DENVER (KDVR) — On Sept. 1, student loan interest starts back up, and by October, 40 million Americans’ student loan payments are due. While it may feel like doomsday is here, a college financial adviser says it’s not as bad as you think.
The U.S. Department of Education began a COVID-19 relief program for student loans three years ago. President Joe Biden planned to cancel what would have cost roughly $400 billion in student loans until the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down in late June.
While Biden just shared his new plan for student loan relief, it’s time to start paying your student loans again.
FOX31 spoke with Kerline Eglaus, Metropolitan State University of Denver’s executive director of financial aid and scholarships, about some of the most important things you should know when it comes to paying for your student loans:
1. Take the first steps
Especially for new graduates who haven’t had to pay a loan yet, Eglaus recommends taking the first steps. This includes logging into your studentaid.gov website, which has the same username and password information as your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
Once you’re logged in, update your contact information and make sure your email and home address are up to date.
You should also know who your student loan lender is. You can find this on the studentaid.gov website and click on your loans. Once you find your lender(s), go to their website, create an account if you don’t have one, contact them and start exploring repayment options.
“Common mistakes that students or borrowers make is thinking that if they don’t get a contact from their lender, then maybe they don’t have to make student loan repayments,” said Eglaus.
More than likely, you received an email on Sept. 1 or will in the following days about loan repayment.
However, if you were paying your student loans before 2020, you could’ve gone into default, which means you haven’t paid your loans in a long period of time and you won’t be contacted. This doesn’t mean that you don’t owe anything. Be sure to contact your lender if you haven’t heard anything.
2. It can be made affordable
Payments start next month. If you see the amount and it’s not affordable, there are other student repayment options.
Eglaus suggests using the loan simulator on studentaid.gov, which asks a series of questions based on your lifestyle and gives the least and most affordable repayment options.
If it’s still not a manageable amount, contact your lender to learn more about what would work best for you.
“The theme here is to be transparent and contact and engage with your lender and be very transparent about what the road ahead will look like for you and your household trying to budget your student loans,” said Eglaus.
3. Payments aren’t automatically auto-pay
Another common mistake made is that after the first payment, your student loans aren’t automatic unless auto-pay is set up. Make sure you’re either signed up for auto-pay or you pay every month. Your payments won’t just be automatic once you pay.
4. There’s a transition period until 2024
The Department of Education created a temporary on-ramp period that goes through September 2024, which is basically a transition period. If a student doesn’t make a payment, they won’t be reported to the credit agencies.
For the next year, there is no penalization if you make a late payment, miss a payment or make a partial payment. That being said, Eglaus still emphasizes that it’s important to pay your loans as soon as you can.
“The interest rates will continue to grow. So they’ll continue to add on and those payment amounts, they don’t just go away just because you don’t pay them,” said Eglaus. “They’ll continue to accrue and you may see a balloon effect of those loan payments when you’re ready to make that payment.”
5. Watch out for scammers
With loans popping back up, there will be more and more scammers. A common scam is that a contact can make all your loans go away for a small nominal fee. If it sounds too good to be true, contact your lender to make sure it’s a valid option.
This is a transition period for everyone. There’s no need to be overwhelmed, said Eglaus, since there are different options for loan repayment for everyone.