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Student loan repayment chaos as borrowers face delays

Millions of Americans must start repaying their federal student loans again from October, but some have reported delays as they try to figure out what they need to pay each month.

A three-year pause on repayments due to the COVID-19 pandemic ended this month, and interest started accruing again in September.

The Supreme Court in June rejected President Joe Biden’s plan to wipe away $400 billion in student loan debt. His administration announced the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan, a new income-driven repayment plan with some of the most lenient terms ever.

But some borrowers have described the logistical challenges they faced as they prepared for a return to repayments, saying they struggled to find out how much they would owe in the weeks before their bills were due.

Kate Nordstrom, 31, a consultant for a software company, applied for the SAVE plan in July. She told MarketWatch that the government’s website said she would owe about $191 each month, but her loan servicer informed her at one point that she would have to pay about $750. She was forced to file complaints with the Department of Education, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and her state and her application is now being reviewed.

“I’m at the whim of whatever unfortunate individual has to process my stuff,” she said.

Many loan servicers changed during the pandemic, so a number of borrowers are dealing with a different one than they had back in March 2020.

Some took to social media to report the difficulties they were experiencing when trying to get information from their loan servicer.

“I always had great experiences with nelnet before the student loan pause,” Denise Huxtable wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “Present day? they must not have any customer service operators because the hold times are crazy. and no option to be placed in a queue to be called back.”

Lindsey Galbo-Thomma wrote: “I’ve been on hold with @Nelnet for 2.5 hrs because they apparently don’t have a call back service despite the fact it’s almost 2024?”

Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and three Democratic colleagues wrote to four federal loan servicers—MOHELA, Nelnet, EdFinancial, and Maximus Federal Services Inc.—asking for information about their readiness after reports that many borrowers were reporting long hold times, they were not being provided with accurate information and loan servicers’ websites were crashing.

“This is deeply troubling: borrowers who cannot get ahold of their student loan servicer ahead of repayment may not know their payment amount, and they cannot learn the various payment plans to determine the best one for their specific circumstances or determine their eligibility for various forms of loan relief,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

On its website, MOHELA says that “due to the unprecedented event of millions of student loan borrowers returning to repayment at the same time, you may experience longer than normal wait times to speak to a Customer Service Representative.”

The message adds that “self-service is available 24/7 by logging in to mohela.com or StudentAid.gov. There you can explore your repayment plan options which may help to lower your monthly payment amount. We appreciate your patience.”

Borrowers who don’t make repayments after the pause ends will be protected from the worst of the repercussions.

Biden has announced a 12-month grace period to help those who struggle after payments restart. Those who don’t make payments during the first 12 months after payments resume won’t be at risk of default and it won’t hurt their credit score. However, interest will accrue whether they make payments or not.

Newsweek has contacted MOHELA, Nelnet, EdFinancial and Maximus Federal Services Inc. for comment via email.

Have you had difficulties with your student loan repayments? Email k.rahman@newsweek.com

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