Fewer women than men feel ready to resume their student loan payments
For the past 16 months, the government has allowed federal student loan borrowers to put their (interest-free) repayment on hold to provide relief amid the coronavirus pandemic. This break – technically called “emergency abstention” – is expected to expire at the end of January.
But according to the results of our latest Student Loan Hero survey, many borrowers are not ready to start paying again.
In fact, nearly one in three people with a student loan said they were not ready to resume repayment. And that number was almost twice as high for women as it was for men.
- Despite the abstention, almost half of the borrowers continued to progress towards debt repayment. (Read more)
- Borrowers are slightly less optimistic than they were in January about whether the Biden administration will have a positive impact on their student debt. (Read more)
- 24% of borrowers believe it is extremely likely all their debt will be canceled during Biden’s four-year tenure. (Read more)
- Canceling the student loan would help many borrowers meet their financial goals. For example, 39% said they could buy a house if all their loans were canceled. (Read more)
- 86% of student borrowers say they are negatively impacted of their student debt. (Read more)
Twice as many women as men are unwilling to resume student loan payments
From March 2020, the the government offered relief to most federal student loan borrowers: no payments were due and no interest would be charged during this period. In other words, you could stop paying off your loans without having to worry about falling behind or accumulating interest charges.
This emergency abstention period was extended twice, but it is now due to expire on January 31, 2022. If the current administration does not extend the relief again, borrowers will have to resume their payments normally and their usual interest rates will also return.
However, not everyone feels financially ready. Our survey found that 31% of borrowers are not ready to resume student payments on their loans if the abstention ends.
Women were much more likely than men (40% vs. 21%) to say they did not feel ready to start repayments again. This suggests that women – who often face a wage gap with their male peers – may be in a weaker financial position than men at this point in the pandemic and may struggle to pay their monthly student loan payments.
While many borrowers don’t feel ready to resume their student loan payments, other borrowers do from the start.
Our survey found that almost half of borrowers (47%) continued to repay their loans, despite the abstention relief.
Almost one in five (18%) continued to make payments every month, while 29% made some payments, but not every month. Continued repayment during this period may have helped some borrowers reduce their debt faster than they normally would, thanks to the break in interest charges.
This ability to speed up repayment may be one of the reasons 52% of borrowers said they were satisfied with the way they had handled their student loan debt in the past year.
Borrowers are slightly less optimistic, but still think forgiveness is possible
When President Biden was first sworn in, many borrowers (69%) believed his administration would have a positive impact on their student loans, according to a previous study on the Hero student loan.
Now, more than six months after starting Biden’s presidency, that number has dropped to 60%.
But while some borrowers are no longer so optimistic, nearly one in four (24%) still think it is “extremely likely” that all of their debts will be canceled during Biden’s four-year tenure. Another 29% said it was “quite likely”.
This matches our finding in January, when 23% of borrowers thought total forgiveness was certain, and 64% saw at least 50-50 chances of such an outcome.
Yes mass student loan cancellation were to become reality, many borrowers claim they would be able to meet other financial goals.
Specifically, 39% said they would be able to buy a home and 35% said they could save for retirement if all of their loans were canceled.
Meanwhile, 46% said their mental health would improve, 38% said their credit score would improve and 34% said they would be able to create an emergency fund. Another 27% said getting rid of their student loan payments would allow them to live on their own.
Borrowers say that even a partial forgiveness of the student loan could boost their finances. If only $ 10,000 was forgiven, 24% of respondents said they could still buy a house and an equal 24% said they could save for retirement.
In this limited forgiveness scenario, 39% said their mental health would improve, 29% said their credit score would go up and 26% would be able to save money in an emergency. More than one in five (21%) said that a pardon of $ 10,000 would be enough to allow them to live on their own.
The burden of student debt has led many borrowers to delay important life stages, such as to buy a house or start a family. The survey results suggest that even some measure of forgiveness could have a big impact on this.
While temporary forbearance during the pandemic has offered some relief to borrowers, many still feel the negative effects of their student loans. Specifically, 47% say their debt has hurt their ability to save money, 47% say it has hurt their mental health, and 33% say their credit score has suffered.
At the same time, 70% said they felt like they were missing out on life because of the sacrifices they make to pay off their student loans. These include: having an undesirable life situation (34%), not saving for the future (25%), staying in a work they don’t like (23%) and not traveling (23%).
When it comes to paying off debt, the biggest hurdle borrowers face is not making enough money (cited by 30%). This is followed by a exorbitant debt balance (18%) and having other forms of debt besides student loans (18%).
Find out about your repayment options before the end of the forbearance
Whether or not the government extends the emergency forbearance for a few more months, borrowers will likely have to resume repayment at some point. For many, that monthly bill could be a huge burden hindering their ability to achieve financial security.
If you owe student loans, you can prepare for the end of the forbearance by checking exactly how much you owe and to whom you owe it. Explore your repayment plan options to find one that fits your budget.
Income-based repayment plans, for example, can adjust your monthly student loan bill to 10-20% of your discretionary income. For more information, see our guide on how to choose the right repayment plan for you.
Student Loan Hero commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,020 student loan borrowers, conducted July 1-8, 2021. The survey was conducted using a non-probability sample, and quotas were applied. been used to ensure that the sample frame represents the entire population. . All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.