Editor’s note: The Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness plan isn’t accepting applications at this time, however you can still make strides to becoming debt-free with resources like Chipper. You can learn more about the app here.
Tens of millions of Americans are eligible to have up to $20,000 of their federal student loans forgiven thanks to President Joe Biden’s new plan. Since the announcement, many student loan borrowers have been wondering if they are eligible, how to apply and when will the loan be forgiven? We sat down with Tony Aguilar, founder and CEO of student loan payment app Chipper, to get the low down on this new government program. From the how to the when, we’ve got all of your questions covered.
WHAT’S IN THE PLAN?
At last count the U.S. collectively owed more than $1.6 trillion in student loans. That outsized debt makes it difficult to put food on the table let alone buy a car or home, get married and even save for retirement. To help, the Biden Administration recently launched a one-time federal student loan debt relief program. Under this new initiative, borrowers who have a Federal Pell Grant can receive up to $20,000 in debt relief. For other federal loans, borrowers can get up to $10,000 of their loan forgiven. There are caveats. You have to earn less than $125,000 ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly) in either 2021 or 2022. And not every loan is covered. The student loans eligible for forgiveness include:
- William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loans
- Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans held by the Department of Education or in default at a guaranty agency
- Federal Perkins Loan Program loans held by the Education Department
- Parent PLUS loans and graduate PLUS loans
If your loans are in default, you can still qualify for forgiveness. Private student loans are not included. The White House says this program will provide relief to as many as 43 million borrowers, including canceling the full remaining balance for about 20 million student loan holders.
If you are unsure which loans you have, log into StudentAid.gov and choose “My Aid” in the dropdown menu. That section will list the servicer or servicers for your loans. The “Loan Breakdown” will tell you the type of loans you received.
HOW DO I APPLY?
The government is notorious for making something that should be easy, overly complicated. This time, however, the Biden Administration has provided a simple application that doesn’t require proof of income. This means that borrowers will be left with handling the process manually and will have to communicate with lenders after processing. For a simple, secure application process with support added benefits, you can apply with the Chipper Easy Apply. From there, they will help you ensure you’re on the right repayment plan for maximum relief. Oh, and did we mention it’s free? The app also includes features that will help borrowers with remaining balances after forgiveness to chip away at debt faster while avoiding interest.
The deadline to apply for student loan forgiveness is December 31, 2023. The Department of Education will contact you if it needs more information. Your loan servicer should notify you when your relief has been processed. If you have a balance after the loan forgiveness, your loan servicer will notify you with the new monthly payment once they resume in January of 2023.
DO RISING INTEREST RATES MATTER?
The federal student loan program comes at a time when the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates to tame inflation, which is running near a 40-year high. That shouldn’t impact how much you owe, since most federal loans have fixed rates of interest. But if you are considering refinancing your loans, expect to pay more in interest. “Before recent interest rate hikes, you could refi your loans around 3% or lower, but now everything we’re seeing is above 4%,” says Aguilar. “One thing to note is if you refi your federal student loans you lose all the benefits of federal forgiveness and income-driven repayment programs, including forbearance and deferment.”
WHAT ABOUT INTEREST CAPITALIZATION?
To prevent student loan borrowers from paying a lot more than they owe in interest, the Biden Administration has ended the practice of interest capitalization. This occurs when unpaid interest is added to the principal making the overall loan more expensive. Typically this happens when the student loan goes from non-payment status to payment status. It can also happen when a borrower exits deferment. Once interest capitalization occurs the future interest accrued is on a higher amount, which increases the cost of the loan and can make the monthly payments larger. Under the Biden rule, new income-driven repayment plans are capped at 5% for undergrad federal loans and 10% for graduate loans of their income. Interest is 100% subsidized.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize the impact interest accumulation has had on student loan borrowers, especially people of color. A recent study reported that Black borrowers owe 95% of their original balance 20 years after repayment. This is mostly due to interest accumulation,” says Aguilar. “Even though borrowers pay for years, interest will typically accrue if they are on an income-driven repayment plan, because payments are set up so they don’t cover the amount of interest growing each month.” The new repayment options will become available in July of 2023.
SHOULD I BE WORRIED ABOUT SCAMS?
Student loan scams are not new, but they are increasing in the wake of the new loan forgiveness program. It’s important to remember you do not have to pay to apply for loan forgiveness or to get help with your financial aid. To prevent you from falling victim to a scam, the White House issued a list of Don’ts including the following:
- Don’t pay anyone who contacts you and promises to give you debt relief or loan forgiveness.
- Don’t provide your FSA ID, account information or password to anyone who contacts you. The Department of Education and your federal student loan servicer will never call or send an email asking for this information.
- Don’t offer any personal or identifying information to someone who calls you unsolicited. Hang up the phone and call your student loan servicer directly.
- Don’t refinance your federal student loans unless you are aware of all the risks and costs involved. Remember if you refinance out of a federal loan you won’t be eligible for debt relief, loan forgiveness or other government benefits.
MORE FROM HERMONEY:
- The Top Student Loan Strategies
- How to Start Repaying Your Loans and Become Debt Free
- How Do You Choose A Student Loan?
- The Silver Linings of Student Debt
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