COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Former college students with Federal student loans will begin making payments again Oct. 1. Those loans have been on pause since March 13, 2020. The pause came at the beginning of the pandemic to give borrowers a break during financially tough times for many.
Now, the pause is over. Interest began to accrue on Sept. 1 this year.
“With $40 million some odd borrowers all re-entering repayment at exactly the same time after a three-and-a-half-year pause, the number one question is what payment plan should I choose,” said Betsy Mayotte, President of the Institute of Student Loan Advisors or TISLA. It’s a non-profit that helps borrowers navigate what can be a very tumultuous process.
Borrower Justin Chew said the process is hard to understand.
“It’s complicated. You get so many messages, like from different companies and you can subsidize them, and it’s just confusing. It’s just confusing honestly. There’s so much jargon and lingo in there you just can’t understand it,” Chew said.
He’s a travel nurse but would like to settle down someday with his wife, but sees it financially difficult with looming loan payments.
“We’re not doing what we really want to do, because we have to like make more income to afford to pay those student loans until we settle down,” Chew said.
Federal loan repayment falls on the same day a Government shutdown could begin if Congress doesn’t reach a deal.
“This feels like the Stephen King version of student loans. Like all of these things sort of happening together,” Mayotte said.
A potential shutdown would affect the Department of Education, but it would not impact the repayment schedule.
“Payments are still going to be due. The servicers are still going to be open,” Mayotte said. “There are certain tasks that actual employees at the Department of Education are the ones that perform. And the vast majority of those Department of Ed employees are going to be furloughed… Some of the processing of the final public service loan forgiveness files. There’s something called the one-time account adjustment that we’re sort of in the middle of. I will expect those to potentially be delayed if we get a shutdown that lasted more than a couple days. Consolidations might slow down a little bit.”
She said delays are already in place for new applications for ‘Income Driven Repayment Plans.’
“If you were to apply today there’s practically a zero chance, there’s almost a zero chance it would be processed in time for your first payment in October,” Mayotte explained.
For those who have put off setting up a loan repayment plan, she said the time is now.
“Stop doddling. And get that paperwork in. I would recommend that borrowers apply for those plans directly through their loan servicer rather than through the Department of Education’s website,” Mayotte said.
Borrowers, many of whom are making their very first payments, are feeling the crunch.
“That’s an extra bill. It’s another extra payment on top of rent and everything else that you have. So, I got to balance and see what I’m going to have to do. Or get another, get a second job,” borrower Shakari Washington said.
Others like Kyle Marshall think the government can do more.
“If they can send billions of dollars to other people that, they may need help, which is fine, but it’s always better to help your own and help your own house and help your own people before you go and help others,” Marshall said.
Still, many borrowers worry about their upcoming payments. Mayotte said that borrowers don’t need to worry about a delinquent payment report affecting their credit in the first year of repayments starting Oct. 1.
That’s part of the government’s repayment agreement. She also said to be wary of scams targeting loan borrowers. She explained that you should never be charged for getting help applying for a repayment plan, filling out payment forms or any other process involved with your student loans.