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees through Columbus State, Ohio State, and Tiffin University.
All of it paid for with borrowed money.
“I needed that to survive and to pay for books and college,” Moore said. “It really started racking up and at 18 years old, you don’t really know what you’re getting into.”
Moore now owes more than $126,000 in private and federal loans, and interest, money that he will have to begin paying back on Feb. 1.
“If I could afford the minimum payment, which is over a thousand dollars, which is more than my mortgage, it would take me 20 years for forgiveness or I pay it all back, and quite frankly, I don’t make that kind of money,” he said.
And without any signal from the government to extend the freeze on payments, Moore fears, he’s run out of options.
“What I probably have to do is take a second job,” he said.
Andrew Pentis with Student Loan Hero said Moore isn’t alone.
“Fifty-five percent of federal loan borrowers aren’t confident they’ll be able to consistently make payments once this moratorium ends,” Pentis said.
There are options if you’re a borrower, Pentis said, that will cut the confusion and put a plan in place before the moratorium ends.
First, contact your federal loan officer to see what works best for you, whether that’s deferment or forbearance.
“Postponing your payments could be a good option if you’re really struggling,” Pentis said.
Pentis, however, has a personal preference for an income-driven repayment plan.
“If you’re a borrower and you lost your income due to the pandemic, your monthly payment would reflect that, making it more affordable,” he said. “The reason that’s the best scenario for many borrowers is that it allows you to keep making payments, keeps you away from delinquency and default, which could harm your credit report.”
But the best scenario for all borrowers, Pentis said, is to act now.
“Don’t wait until the end of January, don’t wait until February,” he said. “Figure out what’s the best course for you to take so when this moratorium does end, because it will eventually end, it’s super important for you to have that plan.”
For more helpful consumer information or if you need help, you “Better Call 4” at 614-212-4444, or visit the NBC 4 Better Call 4 website, nbc4i.com/bettercall4.