How to navigate student debt during the COVID-19 pandemic
March 26, 2020
Last Updated: December 11, 2020
Right now, over 761,000 Coloradans are working to pay back over $27.7 billion in student loan debt, and this burden is especially high for rural Coloradans and communities of color. The student debt crisis requires long-term solutions and we know that the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the impacts that student debt burdens have on young people across the state.
In March, the federal government signed this relief bill which will suspend federally held student loans through September 30, 2020. These protections were extended on August 8, 2020 and were recently extended on December 4th, 2020 until January 31, 2021.
During this time student loans will not accrue interest and you can count these next 4 months towards any student loan forgiveness program, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (if you are enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan). During this time, most federal student loan payments are automatically suspended. If you want to figure out the best options for you during this time, we recommend you still take steps to contact your servicer. If your student loan servicer is not acting in your best interest you can fill out this complaint form through the CO. Attorney General’s office.
This federal relief does not include options to temporarily suspend payments for borrowers with private student loans, borrowers owing on Perkins Loans, and commercially held FFELP (Federal Family Education Loan Program) loans. (more info on private student loans below)
Get in touch with your student loan servicer
- In order to get into different payment plans or navigate your options for getting your loans out of default, you’ll need to get in touch with your student loan servicer
- Earlier this year, call centers were shutting down and borrowers struggled to get in touch with their servicers. You can still reach your student loan servicer in other ways. You can email, use online portals, or use social media to reach your student loan servicer for both federal and private student loans. If you cannot reach them through normal mechanisms you should consider contacting them through social media, as they are often more responsive that way (see list).
- If you have private student loans, some lenders may offer alternative payment plans so you should discuss your options with your lender
|Student Loan Servicer||Call Center||Social Media|
|Granite State – GSMRemail@example.com||@NHHEAF|
Get your payments off of autopay
- Your student loan servicer will automatically apply the suspension and interest rate reduction to your account. However, if you are currently enrolled in autopay then you may still be making automatic monthly payments, so we recommend getting in touch with your servicer to cancel autopay if you do not want to make payments during this time.
- If you had an automatic payment that was processed after March13, 2020, you can request a refund by contacting your student loan servicer.
- If you can’t get into an income-driven repayment plan (IDR) before your next payment is due, you will not be penalized for not making payments and your loan will not go into delinquency or default. You should stay on top of your IDR application, however, to avoid being put into forbearance on your loans.
Get into or update your income-driven repayment (IDR) plan
- Income driven repayment plans are cost-effective plans for borrowers with federal student loan debt. These plans are good long term options for borrowers that want to lower their monthly student loan payments and continue making payments at a lower rate. If you are struggling, unemployed, or have a lower income, this is one of the best ways to get your loans at a manageable and affordable amount. These plans are also good options to enroll in if you need additional cash in the short term.
- These plans allow your monthly payments to be adjusted if your income changes. When your income changes, you can immediately recertify, you don’t have to wait 12 months.
- You can enroll in an income-driven repayment plan using an online or paper application. When you enroll, you can have your student loan servicer place you in a plan that has the lowest monthly payment.
- If you are enrolled in Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), borrowers can continue to receive credit as long as they meet all the other requirements for PSLF. For example, a borrower would be required to work full time for a qualified employer during the six months that payments are suspended.
Get your federal student loans out of default
- When your federal student loans are in default, this means your wages could be garnished without a court order, your social security benefits can be offset, your tax refund can be withheld, and this impacts credit reporting.
- To get out of default on a federal student loan you can:
- Consolidate “out of” default: this option means that all of your defaulted loans will be consolidated into a new loan at the same interest rate. In order to do this, you have to have at least one eligible loan, and be enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan.
- Rehabilitation: this option means making nine regular payments that are based on your income and expenses. These payments need to be made on time and in full. Once all nine payments are made, your loan is cured of the default.
Get relief for your private student loans
- Earlier this year, Colorado secured temporary relief options for borrowers with private student loans. These relief options included a minimum of 90 days of forbearance, waiving late payment fees, ensured borrowers weren’t subjected to negative credit reporting, and worked with borrowers to enroll them in other assistance programs, such as income-driven repayment plans
- Contact your student loan servicer to learn which options are best for your unique circumstances
|Student Loan Servicer||Call Center||Social Media|
|Aspire Resources Inc.||(877) 855-1119||—||—|
|College Ave Student Loan Servicing, LLC.||(844) 803-0736||—||@collegeaveloans|
|Earnest Operations, LLC||(888) firstname.lastname@example.org||@meetearnest|
|Edfinancial Services, LLC||1-855-337-6884||CustomerResolutionsUnit@edfinancial.com||@Edfinancial|
|Kentucky Higher Education
Student Loan Corporation
|(800) 693- 8220||—||—|
|Lendkey Technologies, Inc.||(888) 966- email@example.com\||@lendkey|
|Higher Education Loan Authority
of the State of Missouri (MOHELA)
|Tuition Options, LLC||(800) 423- firstname.lastname@example.org||—|
|Utah Higher Education
Assistance Authority (UHEAA)
|(877) 336- email@example.com||@uheaa|
Assistance Corporation (VSAC)
- More information on federal student loan repayment plans
- File a complaint to the Attorney General’s office.
- Colorado Department of Higher Education
- Applying for unemployment & sick leave benefits in CO
- Student Loan Borrower Assistance