Do you have a student loan from a private lender? Here’s how to get some relief
Many federal student loan borrowers received welcome relief in March, thanks to federal legislation passed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
But what about students who have borrowed from private lenders? For them, it’s a much more blurry picture.
The federal economic relief program known as the Cares Act allows many federal student loan borrowers to skip payments until October without accruing interest. The law, however, does not apply to private loans and federal family education loans held by private lenders such as commercial banks.
As a result, many private lenders are offering relief related to the pandemic. However, offers vary and are generally not as comprehensive as what is available under federal law. About 70% of private loan holders who requested relief directly from their lenders received it, according to a recent survey of more than 1,000 borrowers by LendingTree’s Student Loan Hero division. However, many borrowers do not realize that assistance may be available and do not call their agent for assistance.
If you are unsure who your private loan manager is, check the contact information on your monthly billing statement. Visit the manager’s or lender’s website for information on pandemic relief, or contact the lender directly to see what type of help, if any, is available.
Borrowers should understand the terms of any relief offer before taking it, says Adam S. Minsky, a Boston student debt attorney. Among the questions to ask: how long is a forbearance available and will interest accrue during this period? Will interest be capitalized or added to unpaid principal at the end of the forbearance period? Will the term of the loan change and will subsequent payments be higher?
Mr Minsky also advises borrowers to check with the managing agent before the end of any forbearance period to see what other options, if any, are available if difficulties persist.
Here is a sample of what some private lenders have to offer to give an idea of the type of deals available.
Ascent Funding LLC: Borrowers can apply for up to three months forbearance and this will not count towards their 24 month forbearance limit. Ascent also extended the grace period between when a borrower graduates or falls below halftime and is required to start making payments to nine months, compared to six months for undergraduate loans.
Grace periods for graduate loans depend on the study program, but range from nine months to 36 months.
Bank of North Dakota: Payments can be deferred for six months without impacting the borrower’s credit rating. Interest will continue to accrue and may increase the monthly payment in the future. The variable interest rate on loans was reduced on April 1 to 2.34% from 3.40%. The fixed rate of all student loans disbursed before April 1, 2020 will drop by 1 percentage point after the bank migrates to a new management system later this summer.
Citizens Bank: Borrowers can request a special three-month forbearance, with the option of extending it for another three months. There are no restrictions on eligibility and the program will not count towards a borrower’s lifetime forbearance limit. Additionally, the bank waived late fees for all customers, suspended wage garnishment, and started a loan modification program where borrowers can request additional relief for one year.
College Ave Student Loans: Payments can be suspended for three consecutive months as part of the company’s disaster forbearance program. The lender will work with clients who experience prolonged difficulties on a case-by-case basis. Options could include additional forbearance or revised repayment plans, among others.
CommonBond: The company offers special forbearance protection that will last as long as a borrower needs it while the national emergency is in effect. Interest will continue to accrue during this forbearance period, but will not be capitalized. Late fees are waived during the pandemic. After the national emergency ends, borrowers who are still in financial difficulty can suspend their monthly payments for up to 24 months using CommonBond’s standard forbearance program; under this program, interest will accrue and be capitalized.
EDvestinU: Borrowers who are having trouble making their payments should call their service agent, Granite State Management & Resources, for advice on options that may be appropriate for their situation. Typically, borrowers facing challenges related to the pandemic are eligible for up to 12 months without payment, in three-month increments. Interest will accumulate during this period, but will not be capitalized for hardship relief granted from April 17 to September 30 at least. Late fees will not be applied either.
Serious: Borrowers who requested assistance on or before June 30 were eligible for a delay of up to 90 days. Starting July 1, Earnest will grant forbearance requests for up to 30 days and re-evaluate the program every 30 days. Short-term forbearance will not count towards the borrower’s lifetime limit. Interest will continue to accrue during this period, but will not be capitalized. Borrowers may also be able to make interest payments only for a short period.
Minnesota Higher Education Office: All SELF and SELF Refi loans have a 0% rate from March 13 to September 30. No action is necessary to obtain this rate. New loans will have the 0% temporary rate until September 30 and revert to the rates posted on October 1. In addition, special six-month Covid-19 waivers are available upon request for SELF and SELF Refi loans served by Firstmark Services. Applications must be made by September 30. These abstentions are not available for loans with a date of first disbursement after June 30, 2020.
Navient Solutions LLC: Qualified borrowers who applied for help before July 1 were eligible for a maximum of three months administrative forbearance, which does not count towards their lifetime forbearance limit. As of July 1, qualified borrowers who request it can be granted a forbearance of at least one month, which also does not count towards their lifetime limit. Interest will continue to accrue during the forbearance period, but will not be capitalized. In addition, Navient offers a temporary rate reduction program that lowers the interest rate and lowers the amount of monthly payments for qualifying borrowers facing pandemic or other hardship. Interest-only or extended repayment, which lowers a borrower’s monthly payments, but extends the loan term, may also be available.
Rhode Island Student Loans Authority: Borrowers with non-federal student loans can suspend monthly loan payments for up to three months with an online application. Borrowers who think they’ll need additional flexibility after three months should call about a week before the forbearance ends to see what options may be available, said Noel Simpson, deputy director of Rhode Island Student Loan. Authority. The authority offers income-based repayment, which may be appropriate for borrowers facing a long-term problem, he says.
: Borrowers facing Covid-19 difficulties can request a three-month suspension of payment; interest accrues during this period but will not be capitalized. There are no fees, no impact on the creditworthiness of clients or co-signers, and no collection effort while the account is forborne. Those who have more serious and / or longer term difficulties can apply for loan modification programs, such as a temporary reduction in interest rates or an extension of the term of their loan. There is also an interest-only payment option for borrowers who can demonstrate financial difficulty.
Sofi: Student loan borrowers affected by the pandemic can typically get a 60-day forbearance, with the option of extending it for an additional 30 days. Borrowers should call again to request the additional month.
Ms. Winokur Munk is a writer in West Orange, NJ. She can be reached at [email protected]
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