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Are there any programs to help pay student loans? Have deadlines to apply for financial aid changed?

Last Updated: 06/25/2020

Federal Student Loans

To provide relief to student loan borrowers during the COVID-19 national emergency, under the CARES ACT, federal student loan borrowers are automatically being placed in an administrative forbearance, which allows you to temporarily stop making your monthly loan payment.

Your payments will automatically stop from March 13, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2020. This suspension of payments will last until Sept. 30, 2020, but you can still make payments if you choose.

To determine if your loans are eligible, contact your loan servicer online or by phone. Your servicer is the entity to which you make your monthly payment. If you do not know who your servicer is or how to contact them, visit StudentAid.gov/login or call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243; TTY for the deaf or hearing-impaired 1-800-730-8913) for assistance.

For more information, please refer to this frequently asked questions page from the United States Department of Education.

State Financial Aid Programs

NOTE: The deadline to apply for renewal of state tuition aid for the 2020-2021 academic year passed on June 1.

New legislation directs the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) to exclude the Spring 2020 semester from a student's total lifetime eligibility limits for all state financial aid programs if a student is unable to finish the semester due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, students who withdrew or reduced credits during this time will not have to repay the state financial aid amounts that the student would have had to return under previous law.

The eligibility criteria for the New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship (NJ STARS) Program and the New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship II (NJ STARS II) Program will also be temporarily relaxed to allow students to remain eligible even if their Spring 2020 grade point average fell below the previous eligibility minimums.

As New Jersey students and families face the challenges of responding to the Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy, is committed to helping borrowers with loans through the New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students (NJCLASS) program.

Due to the current crisis, NJCLASS borrowers may be experiencing unemployment, illness, or other changes that have reduced their earnings. HESAA offers several repayment relief options to borrowers in circumstances that have interrupted their ability to make payments on NJCLASS loans.

There is no fee to apply for any of the relief options, and HESAA has never charged borrowers late fees. During this public health emergency, HESAA has also suspended the use of wage garnishments and withholding of state income tax refunds to collect on past due loans.

For more information about HESAA's relief programs and how to apply, HESAA has created a reference guide.

Private Student Loans

The State has secured relief options with private student loan servicers to expand on the protections the federal government granted to federal student loan borrowers. These new options stand to benefit an estimated 200,000 New Jerseyans with privately held student loans.

New Jersey residents with commercially-owned Federal Family Education Program Loans or privately held student loans who are struggling to make their payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible for expanded relief.

Borrowers in need of assistance must immediately contact their student loan servicer to identify the options that are appropriate to their circumstances. Relief options offered by participating servicers include:

  • Providing a minimum of 90 days of forbearance relief for borrowers;
  • Waiving late payment fees for borrowers;
  • Ensuring no borrower is subject to negative credit reporting;
  • Ceasing debt collection lawsuits for 90 days; and
  • Working with eligible borrowers to enroll them in other applicable borrower assistance programs.

This is an initiative that servicers have opted into. Borrowers should contact their servicers to utilize the relief options.

Residents who have questions or are experiencing trouble with their student loan servicer may contact the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance Consumer Hotline at 1-800-446-7467 or file a complaint online.

Source: https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus; dobi.nj.gov; https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200421b.shtml; https://www.hesaa.org/Documents/Misc/NJCLASS_Q_n_A.pdf; https://www.hesaa.org/Pages/HESAANewsPage.aspx?type=News&pid=174; https://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200515e.shtml;