President Joe Biden’s announcement Wednesday that student loan holders you could receive up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness was good news for many of the 45 million Americans with federal student loans, as did its extension of the current payment moratorium “one last time” until December 31.
While many borrowers took advantage of the pause, some continued to make payments during the freeze, taking advantage of the zero percent interest rate to reduce their principal.
Under Biden’s plan, qualifying borrowers are eligible for up to $10,000 in debt cancellation, up to $20,000 if they are federal Pell Grant recipients. That is expected to wipe out the balances of 15 million borrowers, or about a third of all Americans who have federal student loans.
But what if you were making payments during the pandemic only to find out that your debt could potentially have been wiped out? According to the federal Office of Student Aid, borrowers can request a refund of any payments they have made on student loans since loan forbearance began on March 13, 2020.
Here’s what you need to know about repayments on loan payments made during the pandemic.
For more information on student debt, find out if you qualify for a public student loan forgiveness waiverthe benefits (and drawbacks) to refinance your student loan and how Avoid Student Loan Forgiveness Scams.
How do I request a refund of my student loan payments?
To request a refund of any payment made since March 13, 2020, the Department of Education recommends that you contact your specific loan servicer to request a refund. (Over 40% of all student loans in the US are serviced by Nelnet.)
A word of caution: many borrower sites have been experiencing delays by the number of visitors. On Thursday, Nelnet tweeted Borrowers may wish to postpone calls due to “high phone volume.”
If you are contacting, please have details about your loan and payments available, including how much you paid and the dates of your payments. And prepare for a long call: Reddit users on the Student Loans subreddit report being on the phone for several hours working through the process.
The Department of Education’s Federal Office of Student Aid website also has information about loan services and the forgiveness plan, though the site has also been experiencing delays due to high traffic after Biden’s announcement.
Read more: How to apply for student loan forgiveness
What types of loans are eligible for payment refunds?
If you have been making payments on federal loans from the Department of Education, you can request a partial or full refund since the loan forbearance took effect on March 13, 2020.
Payments on other types of loans: Non-Delinquent Perkins and Health Education Assistance Loans (HEAL) that are not owned by the Department of Education, Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) that are not owned by the Department of Education, and private student loans are not eligible for repayment
If I get a refund, will debt forgiveness be applied to my pre-pandemic loan amount?
Yes, according to The Wall Street Journal, as long as you meet all other requirements.
What happens if I paid my loans in full during the pause?
Several borrowers who paid off their debt during the pandemic said on Twitter that their loan servicers told them that if they received a refund, their loans would be reopened and forgiveness would be applied to the revised balance.
The Department of Education has said that borrowers who have paid off all of their federal student loans since March 13, 2020, still qualify for debt forgiveness, the Wall Street Journal reported.
However, CNET has not yet heard back from the department to verify this information. We recommend that you speak with your loan servicer.