Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, former President Trump paused student loan repayment in an effort to provide economic relief when the American employment landscape was facing unprecedented challenges. The pause has since been upheld by President Biden. In December, the administration announced a repayment delay that would end May 1, 2022. Will this deadline be extended?
U.S. Department of Education
According to a recently released email from the Department of Education, student loan servicers were instructed to withhold notifications to borrowers that repayment was going to resume again. Politico initially released the story citing that this could signal a further extension.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said on the podcast Pod Save America on March 3, 2022 that the "President is going to look at what we should do on student debt before the pause expires, or he'll extend the pause". The video of the interview is on Twitter. There was not a hint at complete forgiveness of loans or any suggestion that Biden will forgive student loans entirely. However, it is well known that part of the campaign was that he would forgive $10,000 for all borrowers as a start. This promise has not, to date, been fulfilled but there are heavy party line discussions about student loan forgiveness in federal politics.
The Economic Effects
Resuming student loan payments could place an additional burden on borrowers who graduated during the onslaught and continued economic challenges of the pandemic. Job searching and hiring processes have changed, the landscape of finding and maintaining a job are evolving. Additionally, borrowers who were able to find jobs are still facing the same challenges that all Americans are facing with inflation and troublesome access to goods and commodities.
During the pandemic, several major loan servicers have either closed or shifted responsibilities for the types of loans they will service and maintain. Navient and FedLoan are purposefully clearing federal contracts, which leaves borrowers changing servicers during an economic upset, while restarting loan payments. The recipe could spell a disaster. FedLoan is also the only servicer that manages Public Service Loan Forgiveness applications, a program that has recently opened up the requirements for loan forgiveness to better cater to those who have served on the front lines of the pandemic.
The Political Effects and Criticism
Midterm elections are coming. What the current administration does about student loans could have a huge effect on voting opinion in November. 46 million Americans are currently holding student loan debt, a large swath of those would likely vote and be even more likely to place their vote on democrats who have lead the charge for student loan forgiveness or bet against them if they fail to make progress of the promise of student loan forgiveness.
Originally, pausing student loan repayment was a bipartisan decision for the most part. The extensions have also been agreed upon almost universally. However, emerging criticism for the student loan repayment pause cite that employment is improving and the labor market is recovering. According to a Department of Education Annual Report "new loan disbursements continue to exceed overall loan principal repayments" which is positive sign for continued enrollment that was previously thought to be stagnant.
The White House seems to be signaling another extension or a move toward forgiveness but nothing is concrete. For borrowers, continue to believe that repayment will resume in May and plan ahead. for 2 years we have enjoyed a reprieve that allowed us some financial breathing room each month. Make sure that you are ready to start repayment or that you are prepared to document the need for forbearance. Ensure that you know who your loan servicer is and if you do not, visit the federal Student Aid website or review a recent invoice to contact the servicer. Look for notices via mail or email about the status of your student loans, check the loan servicer's site for repayment information and ensure that your profile has updated contact information.