There’s Something DeVos Can Do to Help Student Loan Borrowers in Hurricane- and Wildfire-Impacted Areas—But She Hasn’t

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By: Senya Merchant | October 12, 2017

For those who work, reside, or attend school in a federally declared disaster area, this notice is for you. Only borrowers themselves can make changes to their student loan repayment plan so if you know someone in an area impacted by any of the recent hurricanes for whom this information can be helpful, please feel free to share.

The Department of Education has issued guidance to help federal student loan borrowers affected by any federally declared extreme weather event to take steps to help them get back on their feet.

No matter what kind of federal student loan you have, if you have been impacted by any of the recent disasters and you are unable to make your monthly loan payments, take the following steps to learn about additional time you may have to submit paperwork for income-driven repayment (IDR) and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) programs, or to move your loans into administrative forbearance, which will allow you to temporarily reduce or suspend your monthly payments.

1. Call your loan servicer:

  • If you don’t know who your loan servicer is, log in to or call 1-800-557-7394 to have a member of the student loan support center assist you in looking up your lender on the National Student Loan Servicer Database. For this option, you’ll need to have your FSA ID on hand.
  • If you have a private student loan try calling your loan servicer as well to see what options might be available to you.

2. Inquire about administrative forbearance if you cannot make payments at this time:

  • Ask your loan servicer about what repayment options are available to you based on the amount and frequency of your payments. All federal student loan borrowers in declared disaster areas are eligible for 90 days of administrative forbearance from the time they contact their servicer.
  • Take notes of the information you got on the call and the repayment plan you opted into and email that summary to your servicer as a confirmation of the change made in your repayment plan. It is always good to start a paper trail whenever you are making major changes and agreements with your loan servicer.
  • If you need additional time to get back to normal repayment, you can extend your forbearance in increments of 30 days with reasonable cause, but you can only do this for 12 months after the date that the particular disaster affecting you was declared.
  • It is important to note that putting your loans into forbearance will allow interest to accrue on your loans for the period that you are in forbearance. It’s up to you to decide whether this would be a wise decision for you.

3. For borrowers who are current students receiving federal financial aid:

  • If you’ve been impacted by a disaster and you want your school to reassess your eligibility for financial aid but you’ve already filed your FAFSA for the 2017-2018 school year, talk to your college’s financial aid office about your new financial need in light of the disaster.
  • If you haven’t already filed your FAFSA application for the 2017-2018 school year, note that you do not need to report any disaster-related financial relief you received from your state or the Department of Education as apart of your income on FAFSA.

4. Additional resources that may be helpful:

5. Take action below to demand that Betsy DeVos automatically enroll federal student loan borrowers affected by any and all of the recent natural disasters into interest-free administrative forbearance.

This post was updated on October 27, 2017 to account for the addition of California’s wildfires to FEMA’s list of declared disaster areas.

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