One in four Americans will refuse to make student loan repayments when a three-year pause prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic ends in October, according to a poll conducted exclusively for Newsweek.
Interest on federal student loans began accumulating again on September 1, and borrowers need to start paying back loans from next month.
Many had been hoping their debt would be erased or reduced before the pause ended, but the Supreme Court this summer struck down President Joe Biden‘s $400 billion plan for mass student loan cancellation in the summer. The president has pledged to push ahead with a new debt-relief plan, but legal experts say that could also face challenges.
A poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies that surveyed 1,500 eligible voters between September 3 and 4 on behalf of Newsweek found that half currently have student loan debt and 24 percent owe more than $10,000.
The poll found that 58 percent of Americans who owe say they will have difficulty paying it off.
Of those who had student debt, 25 percent said they would absolutely consider refusing to repay it, while 33 percent said they would maybe consider it. Some 42 percent said they would not consider it at all.
Newsweek has previously spoken to former students who said they would refuse to make payments on ballooning student debt when the pause ends.
The repercussions of not making payments can be severe, and those who don’t pay risk default and a hit to their credit rating.
Biden announced a 12-month grace period this summer to help borrowers who struggle after payments restart. Those who don’t make payments in the 12 months after they resume won’t be at risk of default and it won’t affect their credit score. However, interest will accrue whether they make payments or not.
The poll also found that nearly half of Americans (49 percent) who are at least “slightly” familiar with the Biden administration’s plan for student loan forgiveness support it. Backing for the plan has remained steady—polling in July found 52 percent of those surveyed who were at least slightly familiar with the plan backed it.
Biden’s plan would have canceled $10,000 in student loan debt for those making less than $125,000 a year or households earning less than $250,000. Pell Grant recipients would have had an additional $10,000 in debt forgiven.
The Supreme Court’s 6-3 majority rejected arguments that the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students, known as the HEROES Act, gave Biden the power to cancel student debt. After the ruling, Biden said he would work toward a new path for student debt relief using the Higher Education Act.
Those who will struggle to make repayments can look into whether they qualify for an income-driven repayment plan.
Applications are now open for the new initiative that Biden has called “the most affordable student loan plan ever.”
Under the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan, more people will be eligible for not having to make repayments and interest will not accrue.
It will not require borrowers to make payments if they earn less than 225 percent of the federal poverty line—$32,800 a year for a single person or $67,500 for a family of four. The cutoff for current plans is 150 percent of the poverty line, or $22,000 a year for a single person.
Borrowers who would like to repay their federal student loans under an income-driven plan can apply through the Federal Student Aid website.
They can use the loan simulator tool at StudentAid.gov to calculate what their monthly payment would be under each available plan, and their long-term costs.
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