Under income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, federal student loan borrowers can have the remaining balance of their student loans forgiven after 20 or 25 years of qualifying payments. On April 19, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that it will give borrowers credit towards loan forgiveness for some months of repayment that were not counted previously, which could increase loan forgiveness opportunities for Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) student loan borrowers. See https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/department-education-announces-actions-fix-longstanding-failures-student-loan-programs.
This action can benefit borrowers with FFELP loan(s) that are commercially-held, but only if you consolidate your FFELP loan(s) into Direct Loans. Don’t wait to consolidate - you must consolidate before ED makes the adjustment, which is scheduled to be no earlier than January 1, 2023. Because FFELP loans tend to be older, some borrowers could make substantial progress toward loan forgiveness—and potentially get their loans forgiven.
What is changing?
Normally, IDR loan forgiveness is available after 20 or 25 years of payments made under an IDR plan. Months for which no payments were made would not count, nor would payments made under a different repayment plan.
However, ED has announced that it will do a one-time adjustment to also count any month spent in repayment, some deferment periods (prior to 2013), and some forbearance periods toward loan forgiveness. For some borrowers, these changes mean that they will receive additional months or years of credit towards loan forgiveness. For borrowers with loans that have been in repayment for more than 20 or 25 years, those loans may immediately qualify for forgiveness.
How can borrowers with FFELP loans receive the one-time adjustment?
If you have a commercially-held FFELP loan, you might benefit from the IDR one-time adjustment if you consolidate your FFELP loans into Direct Loans before ED completes implementation of its plans. ED estimates this will be no sooner than January 1, 2023. Therefore, you should apply as soon as possible, as the consolidation process can take one month or more to complete. (https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/idr-account-adjustment) (https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/consolidation)
You can apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan online or with a paper form. (https://studentaid.gov/app/launchConsolidation.action) There are no fees and no credit check. The interest rate on a consolidation loan is based on the weighted average of the consolidated loans’ interest rates, effectively locking in the rates you’re being charged now (subject to rounding up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (1/8%). New Direct Consolidation Loans will also be eligible for the COVID relief measures for government-owned student loans, including 0% interest and the ongoing monthly payment pause.
Who holds my loans?
To see information about all of your federal student loans, including both Direct and FFELP loans, log into www.studentaid.gov using your FSA ID and select “My Aid” under your name.