Student loans: Ending the pandemic payment pause ‘is a defining moment,’ says Federal Student Aid COO

The head of the federal government’s massive student loan portfolio recently described the pandemic payment pause as “an unprecedented challenge,” adding that resuming payments for tens of millions of Americans after January 2022 will be “a defining moment.”

Federal Student Aid (FSA) Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray made the comments in a Sept. 16 speech to the Education Finance Council, a national trade association representing nonprofit and state funding organizations for higher education.

The “unprecedented challenge” of the interest-free payment break “may seem like it would be easy to just stop doing something, akin to rest, but that assumption would seriously misunderstand the complexities of the financial aid world,” Cordray wrote in prepared remarks. obtained by Politico.

“This is a defining moment and it’s important that we get it right,” said Cordray at another point. “At a time when so many are struggling — with their health, their jobs, their finances — we can’t burden them with poor return-to-refund execution.”

Richard Cordray, then director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, testifies before House Financial Services Oversight in Washington on July 30, 2014. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

Federal actions during the pandemic led to about $100 billion in total student loan forgiveness between March 2020 and September 2021, according to data and analysis from the Department of Education (ED) and expert analysis, providing a financial lifeline to the approximately 45 million student loan borrowers carrying more than $1.7 trillion in outstanding federally secured debt.

Millions of borrowers have been able allocate money elsewhere to bolster their financial security amid the coronavirus pandemic, and borrowers who failed to pay their loans also saw a lull in wage garnishments and other methods the federal government uses to recover money.

“FSA has had multiple periods in which it has had to plan and prepare for a return to reimbursement, then change course, often at the last minute,” he added, referring to the various extensions issued from Trump to Biden. -administrations. “The dilemma of how to communicate these mixed messages to borrowers has also been serious, with so many false starts that are bound to create enormous confusion about what even the near future may hold.”

Debates over student loan forgiveness continue

Cordray noted that he expects a “psychological hurdle” for borrowers to resume payments after nearly a year of Democrats pushing for debt forgiveness.

“The old saying is that ‘the wish is the father of the thought,'” he said, “and we can expect that many, many borrowers will not be eager to return to repayment when they have been led to believe, or even hoping that would never happen. Overcoming that psychological hurdle with millions of Americans may be a much harder job than we know.”

Some prominent Democrats have repeatedly urged President Biden to use executive branch power to bring about broad-based student loan forgiveness, and Biden’s campaign website for the 2020 presidential election stated that a President Biden would “pay a minimum of $10,000 a year.” person would forgive federal student loans”.

Biden’s administration has focused more on improving the system’s machinery: The Education Department, of which FSA is a part, has been blamed for special borrowers, including those scammed by certain for-profit colleges and debtors who are completely and permanently disabled ($7.1 billion cleared).

Other reforms to the student loan system appear to be underway: During the speech, Cordray told how FSA de Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program and introduce more accountability and performance metrics for loan servicers.

“The stakes are extremely high as we begin to change everything again: for borrowers who may not like what they hear from us, may not believe what they hear from us, and may not be willing to deal with what they are hearing from us. hear us,” Cordray said of what comes next.

Aarthi is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. She can be reached at aarthi@yahoofinance.com. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

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