When Do I Need to Start Making Federal Student Loan Payments Again?

A Guide to When You'll Need to Begin Repaying Your Federal Student Loans

A student loan borrower checks her forbearance status.
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The coronavirus pandemic continues to cause economic uncertainty. And, unfortunately, a rising number of COVID-19 cases could adversely impact the country's fragile economic recovery.

To provide relief to student loan borrowers, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) temporarily paused payments on federal student loans through Sept. 30. President Donald Trump extended the payment pause through the end of the year via executive order. His order means you won’t need to begin making payments on certain federal loans until after Dec. 31, 2020.

Key Takeaways

  • Payments on federal student loans owned by the Department of Education (DOE) are suspended through Dec. 31, 2020.
  • No interest will accrue on federal student loans through Dec. 31.
  • You do not need to take any action to put your loans into forbearance or stop making payments.

Federal Student Loan Forbearance Extension: What It Means

The CARES Act put federal student loans into automatic administrative forbearance, set interest rates at 0%, and suspended collections on defaulted loans. The moratorium on interest and payments was set to expire on Sept. 30.

However, Trump issued an executive order on Aug. 8 that directed the Secretary of Education to continue these relief policies for federal loans owned by the DOE through Dec. 31. The DOE acted on the President's order and suspended payments and interest for eligible federal student loans with no action required on the part of borrowers.

Executive orders are not laws, though; the court system and Congress can block an executive order through certain means, or the president can rescind it. However, since Trump issued this executive order and presumably will remain in office through inauguration day on Jan. 20, 2021, and because neither Trump, Congress, nor the courts have tried to reverse the order, there is little reason to believe the order will change.

You have the option to voluntarily continue making loan payments during forbearance. If you make payments during the forbearance period, the entire payment will go to reducing the principal balance on your loan once any interest that accrued before March 13 is paid. Making payments now can help you reduce your loan balance faster since the full amount you pay will go toward reducing your loan balance.

Which Federal Student Loans Qualify?

The pause on payments, collections, and interest apply only to certain loans from the Department of Education:

  • Direct loans, including defaulted and non-defaulted loans
  • FFEL program loans, including defaulted and non-defaulted loans
  • Federal Perkins loans, including defaulted and non-defaulted loans
  • Defaulted HEAL loans

However, HEAL and FFEL Loans that commercial lenders own are not eligible for this program, nor are Perkins loans owned by the school you attended.

You can find out which loans you have by logging into your Federal Student Aid account. Select the relevant loans from your dashboard and click on "View Details" to see if the DOE owns the loan. If it does, the servicer name will start with DEPT OF ED.

In most cases, interest your loans accrued before March 13 will not capitalize. If you were already on a deferment or forbearance, interest accrued will capitalize after your forbearance ends, as will interest accrued if you were in your grace period. 

What Are My Relief Options If I Don't Have Qualifying Loans?

If you do not have qualifying loans, your servicer is likely offering various forms of financial relief. Some of your options include:

  • Requesting administrative forbearance directly with your loan servicer
  • Determining if you qualify for economic hardship deferment or an unemployment deferment, as both options could result in interest on some loans being subsidized
  • Refinancing student loans, although this option is best for private student loans as refinancing federal loans would mean giving up important borrower benefits

If you put non-DOE loans into forbearance, your loans will continue accruing interest. You will have a larger balance to repay once your payments resume.

How Will I Know When to Start Making Payments Again? 

Your loan servicer should notify you via email or mail before you need to start making loan payments again. Also, you can log into your online account with your loan servicer at any time to see your loan status and to determine if you have a payment due.

However, several major loan servicers that work with the Department of Education have urged their borrowers to keep up-to-date on coronavirus relief by regularly visiting the Federal Student Aid’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) information page at StudentAid.gov/coronavirus.

This page provides updated details on the current policies that are in place. Also, the page is meant to be your primary source for announcements about your loans, including details about whether the payment moratorium will be extended or when loan payments will resume.

Loan servicers are companies that oversee your federal student loan repayment. You can find out who your loan servicer is by contacting the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-433-3243 or by visiting the National Student Loan Database System (NSLDS).

Article Sources

  1. Federal Student Aid. "Coronavirus and Forbearance Info for Students, Borrowers, and Parents." Accessed Nov. 19, 2020.