By: Charlestien Harris
Student loan forgiveness has been a recurring topic of discussion over an extended period, and the important deadline affecting forgiveness eligibility has recently been extended. Whether or not you are familiar with this deadline, it directly impacts eligibility for forgiveness, and the good news is that the Department of Education (ED) has extended the deadline to April 30, 2024.
For certain borrowers, consolidation was a prerequisite before this deadline to qualify for the upcoming payment count adjustment. Specifically, borrowers with specific federal student loans needed to consolidate their loans through the federal direct loan program to become eligible for the forgiveness program. Failing to do so would result in exclusion from the adjustments, causing them to miss out on additional credit towards forgiveness.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: The Department of Education (ED) has extended the deadline, giving borrowers until April 30, 2024, to take any necessary steps to qualify.
Now, as there might be questions about the process, let’s provide some facts to help you understand the steps needed to take advantage of this extended opportunity.
First: What is a payment count adjustment? This one-time initiative by the Department of Education aims to address historical failures in administering student loans. It provides credit toward income-driven repayment (IDR) forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) for any time in repayment status, certain periods of forbearance and deferment, and time in repayment prior to consolidation on consolidated loans. Essentially, previous payments made by the borrower that were not considered in the original count or did not get credit for certain qualifications may now be potentially counted.
Second: The adjustment is currently being administered by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), which will continue to identify eligible borrowers regularly. You don’t have to do anything right now, but ensure your loans fall under the Department of Education’s Federal Direct program. Here is the link to the loan forgiveness program application: Link. Some borrowers have already been notified by email, so keep a close eye on yours.
Third: The Department of Education estimates that borrowers will receive at least three years of additional credit towards loan forgiveness, with many seeing their loans forgiven entirely. Since this summer, the Department of Education has approved almost $44 billion in debt relief for more than 900,000 borrowers.
Fourth: Why do borrowers need to consolidate by this deadline? The payment count adjustment will ONLY apply to the accounts of borrowers with federally managed loans held by the Department of Education. Borrowers with loans NOT currently held by the Department, such as those with commercially held FFEL or Perkins loans, can only receive the benefit of the adjustment by applying to consolidate by April 30, 2024.
Fifth: The consolidation process usually takes at least 60 days, so borrowers are encouraged to submit a consolidation application as soon as possible—but no later than April 30, 2024—to ensure their consolidation loan is disbursed prior to the adjustment. For more information on how to consolidate your student loan, visit: https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/consolidation; or find out who your loan is serviced by visiting: https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/repayment/servicers.
Take advantage of the extended time period to manage your student loans effectively and gain better control of your personal finances. Don’t procrastinate! Complete the loan forgiveness application—you might be pleasantly surprised, just like my sister, who had the remaining balance of her medical school debt forgiven because of her employment at several federal rural health centers over her 30-year career!
Until next week – stay financially fit!
Charlestien Harris is a financial contributor to DeSoto County News. She is a financial expert with Southern Bancorp Community Partners whose articles are seen in a number of publications around the region.