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What you need to know as student loan repayments restart

A quick lesson on student loan repayments
WATCH: With student loan repayments set to resume, business reporter Diti Kohli gives a quick lesson on what to expect and how to reduce your payments.

The three-year pandemic pause on federal student loan payments ended Thursday, leaving borrowers to contend with what they still owe.

Earlier this summer, the Biden administration said that loan forgiveness remains a possibility, even after the Supreme Court struck down an original plan to eliminate up to $20,000 of higher education debt per student.

But as the new proposal comes together, some 45 million Americans are required to start paying back their loans. Here is a breakdown of what you need to know about the return of the monthly bill, as well as programs you can use to save money.


When do you have to start repaying federal student loans?

Repayments begin on October 1, but interest on student loans started to accrue on September 1 — the day after the pandemic pause ended.

Interest rates on federal student loans are always fixed, so the speed at which the amount you owe is growing now should be the same now as in early 2020.

According to the Federal Reserve, Americans owe an average of $200 to $299 monthly in loan payments. In total, student loan debtors are expected to begin repaying $10 billion a month starting in October.

The Education Data Initiative found that the burden of repayment will weigh heavily on Americans under age 50, as that age group makes up 77 percent of student debt holders nationwide.

People of color generally have higher amounts to pay back, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. White debtors owe an average of $17,850, while Black and Hispanic borrowers typically owe between $21,000 and $23,000.

What should you do now that the pause is over?

The federal government recommends that all debtors — regardless of how much they owe — take a few steps to ensure their payment plans are still set up correctly.

Many borrowers may have a different loan servicer now than they did before the pandemic, so they should visit to make sure their address and servicer are in order.


If a borrower does indeed have a different loan servicer, they need to set up an account with them.

Borrowers should also consider whether the plan they were using to repay the debt before the pandemic is right for them. Repayment offerings shifted in the past few years, as the Biden administration expanded opportunities for forgiveness and reduced interest rates for many Americans, particularly those working in the public sector.

Debtors can compare payment plans using the Loan Simulator at

What are the primary repayment plan options?

There are two: Traditional payments come with level payments over a set period of time. By contrast, income-dependent repayment plans decide your monthly payments based on how much money you make.

There are about a half-dozen older versions of IDR plans, but there’s also a new one: SAVE, or Saving on a Valuable Education. The Biden administration is touting it as the “most affordable student loan plan” yet.

Under SAVE, payments are decided by the difference between your income and a marker well below the national poverty mark for your family size. That means most Americans who make minimum wage will be offered $0 monthly payments.

It lowers the payment rates on both undergraduate and graduate student loans. It’s also applicable to federal undergraduate or graduate loans, but not Parent PLUS loans.

Also, if borrowers make their monthly payment, their balance won’t grow due to unpaid interest.


Earlier this summer, the Biden administration said that loan forgiveness remains a possibility, even after the Supreme Court struck down an original plan to eliminate up to $20,000 of higher education debt per student.Seth Wenig/Associated Press

What if you were already using an IDR plan before COVID?

Borrowers who were already on the pre-existing REPAYE plan will be automatically enrolled in SAVE.

But if a debtor used a different IDR plan before the pandemic and intends to remain on the same one, they need to recertify their income. This means a borrower will have to provide updated information on how much they make to their servicer to determine the new monthly payment.

The good news is that borrowers have at least six months after the payment pause ends to do so.

What if you cannot afford to make repayments in October?

The government is offering an on-ramp transition period until Sept. 30, 2024, for borrowers unable to make payments. That means you can miss payments without being considered delinquent or hurting your credit rating.

The problem? Your interest will still accrue, and you may owe more on the other side. But if your loans qualify for the pandemic pause, you’re automatically eligible.

Diti Kohli can be reached at her @ditikohli_.