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Seven Student Loan Tips for September 2022

Planning for the federal student loan repayment restart is the most pressing issue for most borrowers.

Written By: Michael P. Lux, Esq.

Published:

Affiliate Disclosure and Integrity Pledge

Seven Student Loan Tips for September 2022

Planning for the federal student loan repayment restart is the most pressing issue for most borrowers.

Written By: Michael P. Lux, Esq.

Published:

Affiliate Disclosure and Integrity Pledge

There is a lot going on in the world of student loans this September.

The big news is the announcement of up to $20,000 of forgiveness per borrower. The other big development is that we now know when the federal payment and interest freeze is all but certain to end.

However, the focus for most borrowers should be on the other temporary programs that are about to end. My number one tip for this month is to check out the Limited Waiver on Public Service Loan Forgiveness. For some borrowers, the value of this program will greatly exceed Biden’s big forgiveness announcement.

Finally, we are seeing a lot of transitioning happening. Many borrowers recently learned that they have a new servicer. Sadly, this means some action is required if it applies to you.

Tip #1: Check out the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Limited Waiver

Using temporary authority from the CARES Act (the Covid relief bill), the Biden Administration has dramatically expanded access to PSLF.

The short version of the new rules is that your count of eligible PSLF payments may have gone up dramatically. Payments made under repayment plans that previously were ineligible may now count. Loans previously ineligible for PSLF can now qualify for PSLF by consolidating without losing credit for previous payments.

This page breaks down the temporary waiver and how it helps. If you work or have worked for a PSLF-eligible employer, it is a must-read.

This limited waiver corrects some significant issues with the PSLF program. Many borrowers were given inaccurate information from their loan servicer about PSLF eligibility, and this new program is a huge step forward. Some borrowers will even receive massive refunds.

For the borrowers who need to consolidate to qualify, the deadline is October 31, 2022.

Tip #2: Try to Maximize Biden Loan Forgiveness

For many borrowers, no action will be necessary to get the $10,000 or $20,000 of loan forgiveness recently announced by President Biden.

However, action will be required on the part of some borrowers. Some people may have to submit an application. Others can maximize their forgiveness by asking for a refund on previous payments.

Be sure to check out the full article on maximizing the new forgiveness program.

Tip #3: Get Ready for a Servicer Transfer

My student loans are serviced by FedLoan (also known as MyFedLoan), and I’m not looking forward to the potential hassle in the coming months.

I’ve previously written a guide to dealing with loan servicer changes, but here is the short version:

  • Watch out for scams. A confusing transition time makes it easy for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting borrowers. Keep your guard up.
  • Back up your records. Download or print all of your billing statements and payment records. Ideally, this information should go from one servicer to the next, but it is far from a certainty.
  • Update your contact information. If you miss a payment because your old servicer sent a letter or email to your old address, they won’t cut you any slack. Updating your info might seem like you are doing them a favor, but you are only helping yourself.

Sherpa Thought: I can’t emphasize the importance of updating your contact information enough.

Many borrowers have old email addresses or mailing addresses on file from before the pandemic. Some date back to where they lived during college.

The loan servicers do not cut borrowers any slack if they miss a payment because the bill was sent to an old address.

Tip #4: Don’t Make Federal Student Loan Payments Right Now

Some borrowers and finance experts suggest that the 0% interest is an opportunity to knock out student loan debt. The idea is that borrowers who can afford to make payments continue to make payments. At the end of the interest freeze, these borrowers will have significantly reduced balances.

While I see the merits of this approach, I think there is a better way of doing it. Rather than giving the money to the government, borrowers should use the opportunity to build up their emergency fund. Ideally, all student loan borrowers should have an emergency fund. The interest freeze provides a chance to make sure sufficient funds are available. Any planned federal student loan payments belong in this fund.

At the end of the interest freeze, borrowers can make one large payment on their student loans. If things go as planned, the result will be the same as if they continued making monthly payments.

However, there are two significant advantages to delaying the payments until the very end:

  • Borrowers can earn interest on their money. This is the rare instance where a high-yield savings account will pay a higher interest rate than what a student loan charges. By being patient, borrowers can earn some money,
  • Borrowers get flexibility. This is the big one. If you lose your job or get sick and face substantial medical bills, you will be glad you kept the money.

The one exception to this suggestion would be the borrowers who don’t think they have the self-control for this strategy. If making regular monthly payments seems easy, but you fear you wouldn’t send in the large payment at the end, stick with making regular payments.

Tip #5: Ask for a Refund on Your Previous Federal Payments

This tip is a continuation of the previous one.

If you made unrequired payments during the interest freeze, you might be able to get a refund for that payment.

Getting a refund only to return the money in a couple of months may seem like a waste of time. For many borrowers, it would be a waste of time.

However, having extra money in reserve, even if only for a short period, could be significant. If you are a couple of bad breaks from dire financial circumstances, getting a refund is worth the effort.

Tip #6: Consolidate your FFEL Loans

FFEL loans are a pain. Qualifying for forgiveness is tricky, and repayment plan options are limited.

However, many borrowers were stuck with their FFEL loans because consolidating them into a federal direct loan meant restarting the forgiveness clock.

In a pleasant surprise for borrowers, a new but temporary program from the Department of Education now allows FFEL borrowers to consolidate without losing their progress towards IDR forgiveness.

Because the rule is temporary, sooner rather than later should be the goal of any FFEL borrower.

Tip #7: Now is a Great Time to Refinance Private Student Loans

For over a year, I’ve been telling borrowers not to refinance their federal loans. The big benefit of refinancing is getting lower interest rates, and no refinance company can beat the 0% offered on federally-held student loans.

The refinance companies have been feeling the pressure. With fewer borrowers looking to refinance their loans, competition has gotten intense. As a result, interest rate offerings have been very aggressive, which means lower rates and better loan terms for borrowers.

Sherpa Tip: Now is not the time to refinance federal loans. Borrowers who want to refi now are jumping the gun. The best approach is to wait and game the system a little bit.

However, inflation has become an issue as most lenders have raised rates. Fortunately, rates haven’t jumped like mortgages. The changing environment rewards the borrowers who shop around.

I know that many borrowers like to opt for shorter-term loans with lower interest rates, but if I had to refinance my private loans right now, I’d select a 20-year fixed-rate loan.

Here again, I tend to be conservative and prefer flexibility. A longer loan means a slightly higher interest rate but much lower minimum monthly payments. However, borrowers can always pay more than the minimum required. The benefit of a low minimum is the protection it offers in lean months.

As of September 2022, the following lenders offer the lowest rates on 20-year fixed-rate loans:

RankLenderLowest RateSherpa Review
1Splash Financial4.57%Splash Financial Review
2SoFi5.05%SoFi Review
3ELFI5.29%ELFI Review
About the Author

Student loan expert Michael Lux is a licensed attorney and the founder of The Student Loan Sherpa. He has helped borrowers navigate life with student debt since 2013.

Insight from Michael has been featured in US News & World Report, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other online and print publications.

Michael is available for speaking engagements and to respond to press inquiries.

3 thoughts on “Seven Student Loan Tips for September 2022”

  1. What company will be the serving agency now? I received a letter in the mail informing me to contact them before the 30th of January 2022. The company is Milano. What should I do? Is this an legit company representing the U.S. Education Department?

    Reply
  2. I’ve read some of the articles from this blog and would like to express my appreciation and respect to its’ authors and contributors. It is crucial to inform students about student loans and the associated debt. I believe that the majority of students didn’t understand what they are getting into when borrowing for the dream degree. In this sense the informative sources like this one are priceless.

    In my opinion, the system needs to be revised since young people are risking their financial future.

    Reply

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