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With student loan payments resuming and inflation still high, many struggle to afford the basics

According to the Education Department, about 40% of borrowers who owed a payment in October when payments resumed failed to make that payment by mid-November.

Borrowers won’t face late fees for a one-year grace period, but Betsy Mayotte, the president of the nonprofit The Institute of Student Loan Advisors, warned interest is still building.

“If the loan ends up defaulting, it’s going to be a big hit on your credit. Future debt that you need to take on — a mortgage, a credit card, a car loan — is likely going to have a much higher interest rate, and therefore cost you more,” she said.

Here’s Where Student Loan Forgiveness Stands After a Flurry of Developments

Biden’s new plan for broad student loan forgiveness is now undergoing a formal rulemaking process. Public hearings to determine who, exactly, should qualify for this relief wrapped up in December, but the details haven’t been finalized.

“We’re all in a wait-and-see mode,” Mayotte says. “Waiting to see what the final rules look like sometime this summer and fall — and waiting to see if there will be court challenges and, if so, how successful they will be.”

Student loan refinance rates: How they work and what to know

The biggest drawback to refinancing is giving up federal student loan repayment protections, like access to payment postponements (deferment and forbearance), income-driven repayment plans and pathways toward loan forgiveness. Once you refinance a federal loan with a private lender, there’s no going back.

Mayotte said she’s seen many borrowers regret refinancing their government-held education debt because they missed out on a forgiveness program or the interest-free repayment pause due to COVID-19.

“The safety nets are so robust … and they’re so unique to the federal loan program,” she said.

More Student Loan Changes Are on the Way. Here’s What to Expect

The Biden administration is pursuing a Plan B to pass student debt cancellation, after the Supreme Court struck down its plan to erase up to $20,000 in debt per borrower earning less than $125,000.

The new plan would be more limited in scope and apply to fewer borrowers. For example, if the interest on a loan grew to be larger than the borrower’s principal balance, the government would erase any amount above what was originally borrowed.

Policymakers wrapped up negotiations on the new plan in December, and there could be a draft version as early as April — but legal challenges and a presidential election this year could derail the plan, says Betsy Mayotte, president and founder of The Institute of Student Loan Advisors.

“The way negotiations left, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about what this might look like,” Mayotte says.

4 Key Dates Student Loan Borrowers Should Know in 2024

Federal student loan borrowers have faced a seemingly never-ending barrage of changes with their loans over the past few years. Now that payments are back, it’s tempting to tune out and assume everything is business as usual.

But doing so would be costly: There are several key deadlines, benefit programs and potential issues that borrowers need to keep in mind in 2024, says Betsy Mayotte, the president of The Institute of Student Loan Advisors.

Money spoke with Mayotte to determine the biggest student loan developments that are likely coming in 2024 — and what you can do to prepare for them. If you are among the 40 million borrowers with federal student debt, here are the key dates and action items you should add to your 2024 checklist.