COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — One of the last holdouts of pandemic policies will soon end.
After a three-year reprieve, nearly 44 million federal student loan borrowers will have to resume payments by the end of August. The deadline comes after years of uncertainty about the status of student loans – from oft-extended payment pauses to court cases challenging a proposed debt relief program.
Nearly 1.8 million Ohioans have federal student loans totaling $62.3 billion, according to the Education Data Initiative. With an average balance of $34,721, 15% of Ohio’s residents hold about 4% of the nation’s $1.635 trillion in federal student loan debt.
Since March 2020, monthly payments – and interest rate accruals – have been paused, with President Joe Biden delaying resumption amid attempts at canceling millions in debt. When he most recently extended the moratorium last November, Biden promised payments would resume by Aug. 30.
With Congress’s passage of a bill to avoid defaulting on the national debt, that deadline is written into law. Approved by all of Ohio’s 15 representatives and one senator – Republican Sen. J.D. Vance voted against the bill – the legislation, in part, ends the payment pause and requires congressional approval for all future student loan payment moratoriums.
The Fiscal Responsibility Act did not block Biden’s plan for federal student loan forgiveness, which promised some borrowers up to $20,000 in debt cancellation. After the program briefly launched in October – raking in millions of applications – it faced a slew of legal challenges.
In February, the federal government defended Biden’s debt relief plan before the Supreme Court, arguing against challenges that Biden doesn’t have the power to cancel student debt and should have sought congressional approval. An opinion could be handed down as early as Thursday – but the ruling likely won’t make much of a difference to borrowers’ pockets.
Last week, the Senate passed a bill to repeal Biden’s loan forgiveness program under the Congressional Review Act, which requires a simple majority to overturn executive orders. Having passed narrowly in both chambers, the bill may not withstand Biden’s veto.
“This resolution is an unprecedented attempt to undercut our historic economic recovery and would deprive more than 40 million hard-working Americans of much-needed student debt relief,” a statement from Biden’s executive office read. The statement, dated May 22, promises that Biden will veto the repeal, which would require two-thirds of both chambers to overrule.
How should I prepare for my loan payments?
The Department of Education recommends checking your loan status, paying particular attention to the loan servicer and selected payment plan.
Loan servicers are third-party companies that handle billing and other aspects of student loans. Borrowers can identify their servicer on their Federal Student Aid dashboard or by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243.
Borrowers should notify their loan servicers when they change addresses, phone numbers or other identifying information. Your loan servicer should never charge you for services, according to the Department of Education.
When the repayment period begins, most borrowers will be automatically enrolled in the standard repayment plan, which establishes a fixed monthly payment amount. You can check eligibility for other repayment options, including the extended repayment plan and the pay-as-you-earn repayment plan, on the Federal Student Aid website.
While repayment plans must be changed through loan servicers, the Federal Student Aid office offers a loan simulator to help borrowers choose the best payment option for their needs, whether that be enrolling in a modified plan or consolidating student loans.