If you are a federal student loan borrower who is having trouble making payments because of the coronavirus emergency, you can apply for temporarily relief.

You can apply for a coronavirus forbearance, which will temporarily pause payments and waive interest for 60 days on your federal student loans. This suspends your loans for 60 days, meaning that you aren’t required to make any payments, but your balance will remain the same. Unlike a previous proposal, no payments will be made on your behalf.

(Note that the CARES Act includes a provision which will suspend payments and waive interest charges on certain federal student for 6 months. That provision is automatic and does not require an application.)

To apply for a coronavirus forbearance, you must contact your specific lender. Each lender will handle this different. If you do not know who your lender is, visit studentaid.gov.

Great Lakes, for example, asks borrowers to request a coronavirus deferment online. They will apply the forbearance and send a confirmation when it has been processed. Because of the high volume, they ask for 30 days to send the confirmation.

“During this forbearance no payments will be due. Until further notice from ED, interest will not accrue on your account. When we apply the coronavirus forbearance to any account, any unpaid interest that had accrued prior to the 0% interest rate reduction effective 3/13/20, may be added to your principal balance at the end of the forbearance. This is called capitalization, and it increases the overall amount you’ll have to pay on your loan,” according to the Great Lakes website.

Great Lakes says you may cancel the coronavirus forbearance and resume your payments at any time by calling. You will be notified when the coronavirus forbearance is about to expire and provided with instructions on how to resume payments.

If you request a forbearance, your auto-debit payments will be cancelled. If you wish to resume making auto-debit payments after the forbearance is over, you will have to reenroll.

As of March 13, 2020, if you are at least 31 days behind on your payments or become more than 31 days delinquent after that date, you will be automatically enrolled in an administrative forbearance.




 

If you are working towards public service loan forgiveness or currently enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, this period of forbearance will not count towards qualified payments. Thus, enrolling in a forbearance will delay your timeframe for receiving forgiveness.

Keep in mind this coronavirus forbearance is available for some federal student loans, not for private student loans. However, many private lenders are offering options for pausing payments.

All loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education will have interest waived, including:

  • All Direct Loans
  • Some Federal Perkins Loans
  • Some Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans

It does not include FFEL Program loans that are owned by commercial lenders, and Federal Perkins Loans that are held by the college you attended. These loans are not eligible for this benefit at this time.

You can choose to continue making payments, if you wish. The interest waiver means that your payment goes completely towards the principal balance, if you choose to continue to make payments. For those requesting a forbearance, this means that interest will not continue to accrue on your federal student loans, as it would have if interest weren’t being waived, so your student loan balance will not increase.

Considering a deferment? Use our Cost of Deferment Calculator to evaluates the impact of interest capitalization at the end of a deferment or forbearance on the monthly loan payment and the cost of the loan, assuming that the loan payments are re-amortized after the deferment or forbearance.