Survey: CARES Act eases worries for student loan borrowers

Before CARES Act protections kicked in, a majority of Americans with federal student loan debt were worried they wouldn’t be able to make their payments, a new survey finds.

According to the survey, 68 percent of student loan borrowers were concerned about making their payments during the COVID-19 crisis — including 79 percent of borrowers who were laid off due to the pandemic and 83 percent of those who have been furloughed.

Results of the survey were released Tuesday by LendEDU, an online marketplace for financial products including student loans and student loan refinancing.

Under the CARES Act, borrowers can skip payments on federal student loans until Sept. 30, the interest rate on federal student loans has been cut to 0 percent, and there’s no student loan debt collection on defaulted student loans.

Forbes points out not all federal student loans are covered. For example, Family Federal Education Loan Program loans — held by about 12 million borrowers — are backed by the federal government, but were mostly were issued by private banks prior to 2010. Those FFELP loans aren’t eligible for any CARES Act benefits.

LendEDU’s survey of 1,000 adult Americans currently repaying federal student loans was conducted April 20.

Other key findings:
  • 54 percent of borrowers said they wouldn’t have been able to make their very next federal loan payment, including 61 percent of those who have lost their jobs.
  • 78 percent of private student loan borrowers are not sure they can make payments on their private student loan debt, including 83 percent of those who have been laid off.
  • 41 percent of borrowers will continue to make federal loan payments during the grace period, while 43 percent will not.
  • Among the 43 percent who will not make payments, 34 percent will spend the money on food and supplies, 20 percent on a mortgage or rent payment, and 15 percent will pay other bills (like cable and credit card).
  • 17 percent said that they will not have any extra money to spend despite not making federal loan payments — showing budgets are tight, especially for federal student loan borrowers.
  • 14 percent of respondents said they were contacted in a widely-reported scam that is offering to suspend federal student loan payments for a fee.
  • 27 percent said they will consider refinancing their federal student loans during the grace period.
  • 45 percent were not aware of the recent federal student loan changes, while 52 percent were.

View the full report here.