Feeling In Limbo with Your Student Loans? Here are Things You Can Do Now
If you’ve kept up with the news, you know that a proposal for major changes to student loan repayment has come out of Washington, D.C. You’ve seen that up to $20,000 could be forgiven. Maybe you’ve even daydreamed about what you would do with that much money. It’s a good idea to keep in mind that it’s still a proposal at this stage and that nothing is set in stone yet. However, there are some things you can consider doing now to prepare yourself for what the future may bring, whether that’s significant relief on your college debt or merely a resumption of payments.
Frustratingly, it’s a bit of a waiting game right now on the student loan repayment front. As you probably know, in August of 2022, the White House announced a Student Debt Relief Plan that could significantly reduce your burden if you have a large amount of educational debt. The court has challenged the plan, though, so it’s not possible to start counting your savings just yet. Nevertheless, here are some things you could consider doing now to help prepare yourself, irrespective of the outcome.
It could be helpful to start setting aside now the monthly amount of your anticipated student loan payment. Doing so can help you get in the groove if you need to start paying those monthly bills again after June 30, 2023. Of course, it takes some discipline, but it’s best not to get in the habit of treating that chunk of your budget as discretionary.
Putting that monthly money in a savings account now can also help you build a nice cushion against unforeseen bumps in the road life will inevitably throw at you. If you don’t have the money to squirrel away, consider reviewing your budget to see if a few adjustments are possible.
Think about paying down your student loans
With most people not making loan payments for the past three years or so, you might wonder why it could make sense to pay them now. The interest on federal student loans currently is at 0%, meaning you’ll reduce your debt faster now than you would if you wait to pay when the interest rate goes up in the future. If you owe more than the proposed forgiveness amount, it could make sense to take advantage of the current rate.
Know all the forgiveness options
The Student Debt Relief Plan is the one that has everyone buzzing, but it’s not the only way to get some help lowering your bill. Visit the Department of Education’s page covering forgiveness options to see if you could take advantage of one of the other programs set up to provide relief, such as Income-Driven Repayment Forgiveness.
Be plan smart
It’s not possible yet to get an ironclad guarantee of what your balance will look like if forgiveness happens. However, you can have a game plan in place for understanding how your repayment options might change if the amount you owe goes down. Remember that you might not be eligible for a repayment plan you’d previously utilized.
If you’re in default, don’t lose hope
If you were in default with your student loans before the freeze was placed on payments in 2020, you might have taken this time as a welcome vacation from thinking about your debt. But there could be good news through what’s known as the “Fresh Start” program, an initiative by the federal government specifically designed to help people who were in arrears. You may be able to bring your account back to current status, eliminate the record of missed payments on your credit report, and access other benefits. Visit the federal government’s Fresh Start page for more information.
Learn about the IDR waiver
Income-driven repayment (IDR) forgiveness isn’t new; starting in the 1990s, the federal government set up this assistance for student loan borrowers facing economic hardships. What’s changed is that the government is considering expanding the IDR program to significantly shorten the length of time many debtors have to pay on their loans. One significant thing to know: the government is telling people with commercially owned FFEL, Perkins, or Health Education Assistance Loan (HEAL) Program loans to apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan by May 1, 2023, to qualify for the full benefits of this offering. Visit the government’s IDR page for more information.
Don’t worry about applying for relief just yet
Applications for student loan debt relief—open briefly in the fall of 2022—are currently not being accepted, so there’s no point in hurrying to complete an application. If you did apply and got approved in 2022, you don’t need to apply again. Your application will remain on file.
Keep in touch
It’s always a good idea to ensure that your student loan servicers have your current contact details should they need to reach out. With all the changes that could happen in the months ahead, it’s more important than ever to ensure you get all communications from them. If you don’t know your servicer’s identity or contact information, visit the federal government’s servicer identification page.
Stay informed the easy way
There’s no need to scour cable news, the internet, or other media outlets every day to make sure you haven’t missed the latest on the future of student loan repayment. That’s because the Department of Education has set up text and email lists that share updates as soon as they become available. Log in at StudentAid.gov, and in the Settings section, choose Communication Preferences and then select “Information Emails.”
It’s not hyperbole to point out that this is potentially a momentous time for you as a student loan borrower. Depending on the decision of the Supreme Court, you could suddenly have a dramatically less burdensome debt load. On the flip side, it’s also possible you may need to start paying on your loans again. If you can take a few steps now to prepare yourself for either outcome, you could experience less stress when the new reality comes into being.