Relief for over 1 million private student loan borrowers
The federal government’s hiatus on student loan repayments has been extended to more than one million borrowers in default of student loans held by private lenders, the Education Department said on Tuesday.
The action aims to relieve the hardest hit borrowers under a program that has allowed private lenders to provide federally backed student loans. The program ended in 2010 when the Department of Education became the sole lender of federally subsidized student loans.
President Biden announced in January that federal student loan payments would remain suspended and rates would be interest-free until at least September 30, extending action by former President Trump’s administration. But it only applied to those whose debt was held directly by the federal government, leaving out millions of people with private student loans.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Monday extended the payment break and the interest-free rate to 1.1 million borrowers who had not repaid their private loans. It includes more than 800,000 people who were at risk of having their tax refund seized to pay off a delinquent loan.
“Our goal is to enable these borrowers who are struggling with default to obtain the same protections previously made available to tens of millions of other borrowers to help overcome the uncertainty of the pandemic,” Cardona said in a statement.
The education ministry said it was working to repay tax refunds or wages seized over the past year to cover overdue loans. Borrowers can also request reimbursement of any voluntary payments made during the past year. All loans in default since March 13, 2020 will be returned to good standing.
Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-Va.), Chairman of the House Education Committee, called it “a necessary step to put money in the pockets of struggling Americans and their families.” .
Advocacy groups called the measure a good start, but said it failed to help more than 5 million other borrowers in the same program, known as the Federal Family Education Loans program. .
“It’s not enough,” said Persis Yu, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s student loan assistance project. “The millions of FFEL borrowers who have not yet defaulted but who may be struggling to repay their student loans often at the expense of other vital necessities need relief.”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.