While federal student loan borrowers enjoy zero required payments and zero interest charges on their student loans until September 30, private student loans are not eligible for federal COVID-19 relief. When it comes to payment assistance, private student loan borrowers are in the hands of their lenders.
However, borrowers still have options to manage their private student loans if the coronavirus has resulted in a reduction in their income. Here’s what to look for.
Are private student loan borrowers eligible for COVID-19 relief?
Since private student loans are owned by private lenders, not the federal government, they are not eligible for federal relief measures such as the payment break and interest relief currently in place.
The only exception is private Federal Family Education Loans (FFELs) in default, which are now included in administrative forbearance. Borrowers benefiting from these loans are not required to make payments until September 20, 2021, and interest charges and collection activities are suspended during this period.
Some private lenders are offering their own options for COVID-19 hardship. However, it is up to the borrower to investigate these programs because they are not automatically implemented like the federal program was. âIf a borrower has been affected by COVID (or anything else for that matter), they should be diligent in their communication with the lender and offer relief in a number of ways; deferred payments, suspended payments, lower payments, etc. Says Matthew Carpenter, CEO of College Funding Services.
Strategies for Making Private Student Loan Payments Without Coronavirus Tolerance
There are several ways that private borrowers can manage their private loans even without the federal payment break. Here are some options that could lower your monthly payment or make payments easier.
In order to properly manage their loan balance, every borrower must start by confirming whether or not they have the best possible rates and repayment terms, Carpenter explains. âIf a student finds a better option to refinance their loan at a lower rate with another lender, they should take that information to their current lender. “
If your current lender can’t offer you better rates, consider refinancing with a new company. By doing this, you may be able to get a lower interest rate or a longer repayment term, which can lower your monthly payments.
Suspend Federal Student Loan Payments
If you have both private and federal student loans, you can take advantage of COVID-19 administrative forbearance and stop paying your federal loans. You can then reallocate the money you would invest in your federal loans and make payments on your private loans instead.
Find out about payment assistance
Contact your lender or service agent directly to learn about ways to reduce or suspend your private student loan payments. The following lenders have coronavirus relief programs available, but the list does not include all lenders with hardship options:
- Citizens Bank: Borrowers can be granted forbearance for an initial period of three months, which can be renewed twice.
- CommonBond: Late fees are waived and borrowers can defer payments in one-month increments.
- Serious: The coronavirus short-term forbearance program postpones eligible loan payments by at least one month. The interest will not be capitalized at the end of the forbearance.
- Laurel route: Borrowers can request a three-month forbearance, then an additional three months if they are eligible.
- Navigate: Short-term forbearance is available for at least a month.
Find state-specific relief
Several state attorneys have collaborated in statewide relief efforts with private lenders in an effort to help private borrowers with student loans. In early 2020, the program was implemented in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Washington, DC
Borrowers in participating states can call their loan manager or lender and request the following:
- Collection suspended for 90 days.
- Waiver of interest.
- 90-day abstention period.
- Information on assistance programs for difficulties.
Restructure your budget
If you are having financial difficulties due to the coronavirus, it may be time to review your budget to ensure that you can still make minimum payments on your student loans. Consider whether you can ditch subscription services or cut back on take-out purchases, or look at your current bank and Internet service provider to see where you are being charged unnecessary fees. To help you track your income and expenses, you can try a budgeting app. Even small changes in your monthly expenses can help you avoid defaulting on your loans.