Some student loan recipients’ credit scores affected despite pause on payments

Problem Solvers

DENVER (KDVR) — The federal CARES Act paused student loan payments during the coronavirus crisis but some loan recipients are experiencing problems that are affecting their credit scores.

Lindsey Spencer told FOX31 her score dropped more than 100 points shortly after she made a payment on her loan. She says she didn’t realize the program would apply to her loan.

A student loan forbearance note was attached to her file.

“The only thing that changed was a balance decrease on my student loan,” Spencer said.

President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act into law on March 27 in order to provide relief for federal student loan borrowers. The program places the loan in forbearance, which means borrowers can stop making monthly payments through Sept. 30 of this year.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) in Washington provides loan-related assistance for students across the nation.

Public Relations Vice President Bruce McClary said, “This is a program that protects your credit while you’re allowed to skip payments.”  

He explains that a similar credit bureau code system was used during Hurricane Katrina to provide assistance. He adds that the idea was to “flag your account and let the credit bureau know that you’ve been impacted by some sort of disaster.”

The NFCC says the program should not create a negative impact on credit reports, so if there is an issue, it could have everything to do with how the report to the bureau was made by your lender.

“Without it being reported properly by the servicer with special codes that they use when they report it, the credit bureau is just seeing that you’re missing payments,” McClary says.

Colorado State University’s Financial Aid Office tells the Problem Solvers, “Since these loans are held with various servicing agencies contracted by the U.S. Department of Education, students should contact their loan servicer to address any repayment questions related to COVID-19 provisions for borrowers.”

Jessica Uphoff of NFM Lending says communication is key in preventing credit mistakes from endangering future purchases. She recommends discussing all aspects of a forbearance with your lender.

“When do they come out of forbearance, what is that exact date? Is there any interest being accrued for payments that are due you may not know about?” Uphoff said.

More information about the CARES program can be found online.

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