The CARES Act brought relief to millions of federal student loan borrowers by suspending federal student loan payments, dropping interest rates to 0%, and stopping collections calls for defaulted loans.
All federal student loans owned by the United States Department of Education (ED) are covered by the CARES Act, including:
- Direct Stafford Loans
- Direct Grad PLUS Loans
- Direct Parent PLUS Loans
- Direct Consolidation Loans
- FFEL Program loans
- Perkins Loans
- Defaulted HEAL loans
Unsure about which types of loans you have?
Do you know what to do if your loans aren’t covered by the CARES Act?
We’ll explore it all below.
*Only FFEL Program loans and Perkins Loans held by the federal government are eligible for coverage.
Where Can I See What Types of Student Loans I Have?
Use the following methods to determine what type of loans you have and who owns your loans:
Run Your Credit Report (for Free)
Your credit report contains a record of your credit history from places like banks, lenders, governments, collections agencies, and credit card companies. You’ll find the information on your student loans that you need when you run a credit report.
Normally, running your credit report more than once per year costs money. This year, it doesn’t. In May 2020, Experian, Equifax, and Transunion (the three major credit reporting agencies) announced that you can check your credit score once per week for free through April 2021.
Here is how to get your free credit reports. Look through them and find you student loans. Make note of which companies service your loans. Refer to the complete list of federal loan servicers to compare.
While you have it handy, it’s a good idea to check your credit report for errors too.
You can also find out what types of federal student loans you have by visiting StudentAid.gov and following these steps:
- Log into your FederalStudentAid account using your FSA ID. It’s the same login information used for filing the FAFSA.
- Upon login, you’ll see a dashboard that displays your total loan balance. Click to view details.
- Scroll until you see “loan types”
- Click the dropdown arrow next to each loan type to see the specific kind of loan you borrowed
Visit Your Loan Servicer’s Website
Visit the website(s) where you make your federal student loan payments. These are your loan servicers. Log into your account(s) and then view your loan details. You should see the names of all of the different types of federal student loans you’ve borrowed as well as details about who owns the loans.
If you’re still not sure which loans are eligible, contact your loan servicer(s) and ask them directly.
What Do I Need to Do If My Loans are Covered by the CARES Act?
You don’t have to do anything to receive the benefits of the CARES Act student loan relief measures. The Department of Education (ED) automatically put all qualified federal student loans in administrative forbearance through December 31, 2020. All autopayments ceased and the interest rates dropped to 0%. Collections for defaulted loans stopped too.
While you didn’t have to do anything to put your loans in forbearance, there are a few different actions that you can take now:
Request a Refund If You’re Eligible: Did you make a payment during administrative forbearance? You can request a refund. Any payments made from March 13, 2020 through December 31, 2020 can be refunded. Simply contact your loan servicer to make the request.
Enroll in an Income-Driven Repayment Plan: Apply for an income-driven repayment plan to reduce your monthly payments once payments resume in January. If you’re already enrolled and have experienced a loss of income, recertify your income to lower your monthly payment.
Make Payments During Forbearance: You can continue making payments on your loans while they’re in forbearance. You’ll just need to make the payments manually.
Opt-Out of Forbearance: You can even ask your loan servicer to take you out of forbearance. Do this if you want to continue to receive monthly bills and make autopayments. If you choose this route, you can opt back in at any time from now until January 1, 2021. You can also enroll in an income-driven repayment plan to lower your monthly payment.
Leave Your Loans Alone: Ignore the loans until your monthly payments resume in January. Your loan servicer will send you a reminder before your first payment is due.
What Can I Do If My Loans Aren’t Covered by the CARES Act?
The CARES Act provided some much-needed relief for federal student loan borrowers, but it didn’t do anything for the 9 million borrowers with private student loans or the borrowers with other student loans not backed by the ED.
If you have loans not covered by the CARES Act, you do have options to help make payments more manageable during the coronavirus.
Check if They’re Covered By Private Student Loan Coronavirus Relief Measures
Private student loan coronavirus relief measures didn’t roll out on a national scale, but several states teamed up to make it happen for their residents.
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Washington D.C. negotiated with several private student lenders to secure these COVID-19 student loan relief measures:
- At least 90 days of forbearance
- No late payment fees
- A 90-day pause on debt collections lawsuits
- No negative credit reporting
- Assistance enrolling in debt assistance programs
The above benefits only apply to borrowers who reside in one of the states listed above and have private student loans or commercially held Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) from a participating lender.
Participating lenders include:
- Aspire Resources
- College Ave Student Loan Servicing
- Earnest Operations
- EdFinancial Services
- Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corp.
- LendKey Technologies
- SoFi Lending
- Tuition Options
- United Guaranty, now Arch MI
- Upstart Network
- Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority
- Vermont Student Assistance Corp.
Contact your private lender directly if you have questions about the assistance.
Consolidate Perkins & FFEL Loans Into a Direct Consolidation Loan
Perkins Loans and Federal Family Education (FFEL) Program Loans not owned by ED aren’t eligible for CARES Act coverage. You can make them eligible, though.
Contact your loan servicer to see if you can consolidate those loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan. The Direct Consolidation Loan would go right into administrative forbearance with a 0% interest rate and suspended loan payments.
Just know that by consolidating, any outstanding interest will capitalize and get added to the principal balance. Plus, once the interest-free period is over, the interest rate on your consolidated loan might be higher than the current interest rate(s).
Talk to your loan servicer about your options. They can tell you how a Direct Consolidation Loan would compare to your current arrangement so that you can make an informed decision about your loan portfolio.
Talk to Your Private Lender about Borrowers Assistance
Your private lender may not offer coronavirus relief assistance, but they might have other borrower protections.
Reach out to your lender—or search on their website—to find out information about economic hardship forbearance, unemployment forbearance, temporary payment plans, or any other borrower assistance programs.
If your current lender(s) can’t help you, it might be time to refinance your student loans.
Refinance Your Private Student Loans During the Coronavirus
Refinancing your private student loans can get you the borrower protections and flexibility you need even without CARES Act coverage.
For example, refinancing to a longer-term will lower your monthly payments. Going this route does increase the amount you’ll pay over the life of the loan, but it’s one way to avoid default while you’re experiencing a change in personal finances.
Seek out a lender that offers low-interest rates, flexible repayment terms, generous economic hardship forbearance, and no fees too.
If you’re struggling to meet minimum requirements for refinancing, consider asking a creditworthy relative to cosign the loan for you. Many of the companies we partner with offer cosigner release after a set number of on-time payments. See lenders with cosigner release here.
We recommend only refinancing your private student loans at this time since federal student loan interest rates are set to 0%. And, before you rush into refinancing, read about the top 11 student loan refinancing mistakes.
FAQs Relating to “Which Student Loans are Covered By the CARES Act?”
What loans don’t qualify for CARES Act relief?
Educational loans or debt owned by any entity other than the Department of Education do not qualify for coverage under the CARES Act. This includes private student loans, personal loans you took out to pay for your education, and credit card debt you accumulated to pay for your education.
Commercially held FFEL Program loans and Perkins Loans aren’t eligible for coverage either.
Are private student loans covered by the CARES Act?
No, private student loans are not covered by the CARES Act. Talk to your loan servicer about your options if you’re experiencing financial hardship and need help.
Do any of the student loan relief measures apply to my defaulted HEAL Loans?
Yes, the Department of Education owns all defaulted Health Education Assistance Loan (HEAL) Program loans, making them eligible for CARES Act student loan relief. The interest rate for these loans dropped to 0% on March 13, 2020 and will remain at 0% until at least December 31, 2020. Collections activity for defaulted HEAL loans has ceased as well and will not resume until the start of 2021.
Do parent loans qualify for the coronavirus payment pause?
Only Direct Parent PLUS loans qualify for COVID-19 student loan relief measures, which include payment suspension. Private loans taken out by parents to cover the cost of their child’s education aren’t eligible.
Are unsubsidized federal student loans covered by the CARES Act?
The CARES Act covers all subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans owned by the Department of Education. Both types of loans receive the same benefits.
Compare the Best Student Loan Refinance Rates
Here are our top student loan refinance picks for 2019
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Student Debt Relief Loan Refinancing Advertiser Disclosure
College Ave: College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. (1)The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. (2)$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. (3)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 1/27/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
LendKey: Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
CommonBond: Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate.
Splash Financial: Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval.com
Earnest: To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest’s fixed-rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay Discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/23/19. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice.
Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 303 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
Ascent: Ascent’s undergraduate and graduate student are funded by Bank of Lake Mills or DR Bank, each Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 9/1/2023 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.
*The minimum amount is $2,001 except for the state of Massachusetts. Minimum loan amount for borrowers with a Massachusetts permanent address is $6,001.