TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9) — The Biden Administration announced an extension to the student loan payment pause through May 1, 2022 as the Omicron variant continues to spread. According to the announcement by the U.S Department of Education, the pause will allow the administration to assess the impacts of the variant on borrowers and give them more time to prepare for repayment.
Experts from the University of Arizona and Pima Community College said it's still important to prepare for repayment when the extension is over. Art Young, the director of the University of Arizona's Financial Aid office, said it's vital to make the loan payments on time and check if your account information is correct.
He said if you aren't able to make the payment on time, contact your loan servicer as soon as possible.
"The biggest reason students go into default or have any problems repaying their loans is because the servicers can’t get in touch with the borrower," he said. "My best advice is to reach out explain your circumstances and they can talk about different options."
According to a recent study by Student Loan Hero, Arizonans are among the most indebt in the country with an average of about $32,000 and a monthly payment of $273.
Pima Community College's Aurie Clifford who is the assistant director title four compliance in the financial aid office said throughout the pandemic, people redid their budgets so adding this payment back in can be difficult.
"If you're having difficulty and you get that initial coupon and you have that freak out moment, that is the most critical time," she said. "Ask questions. Ask a lot of questions. Don't be afraid because this is your credit. This is your life."
She said in addition to all the information available to help answer questions about loans, there are programs available to help with the actual payments.
"Actually the federal government actually has a lot of programs to help you," she said. "So if you're experiencing cancer, you're a veteran, a health professional or in law enforcement, there are a lot of programs out there, but you have to call and inquire about them."
One particular program is the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan ForgivenessProgram, or TEPSLF.
"So if you work for a public service organization you might be eligible to forgive your loans," she said. "With TEPSLF if somebody is right there – you have to make 120 payments – but under TEPSLF, if you apply for that, they may just write off your last ten payments.”
There's an online tool that can help borrowers inquire if they are eligible for TEPSLF called the Help Tool Ninja.
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