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Paying my student loans

Produced by Nathan Robinson and Kevin O’Sullivan with the assistance of Attorney Adam Minsky
Reviewed May 2022

During the COVID-19 Pandemic the government made 3 general changes to “qualifying loans:”

  1. You do not need to make payments on “qualifying loans” from March 13, 2020- August 31, 2022.
  2. The interest rates on “qualifying loans” is 0% from March 13, 2020- August 31, 2021.
  3. The government will not force you to pay back your student loan either:
  • By taking money out of your pay – "wage garnishment",
  • Taking your Social Security benefits,
  • Taking your Tax Benefits, or
  • Taking other federal benefits.

Only Federal Loans Qualify

A qualifying loan is a federal student loan that the federal government owns now. Even “defaulted loans” or loans that not been paid on time can be qualifying loans.  If you have the following types of loans, you may qualify for the benefits above.  

  • Federal Direct Loans (which include Subsidized, Unsubsidized, PLUS, and Consolidation),
  • Federal FFEL Program Loans,
  • Federal Perkins Loans, and
  • Defaulted HEAL Loans

How do I know if I have a qualifying loan?

You can find out who owns your loans online or over the phone:


  • Enter your login information at,
  • Click “view details.”  That will take you to your “Aid Summary” page. 
  • Scroll down until you see a section called “Loan Breakdown.” 
  • If the servicer name for your loan starts with “DEPT OF ED,” the federal government owns it.  The loan is a qualified loan.

By Phone

Call your loan servicer. Your servicer is who you pay your loans to. Or

Call StudentAid: 1-800-433-3243 (1-800-4-FED-AID) or
1-800-730-8913 - TTY if you have hearing loss or hearing difficulties 

I have a student loan, but I am not getting the COVID-19 benefits.  Why?

The federal government does not own all federal loans. Federal loans can be owed by places like:

  • Commercial lenders,
  • a private bank, or
  • colleges and universities. 

These loans are not “qualifying loans,” and you cannot get COVID-19 student loan benefits with them. 

These loans include:

  • Commercially-owned FFEL Program Loans
  • Commercially-owned HEAL Loans, or
  • Perkins Loans owned by the college or university that you attended.

If you have one of these loans, call or check online to find who owns your loans.

I cannot pay my loan and my loans are not “qualifying loans”?

Contact your loan servicer, the company you send your student loan payments to. Ask them if they have any programs that can help you.

What if I make payments during the forbearance period?

You can get any payment you make between March 13, 2020 and August 31, 2021 refunded. Ask your servicer.

 If you do not ask for a refund, your payments will:

  • First pay any interest you owed before March 13, 2020.  
  • Then go to paying off your principal debt amount, the amount you borrowed.

Can I make partial payments?

Yes, you can also make partial payments.

What if my payments have not been deferred, my loans are not at 0% interest, my wages are still being taken, or I am not getting any of the other benefits?  What can I do?

Get as much information as possible.

Find out the kind of loans you have:

  • Use
  • Call the Department of Education’s hotline: 1-800-621-3115. Or,
  • Call your loan servicer. 

Ask them to give you the COVID-19 benefit for student loans that you think you should get.

If they do not give you the benefit you have a right to, you may have legal options to protect your rights.  The National Consumer Law Center and Student Defense filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education and the Department of Education’s Secretary, Betsy DeVos.  Share your story about what you were entitled to, but not given, at the National Consumer Law Center website

Talk to a private student loan lawyer to ask about your legal options. Go to the “Find a Lawyer by State” Section. Or find out if you qualify for a free lawyer.

What happens after January 31st?

Your monthly payments will be due after August 31, 2021.

Learn more:

  • See, “Announcements and Events,” and click on “Coronavirus and Forbearance Info for Students, Borrowers, and Parents.” 
  • On the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website, go to “Consumer Tools.,” “protect and manage your finances during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.”  This page lists student loans and other resources.
  • Log on to the National Student Loan Data System to get information about your loans.

Depending on your situation, you may need to talk to a lawyer to make sure your rights are protected and you are getting the right benefits.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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