This post is from our partner Summer, your trusted student loan advisor. To start your free Summer account and find, compare, and enroll in federal loan assistance and forgiveness programs, click here.
Private student loans are not covered by the student loan provisions in the CARES Act, which leaves thousands of borrowers who have lost income due to the current crisis unsure of what to do next. If you’re a private student loan borrower who is having trouble making payments during this time, here are a few of your options:
First, contact your lender to see what assistance they can offer you. Many private student loan lenders are offering assistance or relief on a case by case basis. Some (like Navient, Nelnet, CommonBond, and SoFi) have made commitments to offering concrete relief options — you can find a list compiled by the state of Connecticut here.
When you contact your lender, it’s helpful to ask specifically about the terms of any forbearance or assistance offered. For example, ask if there will be any capitalization of interest accrued during a forbearance. Those details will help you make an informed decision about the best next step for your loan situation.
Here’s an example of an email you can send to your private student loan lender to request assistance:
“I am currently experiencing loss of income and financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 crisis. I am requesting a temporary forbearance in payments OR a reduced monthly payment that allows me to meet my other necessary living expenses. What forbearance and repayment options can you offer to help?”
Second, check to see if your state is offering its own relief program for private student loans and other federal loans that are not covered by the CARES Act. Many states have reached agreements with private lenders to offer temporary forbearances on private loans as well as halts on late fees, negative credit reporting, and debt collection lawsuits. For real-time state-by-state information, check this list.
It’s important to note that you will need to reach out to your lender to request these benefits — they will not be applied automatically.
Third, be aware of your rights. If your lender provides incorrect information, makes an error on your account, or denies you benefits that should be offered, you can report the issue to your state Department of Finance or student loan ombudsman, the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant, or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
If your lender isn’t offering assistance for private student loans, or if your state hasn’t issued assistance, you can also contact your lender and your elected officials and representatives to ask that they address the issue.
As many of you may know already, there are unfortunately untrustworthy companies that may call or contact you offering something like “loan forgiveness” or “debt relief” for a fee. Be careful before providing your information to these services if they don’t seem reputable.
Finally, if you’re not having trouble making payments, you may not need to do anything differently. With interest rates currently at historic lows, it may actually be a good time to consider refinancing your private loans. If you’ve already refinanced, you may be able to do so again for an even lower rate!
Different lenders will adjust to new interest rates at different times, so we’d recommend looking at multiple lenders to find the lowest interest rate you can. Summer’s free refinancing tool is a great way to compare options.