Education Dept. Extends Deadline to Consolidate Loans for Forgiveness

Business|Education Department Extends Deadline to Consolidate Loans for Forgiveness

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/15/business/education-department-deadline-student-loan-forgiveness.html

Borrowers with commercially held loans will now have until June 30 to take steps to make their loans eligible for elimination.

Demonstrators standing outside the U.S. Capitol building with signs about student debt.
Demonstrators calling for the cancellation of student debt, last year in Washington, D.C.Credit…Kenny Holston/The New York Times

Stacy Cowley

More than two weeks after a deadline passed for federal loan borrowers seeking debt relief, the Education Department has extended the offer, giving millions of borrowers a fresh shot at aid.

The department said on Wednesday that borrowers would now have until June 30 to consolidate commercially held education debt under the Federal Family Education Loan Program — loans originally from private lenders — or Perkins loans into new direct loans, which are held by the Education Department. That consolidation is a required step for borrowers to receive relief through an expansive, but temporary, government waiver program intended to wipe out the remaining debt for borrowers who have been making payments for a term that’s typically at least 20 years.

“The department is working swiftly to ensure borrowers get credit for every month they’ve rightfully earned toward forgiveness,” said James Kvaal, the under secretary of education. The previous deadline to consolidate was April 30.

The move is part of the Biden administration’s effort to aggressively cancel education debts through longstanding relief programs and by easing bureaucratic barriers. One of the trickiest challenges has been reaching borrowers with loans through the Federal Family Education Loan Program, a lingering vestige of a previous federal student loan system.

Before 2010, many federal loans were insured by the government but issued by private lenders like banks and other financial institutions. That year, the government took over the system and began making loans directly; it now holds $1.4 trillion in debt for loans to nearly 38 million people.

But millions of people still have loans made under the Federal Family Education Loan system. As of the end of April, according to Education Department data, there were still 3.5 million federal student loans owned by private lenders.

Borrowers with those loans are ineligible for most federal student debt forgiveness programs. However, they can consolidate the loans into a new, federally owned direct student loan. People can see what kind of loan they have, and consolidate into a new one, at StudentAid.gov.

Consolidating commercially held loans into a direct loan makes those borrowers eligible to benefit from a temporary government program that counts many past payments — or lengthy periods of forbearance — as qualifying ones for income-driven repayment programs, even for people who never enrolled in those programs.

Nearly one million borrowers have had $49 billion of debt eliminated through that temporary program, the Education Department said. In total, the Biden administration’s changes have led to $160 billion in debt elimination for nearly 4.6 million borrowers.

Also on Wednesday, the department said it would need more time than it had anticipated to finish those income-driven repayment adjustments. The process, which began last summer and was previously scheduled to be finished by July, will now take until September to complete, the department said. The adjustments are done automatically by the department — borrowers do not need to apply to have their loans included in the program.

Stacy Cowley is a business reporter who writes about a broad array of topics related to consumer finance, including student debt, the banking industry and small business. More about Stacy Cowley

William Murphy

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