Even before COVID-19, student loan borrowers struggled under the weight of more than $1.6 trillion in debt. One in four borrowers was in default or serious delinquency, and many worried about their ability to make student loan payments while covering other basic needs. Because of decades of structural inequities and discrimination, student loans have burdened Black and Latino borrowers more than other groups, and now these borrowers of color are also among those disproportionately harmed by COVID-19.

Recognizing that the crisis impacted many borrowers’ abilities to repay their debts, the federal government entered into a student loan payment pause in March 2020. During this pause, Federal Direct Loan borrowers have been relieved of the obligation to make payments, interest accrual has been temporarily suspended, and borrowers enrolled in income-driven repayment (IDR) plans who decline to make payments have continued to make progress towards eventual cancellation through the repayment plans and/or Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF).

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Authors: Julia Barnard, Christelle Bamona, Robin Howarth, and Ashley Harrington from CRL and Persis Yu, Kyra Taylor, and Abby Shafroth from NCLC