On August 24, President Biden announced two things: Student loan payments are frozen through the end of 2022 and partial student loan forgiveness may be coming for millions of federal borrowers. This change could ease the burden of small business owners across the country who are struggling to pay off their debt and run their businesses.
You can run — and fund — a small business even if you still have student loan debt. Here’s what you need to know about student loan forgiveness and managing your debt as a small business owner.
1. Keep an Eye on Student Loan Forgiveness
President Biden is pushing through a huge federal student loan relief plan that may lower individual borrower debt by $10,000. If you went to school using Pell Grants, you can qualify to get $20,000 of your loans forgiven. However, there’s an income cap: You must make less than $125,000 for individuals and $250,000 for families to qualify.
This debt forgiveness only applies to student loans given out by the federal government, not private loans. Federal borrowers should be able to access the application for student loan forgiveness by the end of the year, so make sure to pay attention to when that’s available.
2. Pay Attention to Your Loans
You’ll want to be aware of several aspects of your student loans, including due dates, how much you owe, and the interest on each one — especially with the changes coming. Although student loan repayments are on hold through December 31, 2022, they will likely start up again at the beginning of 2023. Put the due dates on your calendar to make sure you have enough cash on hand.
Also, try to pay off the student loan with the highest interest rate first. You can see the details, including the interest rate, of each loan after logging into your account on your loan servicer’s website. Direct any extra payments toward the loan with the highest rate until it’s paid off.
3. Make On-Time Payments
Once you’re required to pay again, missing several payments can affect your personal credit score. A lower credit score may impact your ability to get the business credit cards and small business loans you need to grow your business, so make sure you pay on time.
Plus, if you make payments while the freeze is in place, your money should go further. Your entire payment will go toward principal rather than part of it being put toward interest. This means you’re paying more toward what you actually owe rather than toward the interest charged on what you owe. So you should be able to pay off your loans faster.
4. Switch Your Repayment Plan for Federal Loans
If you’re struggling to make payments each month, consider a different repayment plan. Federal loans are placed automatically on a 10-year standard plan. This plan may save you interest over time, so it’s a good idea to remain on it if you can afford it. But you may not have to stick with it if your payments are too high.
Here are the other repayment options that you may qualify for:
Graduated repayment plan
- Who it’s for: Any federal student loan borrower.
- How it works: It increases loan payments over time, usually every two years. This plan gives borrowers time to earn a higher income that may match the payment increases.
- Length of repayment period: Must pay off loan in 10 years.
Extended repayment plan
- Who it’s for: Direct loan borrowers with more than $30,000 in loans.
- How it works: Borrowers can have fixed or graduated plans with more time to pay it back.
- Length of repayment period: Must pay off loan in 25 years, so the repayment period is longer than others.
Pay as you earn repayment plan
- Who it’s for: Any new borrower on or after October 1, 2007 that got a direct loan disbursement on or after October 1, 2011. Must prove you can’t afford payments.
- How it works: You pay 10% of your discretionary income (but never more than the standard plan would charge). Each year, you must resubmit your income, even if nothing has changed.
- Length of repayment period: After 20 years of payments, your remaining undergraduate student loans are forgiven (it’s 25 years for graduate loans).
Revised pay as you earn repayment plan
- Who it’s for: Any borrower with an eligible loan may apply.
- How it works: You’ll pay 10% of your discretionary income, like the pay as you earn plan, but if you’re married, your spouse’s income counts as well. This is the case even if you file taxes separately.
- Length of repayment period: Your remaining undergraduate student loans are forgiven after making payments for 20 years (and 25 years for graduate loans).
Income-based repayment plan
- Who it’s for: Borrowers who can prove they have high debt in relation to their income level.
- How it works: You’ll pay either 10% or 15% of your discretionary income, depending on your loan start date (but never more than you would have paid with the standard plan). You have to resubmit your income each year even if your details stayed the same. Spouse’s income counts if you file joint taxes.
- Length of repayment period: Your remaining balance is forgiven after 20 or 25 years of making payments, depending on the start date of your loans.
Income-contingent repayment plan
- Who it’s for: Any borrower with qualifying loans.
- How it works: You’ll pay the lower amount of either 20% of your discretionary income or the total you would owe on a fixed 12-year payment plan that has been modified for your income level. Your spouse’s income is counted if you file joint taxes.
- Length of repayment period: After you make payments for 25 years, your balance will be forgiven.
When President Biden’s loan relief plan takes effect, the federal government intends to create a new income-based repayment plan that would drop the mandatory repayment period from 20 years to 10 years for eligible borrowers with an original loan balance of less than $12,000. Borrowers would also only pay 5% of their discretionary income rather than 10% on the other repayment plans. The new plan would also cover monthly interest as long as the borrower is making on-time payments.
Before signing up for any repayment plan, make sure you know what you’re required to pay each month. Also, check the interest you’ll be charged over time. The standard plan is typically the option that will charge the least interest long-term.
5. Combine Private Loans
If you have more than one private student loan, consider consolidating them into one, also called refinancing. Doing this may make monthly repayment easier and make you less likely to forget a payment — especially if you’re paying multiple companies or lenders every month.
However, try to make sure you aren’t swapping a fixed-rate loan (where the interest rate never changes) for a variable-rate loan (where the interest rate can increase). And make sure you won’t lose certain benefits or access to income-based repayment plans before you refinance.
How Nav Can Help Your Small Business
Consider Nav your small business partner. Just like student loans don’t need to hold your business back, neither should a lack of funding. When you’re ready to make your next move, we’re here to guide you through the financing process. It’s quick and easy to create a Nav account today — just input your business details to see your best funding options instantly.