SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Federal student loan repayments start up again October 1 after a three-and-a-half-year pause during the pandemic. Whether you’re resuming payments again or graduated during the pause, some may be confused on what the repayment process will look like.
KELOLAND News spoke with Sara Ramirez, the director at the Lutheran Socials Services Center for Financial Resources, about what people should be doing to prepare for that extra payment next month.
Ramirez said the first step everyone should take is to log in or create an account on studentaid.gov. This site will list all the government loans a person took out, their loan servicer, upcoming payments and information on loan assistance.
“Not only does the government have great information, but by logging in, students can identify who their loan servicer(s) is and get their contact information,” said Becky Pribyl, Director of Financial Aid at Northern State University. “Students need to make sure that the loan servicer is sending communications to their correct mailing/email address. They don’t want to miss out on important information coming their way.”
The next step is to recertify your income if you’re on an Income Driven Repayment plan (IDR). The purpose of the IDR’s, depending on what type you get, is to pay back your loans based on a percentage of your income every month. If a person is making less than they did in March 2020 when the loans froze, their monthly payment should be lower.
To recertify your income in the Student Aid portal, click “Returning IDR Applicants,” then select “I am submitting documentation for the annual recertification of my income-driven payment.” The deadline to recertify is March 2024, but Rameriz is encouraging people to get their income updated as soon as possible.
Even if a person still has the same income they did three years ago, a new plan has been added since then a Rameriz suggests people review all their options before they need to make that first payment.
The Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) plan is the newest IDR and according to the Student Aid portal, “significantly decreases monthly payments by increasing the income exemption from 150% to 225% of the poverty line.”
That means a single borrower earning $32,800 or less or a family of four earning $67,500 or less will save at least $1,000 a year. The example Student Aid gives is if $50 of interest accumulates each month and you have a $30 payment, the remaining $20 would not be charged. Borrowers on the REPAYE Plan automatically get the benefits of the new SAVE Plan.
The Biden Administration has created an “on-ramp period” which protects borrowers from any consequences of missed, late or partial payments reported to credit reporting agencies. The grace period ends September 30, 2024, but Ramirez recommends still making payments as interest will still accrue.
“I would use that as a cushion if you are struggling or it takes you a month or two to get your budget on track,” she said.
Ramirez said LSS saw a lot of people thinking they had extra money in 2020 when they had one less bill each month and used that for a mortgage on a house or having more kids and are now really worried about making student loan payments again.
She said if anyone is in that situation, they should seek out a financial counselor. At LSS, there are student loan consultations for $30 where a counselor reviews their financial situation and helps them create a plan for paying off debt and making loan payments on time.
“We show them what that loan payment is going to look like in their budget and give them some peace of mind that they will be able to afford it or know what kind of decisions they need to make,” she said. “What we can do is take a look at their income and really break down their whole budget to help them figure out where their money is going and where they want to direct it.”