Does the Student Loan Pause Count Towards Forgiveness?

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Stanley Tate

#1 Student Loan Lawyer

Updated on December 14, 2022

All federal student loans are currently on a payment pause, but if you have been faithfully paying on an income-driven repayment plan, you might be wondering what will happen to your forgiveness options. Fortunately, borrowers still earn credit towards income-driven repayment forgiveness and, if they work for the government or nonprofit organization, Public Service Loan Forgiveness — despite not having to make payments!

The federal student loan system has been on hold since the coronavirus pandemic began due to actions by two presidents and Congress. During this time, millions of borrowers have had no monthly payments, and their interest rates have been set to zero. They also received an additional benefit: credit toward student loan forgiveness.

Each month spent in the student loan payment pause counts towards forgiveness through income-driven repayment plans and as a qualifying payment for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program.

Not every federal student loan borrower qualifies for this added benefit. Only those with Ed-owned federal loans are eligible. Borrowers who have commercially held Federal Family Education Loans, Perkins Loans, and private student loans aren’t eligible for the forgiveness credit or the suspended payments.

But — and this is the only exception — people with ineligible FFEL or Perkins Loans can qualify for the forbearance and forgiveness credit by consolidating into a Direct Consolidation Loan. Private student loans can never be consolidated or refinanced with the federal government. That’s true even if you previously refinanced federal student loans with a private lender and now want to change your private loans back into a federal loan.

Related: FFELP Loan Forgiveness

Payment counts and student loan forgiveness

The payment suspension won’t slow your progress toward PSLF if you work for a qualifying employer and IDR Forgiveness. In reality, it will only increase your payment total under both programs.

  • IDR Forgiveness. No matter your payment plan before the payment pause began, you’ve been earning credit towards income-driven repayment plan forgiveness throughout the forbearance. That type of loan forgiveness wipes out your federal student loan balance after you’ve made at least 240 monthly payments. For a limited time, the Education Department is also providing borrowers with retroactive credit toward IDR plan forgiveness for time spent in lengthy forbearances and some deferments, as well as payments made under various plans. Read more about the IDR Waiver.

  • PSLF. You’ll continue to receive credit towards the 120 qualifying payments needed to get your student loan debt wiped out unless you stop working full-time for the government or a nonprofit employer.

President Biden recently extended the forbearance to sometime in 2023 after federal courts in Texas and Missouri blocked his debt relief plan. The freeze on interest and payments will stop 60 days after the courts allow the Education Department to implement the president’s broad-based student loan cancellation or 60 days after June 30, 2023 — whichever comes first. If this latest forbearance period doesn’t end until next summer, borrowers will have accumulated nearly 2.5 years of progress toward different forgiveness programs.

Talk with your student loan servicer

Unless the president extends the forbearance once more, student loan repayment will resume for borrowers sometime in 2023. Before then, contact your service — the private company that manages the payment of your federal loans for the Education Department — and find out what repayment plan you’re in and what your payment amount will be when the freeze ends.

Need help determining who your loan servicer is? Visit the Federal Student Aid website, StudentAid.gov. You can also contact FSA’s customer service center at 1-800-4-FED-AID.

Finally, you can stay on top of federal student loan announcements by visiting studentaid.gov/announcements-events.

UP NEXT: How to Apply for Student Loan Forgiveness

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