WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s administration will continue the pause on federal student loan payments one last time, until Jan. 31.
“The Department believes this additional time and a definitive end date will allow borrowers to plan for the resumption of payments and reduce the risk of delinquency and defaults after restart,” the Department of Education said Friday in a statement.
Since the pandemic first struck, millions of student loan borrowers have been spared the obligation of paying on their accounts. The payment freeze had been scheduled to end in October.
Collecting on the nation’s $1.6 trillion student loan bills is already a daunting task during normal times. Expecting borrowers to restart payments after they have been paused for months will be an even more difficult challenge. And the departure of two companies that had been running the government’s loan programs further complicates matters.
Lawmakers and borrower advocates had said these colliding incidents warranted another extension of the federal student loan payment pause. Borrowers also wanted more time. A survey conducted on behalf of the Pew Charitable Trusts found that nearly two-thirds of borrowers said it would be difficult to start payments again if the moratorium lifted at September’s end.
Those with student loan debt have been through this limbo many times. Former President Donald Trump first suspended payments on federal loans at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. At the time, the suspension was set to last just two months, but the administration extended it multiple times.
Biden had also extended the pause, which is how the federal government reached the September 30 end date.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Student loans: Biden to continue payment freeze, forgiveness stalled