The coronavirus outbreak has changed the entire landscape of student loan repayment and refinance. For instance, if you have federally held student loans, you do not currently need to make any repayment on them, as the government is offering automatic interest-free forbearance through Dec. 31, 2020. (See below for more details.)
In order to give you the very latest information on how to deal with your student loans during this crisis, we’ve created this information center with updated guidance and links to our latest reports on new developments.
Note that some of our advice during this pandemic is a little different than what it is in normal times, so be sure to consult this page first when you have questions about your student loans. We’ll be updating this information center regularly to get you all the details on how to keep student debt from wrecking your finances during the outbreak.
Student Loan Hero wishes you and your loved ones safety and well-being during this difficult time.
- What is happening with student loan repayment during the coronavirus outbreak?
- Is payment on ALL federal student loans suspended?
- What can I do if I’ve run out of money/lost my income?
- Should I refinance my student loans during the crisis?
- How are parent student loans impacted?
- How would suspending payments affect student loan forgiveness, such as PSLF?
- Will college students get stimulus checks? And is other aid available?
- How will the pandemic affect college admissions?
- Are student loan scams still a danger during the pandemic?
- Check out more of the latest coronavirus student loan news
The U.S. government has suspended all federal student loan payments and halted all interest charges, through the end of December 2020. At the same time, all collections and garnishments on federal student loans in default have stopped as well. This situation may change in the near future, but for now, check out more details here.
That said, there are some cases where it might make sense to keep paying down your federal student loan anyway. Here are some thoughts on whether to take advantage of the coronavirus student loan relief.
As for private student loans, each case may be different. Here’s what some of the top private student loan lenders are doing to help borrowers through this difficult time:
- Access Group Education Lending: “Please reach out to your servicer, Firstmark (for private loans) and/or Nelnet (for FFELP loans), to discuss available forbearance options.” You can contact Firstmark at (888) 538-7378 or [email protected] and Nelnet at (888) 486-4722 or here.
- Ascent Student Loans: “We’re here to help every step of the way. You can still access your Ascent account from virtually anywhere and call our customer service team with any questions about your account at 877-216-0876.” You can also email [email protected] to inquire about your options for temporary hardship or declared emergency forbearance.
- Citizens Bank: “If you are experiencing hardship due to the coronavirus or if you have general loan questions, please contact our Student Lending Advisors at (888) 411-0266.”
- College Ave: “To help customers who are unable to make their monthly payments as a result of COVID-19, we are offering a Disaster Forbearance program that temporarily suspends required payments on College Ave student loan(s) for three consecutive months. If you think you are in need of assistance, please send an email to: [email protected]” (Find more instructions on College Ave’s website, via the link above.)
- CommonBond: “If you are unable to make payments during the COVID-19 outbreak, you can take advantage of CommonBond’s natural disaster forbearance, which allows payments to be paused for the duration of the national emergency. As with any form of forbearance, be aware that interest will still accrue, but there are no fees to participate. To apply for natural disaster forbearance, visit commonbond.co/forbearance. CommonBond is also waiving all late fees for our members for the duration of this national emergency.”
- Discover: “We have support in place for qualified Discover customers who experience hardship as a result of the outbreak. Please contact our customer service teams.” Student loan borrowers are instructed to call 1-800-STUDENT (1-800-223-5614).
- Earnest: “During this time of national emergency, Earnest is offering up to three months of postponed payments, through a disaster forbearance, to qualified clients who request it … To request a disaster forbearance, please complete our request form found here.”
- Education Loan Finance: “If you’ve been affected by the Coronavirus, give us a call and we can discuss the options available to you. We know this is a difficult time for everyone, and everyone’s situation is different. The best thing you can do if you face financial hardship (e.g. loss of income) is to call our Customer Care Center at 844-601-ELFI or email us at [email protected] so we can help you with your unique situation.”
- EDvestinU: EDvestinU offers financial hardship deferment on its private student loans. Contact its team at [email protected] or (855) 887-5430.
- Heartland ECSI: If you’re paying loans back to Heartland ECSI, you may be able to qualify for deferment or forbearance. Check out the relevant forms here.
- HESAA: “Those directly impacted by COVID-19 can apply for NJCLASS loan relief for temporary disability or unemployment. Applications for these relief options are available at here and here. In addition, NJCLASS borrowers can apply for financial hardship relief.”
- iHelp: “Forbearance provides temporary assistance due to financial difficulty resulting from COVID-19 related issues including temporary medical conditions or the inability to access normal cash flow because of employment related circumstances. Please contact your account manager to discuss the specific details of your account.” You can contact iHelp at [email protected] or (800) 592-1270.
- LendKey: We have a dedicated team to help answer any of your questions and to guide you through options on an individual basis. Please reach out to this team directly at [email protected].
- MEFA: “We have relief options available. Please call our loan servicing provider, American Education Services (AES), at (800) 233-0557.” MEFA offers a 3-month natural disaster forbearance, as well as a modified payment plan if you need relief after this time.
- Navient private loans: “Navient is offering up to three months of administrative forbearance to qualified private loan borrowers who request it. This program brings your eligible loans current and postpones payments for up to three months. During this time, interest accrues but will not be capitalized (added to the unpaid principal) at the end of the forbearance period.” Navient also offers other options, including rate reduction, interest-only or extended repayment programs. Contact Navient at (888) 272-5543.
- Navy Federal Credit Union: “We’re offering a three-month forbearance to borrowers impacted by COVID-19. We encourage you to reach out to the Student Loan Center at 1-877-304-9302 from 8 am to 8 pm, ET, Monday through Friday to discuss the options available.”
- PNC: “You may be able to postpone payments with no late fees during the postponement period. We also have loan modification options available for those who qualify. Please go to www.aessuccess.org and once logged onto your account, select “having your payments postponed” to request assistance.”
- Prodigy Finance: If COVID-19 has impacted your ability to repay as scheduled, you should contact our team at [email protected] … If you’re eligible, we’ll grant you a zero installment forbearance arrangement, meaning that you won’t be required to pay for three months, but interest will continue to accrue.”
- RISLA: “The RI Student Loan Authority will help its borrowers whose income has been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic by suspending their monthly loan payments for up to three months.” You can request a suspension of your student loan payments via the link above.
- Sallie Mae: “If you are experiencing difficulties during this time, please contact us to discuss your situation. We have assistance options available to you to help you keep your account in good standing during this unique health emergency. Sallie Mae customer service agents are available online via chat and through our Sallie Mae app, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET … If you are unable to reach us online, you can call us at 800-4-SALLIE (800-472-5543).”
- SoFi: “Please complete the form here to apply for a payment deferral. For those that continue to experience hardship, we will work with you to find possible options.”
- U-fi From Nelnet: “We are offering special forbearance to help support borrowers who have been impacted by COVID-19 … Under this current program, your payments will be suspended for 90 days.” Once you’ve filled out the forbearance application found via the link above, upload it to your online account.
You can find additional details here. And if you have a private student loan from a different lending institution and need a break from payments, reach out to that lender or loan servicer to inquire about your options.
If you have a refinanced student loan, meanwhile, you can see what assistance is available from some of the top lenders by clicking here.
At this point, the interest-free halt to repayment only applies to federal student loans owned by the Department of Education. This covers most government-issued loans, but note that some Federal Family Education Loans (FFELs) are commercially-held, and some Perkins loans are owned by your college.
Undoubtedly, the differences between a federal loan being “held” or merely “guaranteed” is bound to confuse. If you’re not sure what kind of loans you have, start by logging into the Federal Student Aid (FSA) website with your FSA ID to view all your federal loans.
A FFEL loan borrowed before 2010 is unlikely to meet criteria for relief. For any Perkins loans, you could clear up the confusion by calling your loan servicer directly or contacting your school’s financial aid office.
If you have commercial or school-granted loans, you might think you’re out of luck. But there are a variety of ways to still pause or reduce your repayment, receive repayment assistance and generally manage your debt until the economy recovers. Check this report for all the details, but here’s a basic overview of three steps you could take to get relief on loans that don’t qualify for the new federal measures:
- Check your state’s options: Some state governments are stepping in to provide additional aid for struggling student loan borrowers, especially in terms of any debt held by the state. Have a look at our report on state aid during the coronavirus pandemic for more information.
- Contact your lender or loan servicer: Speak directly with your lender or loan servicer (not a third party, as that could leave you vulnerable to student loan scams) and see if you can pause your monthly payments with a deferment or forbearance unrelated to COVID-19. Alternatively, you could lower the monthly payments on your ineligible FFEL debt by enrolling in the Income-Sensitive Repayment plan to cap your dues at a percentage of your annual income. If you recently suffered a loss of income, you could apply for a recalculated (decreased) payment obligation.
- Consider a Direct Consolidation loan: Your ineligible FFEL or Perkins loans can also be grouped into a Direct Consolidation loan. Besides getting you covered for a portion of the 0% interest and payment-suspension period, consolidation would also deliver a single monthly payment and make you eligible for income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. Just be mindful that consolidation could erase any progress you’ve made toward a relief program like Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
- Talk to your employer: If you have federal (or private) loans that don’t qualify for the student loan payment suspension, consider bringing up your concerns with your human resources department. As part of the coronavirus economic rescue package, the government gave employers temporary tax relief for contributing up to $5,250 toward their employees’ student loan payments. This benefit is slated to stay until at least Jan. 1, 2021, and it could cover any student debt, whether federal or private.
If you’re in desperate straits, take a look at these posts for advice on how to put food on the table and cover your housing costs.
- 6 Charitable Resources to Use When You Can’t Cover the Basics
- 11 Free, On-Campus College Resources and Services You Should Use
- Don’t Panic: How to Handle an Eviction Notice
Likewise, here are some ideas for earning money during the coronavirus pandemic — not all of these work-from-home opportunities will still be available, but some will.
- Work From Home Online Side Jobs That Can Pay More Than $15/hour
- How to Make Money on Your Phone – 25 Easy Ways
- 7 Great Remote Jobs for College Students
As for that student debt, at least your federal student loans won’t be a problem now that the government has suspended all repayment. For your private loans, however, you should definitely contact your lender to see about pausing your payments via forbearance, although this might not be interest-free.
How good an idea refinancing is right now will depend on your personal situation, and especially whether you’re talking about federal or private loans. If you’re concerned about your finances or losing a job, you’ll likely want to hold tight on your federal loans, as all payments are suspended.
On the other hand, interest rates have plunged in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, so it’s a great time for deals if you’re considering refinancing — particularly with private student loans, since those payments haven’t been suspended, and you won’t be giving up any federal protections.
As for refinancing federal student loans, first make sure that your finances are solid and you’ll be able to afford the payments before you trade the government protections on your federal loans for a potentially lower interest rate.
For more information…
- Have a look at which situations are most likely to see benefits from refinancing during the coronavirus pandemic
- Check out our picks for the best refinancing lenders
- Crunch the numbers with this student loan refinancing calculator
The relief programs for federal student loans mentioned above also extend to any parent loans you might have taken out for a child, grandchild or other student — so long as they’re held by the government.
This includes the suspension of payments, the halt to collections for delinquent loans, and even the awarding of credit toward student loan forgiveness, regardless of whether you pause repayment (see next question).
For a parent-focused rundown of the benefits currently on offer as part of the coronavirus relief efforts, as well as what you might be able get from private lenders, check out our report on parent loans during the pandemic.
You will still be able to make progress toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness or other federal forgiveness programs — even as you take advantage of the six-month suspension of payments, the programs will still consider it as if you had kept up your repayment, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said.
A large segment of college students (ie. most of them) have been left out of this round of coronavirus crisis stimulus checks. Basically, if your parents claim you as a dependent on their taxes, then you won’t receive any funds from the latest economic rescue measures. And even if they don’t, you might still not qualify, depending on whether the government considers you financially independent.
But fortunately, other funds may be coming, and some forms of aid may be available from your school. In fact, there are various forms of assistance you may be able to get during this crisis.
For a rundown of which college students might qualify to receive a stimulus check — and what to do if you’re not one of them — check out our in-depth report.
Standardized tests for college, such as the SAT and ACT, have been postponed until at least June, although some colleges have announced they will be “test optional” for the coming year, meaning applicants won’t be required to take one of these tests. Since policies will differ from school to school, make sure to check out the admissions pages from the websites of your preferred colleges and universities.
At the same time, some schools plan to give applicants more time to decide once they are accepted — this too, will vary from place to place.
Also note that, with many high schools shut due to the coronavirus, the College Board plans to allow students to take Advanced Placement (AP) tests online.
For more details, see our coverage of changes to college admissions during the pandemic.
If you get a phone call or see an ad promising student loan relief in exchange for a fee, you could be dealing with a student loan scam.
Know that you should never have to pay anything to put your loans into forbearance. Similarly, your lender is unlikely to contact you to offer forbearance or deferment options — it’s up to you to reach out to your lender.
During these tough times, beware any predatory loan companies that want to charge you money or are making promises that seem too good to be true. You can find out more by clicking here.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2020!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.89% – 6.66%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.09%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.34%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.97% – 8.54%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of October 1, 2020.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of December 1, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
5 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 11/13/2020 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.97% to 8.54% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% to 8.77% Fixed APR with AutoPay.