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Federal government drops interest rates on student loans to 0%, but private loans may not be affected

Posted at 4:40 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 18:30:14-04

CLEVELAND — Maureen Riley graduated with her Master's Degree in Urban Planning in December.

She got her diploma — and $30,000 in student loans.

"I try not to think about it because I don't have a job right now," she said.

Riley said she is thankful she was able to pay for her undergraduate degree without taking out a loan. She doesn't have to start loan payments until June, but she's trying to be proactive. While she's looking for jobs, Riley is part of the "gig economy."

"Right now, I'm just doing [Door Dash] and [Postmates]. So that's just barely getting me by," she said.

Along with millions of other Americans, Riley could see help soon. When Congress passed the CARES Act, lawmakers factored in student loan debt relief.

"I've been in this industry for decades and I've never see anything close to the relief that's being offered to most student loan borrowers today," said industry expert Betsy Mayotte.

Mayotte founded The Institute for Student Loan Advisors (TISLA).

The federal government lowered the interest rate on all federally held student loans to 0%. However, that will not lower the monthly payment; instead it will apply the payment entirely to the principle balance. Some private loans may not apply.

"An example of a private loan that will not be eligible for those waivers would be one that you took our directly from your school," Mayotte said.

The government has also temporarily halted collections and wage garnishment for borrowers who’ve fallen behind on their federal student loans. It has instructed private collection agencies to follow suit.

"If their balance today is $17,000, their balance at the end of September will be $17,000," Mayotte said.

Riley said with her loan payments looming, anything will help.

"So the stimulus package really is helping people at least - at the bare minimum - without any interest so it is good," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article