Close to nine million student loan borrowers found themselves unable to make their first loan payment after the pandemic-related payment pause ended this fall, according to the Department of Education. This statistic represents approximately 40% of the 22 million borrowers who were due to make payments in October, with many still not making payments well into November.
Less than 26 percent of borrowers missed their payments in October 2019, before the pandemic-induced payment pause came into effect. The pause began in March 2020 as a response to the covid-19 pandemic and lasted for more than three years before officially concluding in October, CNN reported.
“While most borrowers have already made their first payment, others will need more time. Some are confused or overwhelmed about their options,” Undersecretary of Education James Kvaal wrote in a blog post recently explaining the new repayment figures.
As more than 28 million borrowers are expected to resume payments, the Department of Education acknowledged the challenges faced by some borrowers, including confusion and feeling overwhelmed about their repayment options.
To mitigate the impact of missed payments, the Biden administration has implemented an “on-ramp” program, which aims to shield borrowers from the most severe consequences of missed payments, such as delinquency, default, and mandatory collections, for the next year. This program is designed to provide additional support and protection to borrowers as they adapt to their renewed loan obligations.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected President Biden’s $430 billion student debt relief plan, which sought to forgive loans for 40 million borrowers. Despite this setback, the Biden administration has continued to explore alternative avenues to provide relief to middle-class families struggling with student loan debt.
The repayment process has been challenging in other ways as well. The Department of Education revealed that the servicer MOHELA (Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority), failed to send 2.5 million borrowers their bills on time. Those borrowers were placed in forbearance, and the government withheld $7.2 million from MOHELA as a fine. On top of that, an estimated 305,000 people initially received federal student loan bills with the wrong amount – many with charges higher than they should be.
When it comes to Black college graduates, they have nearly $25,000 more student loan debt an average of $52,726 in student debt, compared to $28,006 for white graduates. On average, Black graduates pay off their undergraduate debt at a slower rate than whites, nearly half (48 percent) of all Black graduates owe more on their federal undergraduate loans four years, according to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.
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