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Student loan help during the COVID-19 pandemic

"There are plenty of lenders of private student loans who are offering hardship plans."

MINNEAPOLIS — The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES, suspends payments for all federally held student loans until Sept. 30, 2020

Interest rates on all federal student loans have also been reduced to zero until Sept. 30, 2020. 

But what if your student loans don't qualify?

If you took out a private loan to pay for school, your loan is not included in the CARES Act. Additionally, certain types of Federal Family Education Loans, or FFEL, do not qualify, because they are held by commercial banks.

"A lot of those loans (FFEL), they're federally held, but a few of them are commercially held," said Shannon Doyle, Program Manager of Partnerships and Financial Education for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. "They originated with banks and are still held by those banks, technically. So those loans would not qualify."

 Doyle says if you have a private loan or FFEL loan, the first thing you should do is call your lender. 

"There are plenty of lenders of private student loans who are offering hardship plans," she said. 

For example, Navient is allowing some borrowers to postpone payments for up to three months, but there's still interest. 

Doyle says that's often the case.

"I haven't heard of anyone yet who is changing the interest rate for private student loans," she said. 

If you're in a really tough spot and need to pick which bills you'll pay, Doyle says private student loans should come before high-interest credit cards. 

"With private student loans, they'll go into a default more quickly than a credit card will," she said. 

Doyle says private student loans typically default 30 to 90 days after a missed payment. Credit cards, she says, usually give 120 to 180 days before asking for payment in full or sending it to a collection agency. 

Lutheran Social Service offers free and confidential counseling for anyone who needs help managing their student loans. Anyone interested should call 888-577-2227.

KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and see what companies in Minnesota are hiring. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11

The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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