How the student loan pause affects borrowers: 2022 data and statistics
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The Trump administration started the federal student loan payment pause — also known as the administrative forbearance period — on March 13, 2020, to ease the financial burden caused by the COVID-19 crisis. After repeated extensions, the pause ends June. 30, 2023 or when forgiveness litigation is resolved. Payments will resume 60 days following the end of the payment pause.
In January 2023, federal borrowers will have to resume payments, interest rates will return to their original levels and failing to make payments will once again be penalized. According to a California Policy Lab and UCI Law policy brief, three in 10 student loan borrowers are at high risk of missing their payments once the extension ends.
Here’s how the expiration is predicted to impact student loan borrowers, plus resources you can use to prepare.
Key student loan payment pause takeaways
Who: A predicted 7.8 million federal borrowers are considered to be “high risk” for missing payments once payments resume.
What: The payment pause differs from other federal forbearance periods in that it was mandated under the CARES Act and is automatically applied to all borrowers, not just to those who qualify for a period of hardship relief.
Why: On average, payments fell by $210 per month during the pause and credit scores increased by nearly 30 points.
Student loan forgiveness statistics
With the end of the student loan payment pause rapidly approaching, borrowers should take advantage of every forgiveness opportunity available — especially President Joe Biden’s mass student loan forgiveness plan, which will forgive up to $20,000 in federal debt for eligible borrowers.
According to the White House, 95 percent of federal borrowers meet financial requirements for forgiveness. Here are the numbers on mass cancellation’s broad impact and how borrowers can stand to benefit from this and other loan forgiveness measures.
- Borrowers who earn less than $75,000 will receive roughly 90 percent of student loan forgiveness dollars.
- Black students and students of color are more likely to receive the full $20,000 in federal forgiveness when compared to white borrowers, as a larger percentage are Pell Grant recipients.
- $10,000 of forgiveness would wipe out student loans for 29 percent of borrowers.
- Black associate degree-holders are estimated to benefit most from $10,000 in cancellation. Currently, 19.9 percent owe student debt, while just 12.6 percent would after loan forgiveness.
- Those with advanced degrees are less likely to experience significant debt reduction from $10,000 of forgiveness. Across racial and ethnic groups, the forgiveness could clear the debts of between 1.6 to 3.2 percent of borrowers.
- Direct PLUS loans have the highest interest rate — 7.54 percent — of all federal student loan products.
- As of 2021, 92.4 percent of all U.S. student debt is federal and 7.6 percent is private.
- Of applicants who’ve applied for Public Service Loans Forgiveness, 98.5 percent meet employment certification requirements — meaning payments they make count toward forgiveness — under the temporary waiver. Just 3.2 percent met requirements under traditional rules.
Student loan forgiveness over time
Below are some key statistics about how federal loan forgiveness programs have impacted borrowers over time.
- Two million Americans owe more than $100,000 in student loans.
- In Q1 2020, 2.7 million federal Direct Loan borrowers were enrolled in forbearance. That number jumped to 22.3 million by Q3 2020, following the payment pause.
- From August 2020 through December 2021, nearly 60 percent of federal borrowers were in active deferment due to the payment pause.
- As of 2021 data, only 32 borrowers out of 8 million have received student loan forgiveness through income-driven repayment.
- In 2010, students borrowed $125.6 billion in loans, setting a record for the amount borrowed in a year. The record still stands due to an ongoing decline in enrollment.
- 42 percent of federal balances that were in default or delinquent status prior to the payment pause will be forgiven under Biden’s plan.
- 98 percent of PSLF applications submitted between Nov. 9, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, failed to meet requirements for forgiveness.
- Federal Family Education Loans make up nearly 15 percent of outstanding federal debt, even though the program was discontinued in 2010.
- As of August 2022, the borrower defense to repayment loan forgiveness program has received over 630,000 applications, and 165,163 have been approved.
- Since 2009, Teacher Loan Forgiveness has discharged a total of $3.7 billion in student debt.
Other student loan forgiveness programs
If you don’t qualify for Biden’s mass student loan cancellation or if you have a remaining federal balance, the U.S. Department of Education offers a plethora of other forgiveness options. Here are a few of the most popular forgiveness programs, who qualifies and how to apply.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
PSLF forgives public servants’ remaining federal student loan balances after making 120 qualifying payments. To qualify, borrowers must consolidate their federal debt into a Direct Loan, enroll in an income-driven repayment plan and work for a qualifying employer in the public service sector.
- The program requirements were recently amended following a temporary waiver that has made it easier for borrowers to achieve forgiveness.
- Set to expire on Oct. 31, 2022, the waiver is expected to push 550,000 borrowers closer to forgiveness through PSLF.
- Before the waiver, PSLF had a 98 percent rejection rate.
Income-driven repayment plans
IDR plans are alternative repayment options that base your monthly payments on your annual income and your family size. The five plans forgive your remaining student loan balance after you make 20 to 25 years of eligible payments.
- Under PAYE, the lowest-earning individuals are projected to receive over four times as much forgiveness than the highest-income borrowers.
- Around 30 percent of all federal borrowers are enrolled in an IDR plan.
- Enrolling in an IDR plan decreases borrowers’ average monthly payment from $219 to $97.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness
Teacher Loan Forgiveness is offered to teachers who are employed full-time for at least five academic years at an eligible school. Special education instructors and secondary school science and math teachers are eligible for up to $17,500 in federal student loan cancellation, while other teachers are eligible for up to $5,000.
- In 2021, $253.8 million in federal debt was forgiven through TLF.
- About 27,000 teachers received debt discharge in 2021.
- Over $3.6 billion in student loan debt has been discharged since the program’s origination.
Student loan payment resources
When it comes to maximizing your student loan forgiveness and managing your balance after the payment pause expires, knowing how to access relief resources is crucial.
President Biden’s mass federal forgiveness measure should be the first resource you turn to for federal student loan relief. Federal borrowers making $125,000 annually and those who file jointly and make under $250,000 qualify for up to $10,000 in cancellation — or up to $20,000 if they’ve ever received a Pell Grant.
You should then see if you qualify for income-based repayment plans or career-based forgiveness, like PSLF. If you’ve exhausted all of your options, you can consider refinancing your loans. When you refinance, you take out a single private loan that replaces your federal and private student loans.
While many refinance to score better terms or a lower rate, it should be a last resort for those with federal loans. You’ll lose all your federal benefits and protections once you refinance — including student loan forgiveness and any future relief measures.