Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.
The last year has been quite a season of change in the student loan industry, including the fourth extension to freeze student loan payments.
Both servicers and borrowers alike experienced its effects in 2021, ranging from FAFSA application changes to student loan servicers dropping out of the business to an overhaul of the public student loan forgiveness program.
With all the changes made regarding student loans, it can be difficult for borrowers to keep up with everything they need to know.
That’s what we’re here for. We’ve rounded up things you need to know about student loans in 2022.
1. Payments Ramp Up Again in May
Student loan payments are scheduled to begin again on May 1, 2022.
In late December, President Joe Biden extended the student loan payment pause through April 2022. That was helpful for many borrowers who might have struggled to find consistent work and pay off debt during the ongoing pandemic.
The automatic student loan forbearance program was part of the CARES Act, the COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress in March 2020.
With the omicron variant raging at the end of 2021, the extension will allow borrowers more time to regroup as they try to recover from the financial impact of the pandemic.
According to a survey by the Student Debt Crisis Center conducted before the latest pause extension, 89% of fully-employed student loan borrowers said they were not financially secure enough to resume payments in February. Now they have an additional 90 days.
With the extension, borrowers might want to take advantage of The Penny Hoarder’s advice on how to be prepared to tackle that student loan debt payoff.
2. Changes in the Student Loan Servicing Industry
The last year was eventful for the student loan servicing industry. Around 15 million borrowers were affected when student loan servicers like FedLoan, Granite State, and Navient decided to pull out of the servicing business.
The timing could certainly have been better. With the ongoing payment pause, adding servicing changes only complicates what would already be a difficult situation for both servicers and borrowers when payments resume in May.
The logistics involved in transferring millions of borrowers’ accounts to new servicers will put the industry to the test.
If you don’t know who your new servicer is, log in to studentaid.gov and look for the “my servicers” section. If you’re not sure how to log in, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.
3. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
In the past, the federal forgiveness program has been plagued by poor communication and conflicting information from both servicers and the U.S. Department of Education.
That said, the DOE announced late in 2021 that 550,000 borrowers will see “accelerated forgiveness” as part of a loan forgiveness overhaul.
That meant automatic student loan forgiveness for tens of thousands.
This is (crosses fingers) great news for borrowers who work in the public sector, are veterans or have qualifying disabilities. Prompted by the pandemic, the DOE promised to make “transformational changes” to the program that would bring those hundreds of thousands of borrowers closer to forgiveness.
Will the DOE actually follow through? Stay tuned in 2022 and the years to come.
4. Changes to the FAFSA Application Form
The FAFSA (short for Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form is notoriously difficult, confusing and lengthy. So it was good news for potential borrowers when in 2021 the Federal Student Aid Office announced upcoming changes to the form.
For 2022, however, those changes appear to be mostly cosmetic.
The only significant changes will be that having a drug conviction or failing to register with the Selective Service System will no longer affect a potential borrower’s ability to apply for financial aid — even though those questions will still remain on the form in 2022.
The FAFSA form for the 2022-2023 school year is currently available with a deadline to apply for federal aid by June 30, 2023. State FAFSA deadlines vary by state.
If you need help getting through the lengthy form, check out The Penny Hoarder’s step-by-step guide to how to fill out FAFSA.
5. Retirees Will Continue to Deal With Student Loan Debt
Student loans aren’t just for traditional college-age kids anymore. At the end of 2020, borrowers age 50 or older held about 22% of the nation’s $1.6 trillion student debt burden, the AARP reports.
That’s a surprising number that only points to the ongoing, rising costs of public education over the last few decades. That money may be owed from their own schooling or helping their children with their college educations.
With that, retirement may seem out of reach for someone in their 50s or 60s still dealing with a load of student loan debt. But there are options, including:
- Avoid refinancing federal student loans.
- Lower federal payments with income-driven repayment.
- Choose income-contingent repayment for Parent PLUS loans.
- Pay off as much of your private loans as you can.
- Look into Student Loan Forgiveness if you have a disability.
- Have a tough conversation with your kids, asking them to contribute more.
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