Tools and advice for students and borrowers impacted by the Coronavirus.

Over the past few weeks, there have been seemingly endless announcements about efforts to help student loan borrowers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

We’ve compiled a list of what you need to know about your student loans during the national emergency — if you can’t afford your payments, if you’re in default and had a tax refund garnished, or if you’re just trying to sort out fact from fiction amid this whirlwind news cycle.

We will continue to update this page as new information is available. 

Last Updated: May 11, 2020

The Latest News 

  • On March 27, the President signed into law a massive economic relief bill that includes help for federal student loan borrowers. On April 2, the Education Department released more details on how this law will be implemented.
  • The bill directs the U.S. Education Department to automatically suspend payments on most federal student loans from March 13, 2020 through September 30, 2020. No interest will accrue on loans during this time.
  • After September 30, this payment suspension and interest waiver will end. You will receive information from your student loan servicer throughout this process about how it will work. 
  • In short, if your loans are covered (more on that below), you do not need to worry about making loan payments until October 1, 2020.  There will be no penalty for not making payments and your loan will not go into delinquency or default. Interest will not accrue.  
  • You do not have to take any action to receive these benefits. If your payments were on auto-debit, the auto-debit is automatically cancelled. Because there is lag time between when the benefit started and when the Education Department is able to put it into action, servicers will automatically apply any interest you paid after March 13 to your principal balance. You will also have the option of obtaining a full refund of payments that were made when they were not required. You will have to contact your loan servicer to request such a refund.
  • All months of payment suspension will count as “qualifying payments” if you’re working toward forgiveness under Public Service Loan Forgiveness or income-driven repayment.
  • The Education Department is also required to report each month of suspended payments to credit bureaus if they were regular monthly payments made by the borrower.
  • According to an Education Department spokesperson, any unpaid interest that was on your account as of March 13 will not capitalize at the end of suspension period.
  • If you would still like to make payments during this period, you can do so. You can also contact your loan servicer and ask to be opted out of the payment pause and have auto-debit payments re-instated. You can also log in to your online account and make one-time payments at any time. During this period, the full amount of your payments will be applied to principal once all the interest that accrued prior to March 13 is paid.
  • If you decide to opt-out of the automatic payment suspension and continue making regular payments but then experience a change in income, you can contact your loan servicer as soon as possible to discuss options, such as enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan to lower your payments. You can also choose, at any time, to opt back into the administrative forbearance that ends September 30, 2020.
  • If you paid any interest on your loans since March 13, your servicer will automatically apply that interest to your principal balance unless you request a refund of the payment.
  • If you’re in an income-driven repayment plan and your annual re-certification is due before September 30, your servicer will automatically extend your deadline by six months.
  • If you’re currently on an income-driven repayment plan and your income has changed significantly, you can update your information and get a new payment amount — remember, payments are set to resume on October 1, 2020 — based on your current income.
  • To do so, visit StudentAid.gov/IDR, click on “Apply Now,” and then start the application by clicking on the button next to “Recalculate My Monthly Payment.” After the administrative forbearance ends on September 30, 2020, your monthly payments will resume at the new amount.
  • If you would like to enroll in an IDR plan for the first time, visit StudentAid.gov/idr, click on “Apply Now,” and then start the application.

Are My Loans Covered?

  • The vast majority of federal student loans are covered by these benefits:
    • Direct Loans (both non-defaulted and defaulted loans)
    • FFELP Loans owned by the federal government (both non-defaulted and defaulted loans)
    • Perkins Loans owned by the federal government
  • Unfortunately, however, these benefits don’t apply to two types of federal student loans — older FFEL loans held by commercial lenders and campus-based Perkins loans, which are held by colleges and universities.
  • If you aren’t sure what type of loans you have, you can use the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) to find out what federal loans you have and who your loan servicer is. You must log in using your FSA ID to see specific information about your loans.

If You’re Late on Payments but Not in Default 

  • If you’re at least 31 days behind on your payments as of March 13, 2020, or become more than 31 days delinquent after that date, you’ll automatically be placed in an administrative forbearance to give you a safety net during the COVID-19 national emergency. You do not have to take any action to receive these benefits.
  • Being in an administrative forbearance means that you can temporarily stop making your federal student loan payments without becoming delinquent.  
  • Because interest is being waived during the COVID-19 national emergency, interest will not accumulate while you are in forbearance.

If Your Loans Are in Default 

  • If your student loans are in default, the Education Department will not attempt to collect on your loans for a period of at least 60 days (starting March 13, 2020). This means collection agencies will not be making phone calls to borrowers or issuing collection letters and billing statements during this period. 
  • During this period, the federal government will also not withhold money for defaulted student loans from your federal income tax refunds, Social Security payments, or other federal payments including the rebate payments also included in this bill.
  • The Education Department will also be refunding offsets that were in the process of being withheld on March 13, 2020 (the date President Trump declared a national emergency and announced emergency executive actions related to COVID-19). 
  • If you are currently in the process of rehabilitating a defaulted loan, each month of suspended payments will be counted toward your rehabilitation.
  • For those who have their wages garnished, the Education Department says it will be sending letters to employers instructing them to make the change to borrowers’ paychecks. The Departments says it will monitor employers’ compliance with the request to stop wage garnishment. If your wages continue to be garnished after March 13, you should contact your employers’ human resources department.
  • If the Education Department receives funds from a garnishment between March 13, 2020, and September 30, 2020, it will refund your garnished wages.
  • If you have defaulted loans and are in an existing arrangement with a collection agency and would like to continue a prior payment arrangement, consolidate your loans, or begin to rehabilitate your loans, you should call the Education Department’s Default Resolution Group at 1-800-621-3115 (TTY for the deaf or hearing-impaired 1-877-825-9923). Private collection agencies are permitted to provide assistance only upon your request.

If Your Federal Loans Aren’t Covered  

You still have options for relief even if your loans are among the small percentage that don’t qualify for the automatic relief provided by Congress or the Education Department.    

  • If you need to stop making your monthly payments for now, you can request an administrative forbearance. 
  • Being in an administrative forbearance means that you can temporarily stop making your federal student loan payments without becoming delinquent. 
  • If you request an administrative forbearance, you will not have any payments due for as long as the administrative forbearance lasts. Your loan servicer will cancel any scheduled auto-debit payments. 
  • After the administrative forbearance ends, you will have to resume making payments. If you wish to use auto-debit, you may restart auto-debit payments; they will not automatically resume.
  • You could also consolidate your FFEL Program or Federal Perkins loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan, which would be eligible for all the benefits listed above
  • However, if you consolidate, and after the 0% interest rate waiver ends, the interest rate may be higher than what you are currently paying, and any outstanding interest will capitalize, meaning that any outstanding interest is added to your principal balance.  
  • Your loan servicer can provide you with information about how your loan balance, interest rate, and total amount paid would change if you consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan. 

If You Have Private Student Loans 

  • The federal government has not taken any action on behalf of private student loan borrowers. Private student loans include loans made by banks, state agencies, and some colleges and universities.
  • Some lenders are offering relief options, so you should contact your lender if have are struggling to make payments or have any other questions.
  • Some states are also starting to require lenders to offer relief options for their state residents, so be sure to check if your state has taken any such actions.

Helpful Resources 

Federal Student Aid Coronavirus and Forbearance Info for Students, Borrowers, & Parents (government website)

U.S. Department of Education Help Center (government website)

The Institute of Student Loan Advisors (nonprofit website)

National Consumer Law Center Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project (nonprofit website)

National Foundation for Credit Counseling Certified Student Loan Counseling (nonprofit website)