The federal student loan payment pause, which was set to expire on Sept. 30, has been extended to Jan. 31, 2022. Until that time, federal student loan payments are automatically paused, interest rates are set to 0 percent and collections activities on defaulted loans are halted.
This period of administrative forbearance was implemented in March 2020 as a form of pandemic relief and has seen several extensions over the past year and a half. The U.S. Department of Education has stated that this will be the final extension of the payment pause.
The extension will help borrowers and servicers
The extension of the payment pause comes after weeks of pressure from Democrats like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer, who argued that both borrowers and servicers were unprepared for payments to resume on Oct. 1. In a letter to President Biden, Sen. Warren and Sen. Edward J. Markey cited servicer concerns that inadequate staffing, lack of communication and the departure of several federal servicers would overwhelm the system.
The letter also detailed the benefits that the pause has had on borrowers: “Borrowers have reaped significant benefits from the ongoing payment pause, taking the opportunity to pay down other debt, relieve financial pressures from lost jobs or decreased earnings, and support their families’ needs,” it said. “As the economy recovers from this unprecedented crisis, borrowers should not be faced with an administrative and financial catastrophe just as they are beginning to regain their footing.
What should borrowers do next?
With an extra four months of no required payments, federal student loan borrowers can continue making progress on other financial goals. Borrowers may use the payment pause to:
- Pay down private student loans.
- Pay off other debt, like credit cards or personal loans.
- Build an emergency fund.
- Refinance private student loans into a lower interest rate.
Borrowers may also choose to make payments on their federal student loans, even if it’s not required. Doing so will help pay off those loans more quickly, since all payments at this time will be going toward the principal, not interest.