April 25, 2024

2024 Will Bring Big Changes to Student Loans

Key Takeaways

  • After a year of seismic changes to the federal student loan system, more are ahead for 2024.
  • Borrowers enrolled in the new SAVE plan will see their monthly payments cut in half this summer.
  • Later this year, the Biden administration will unveil details of its “Plan B” for student loan forgiveness.
  • Loan forgiveness is likely to be a contentious political issue, with most Democrats in favor, and Republicans opposed.

The year ahead promises to hold more “game changers” for student loan borrowers who have recently experienced massive overhauls in the way their federal loans are repaid.

It would be hard to top 2023, which saw the defeat of President Joe Biden’s proposal to forgive $20,000 of federal loans per borrower, the resumption of interest and required payments after a three-and-a-half-year pause during the pandemic, the introduction of a repayment plan that heavily favors borrowers, and many other reforms large and small.

What lies ahead for 2024 could be just as momentous: Millions of borrowers will see their monthly payments cut in half, Biden will take a second crack at forgiving student debt, and student loan forgiveness may prove to be a contentious point in the presidential election.

Here’s what to expect in 2024 if you’re a student loan borrower:

SAVE Plan Payments Cut in Half

The introduction of the Saving for a Valuable Education (SAVE) plan was one of the biggest changes to the student loan system last year, so much so that many experts called it a “game changer”—and it’s about to change even more.

Starting in July, borrowers enrolled in SAVE will have their required payments for undergraduate loans cut in half, to 5% of their disposable income from 10%, with graduate school loans remaining at 10%. The SAVE plan, introduced last summer, is an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan that already was far more generous to borrowers than previous IDR programs because of the way it calculates “disposable income.”

Student Loan Forgiveness—Again

Biden’s attempts at reforming the student loan repayment system were dealt a major blow in June when the Supreme Court ruled that he had overstepped his authority when he ordered the Department of Education to forgive up to $20,000 of student loan debt per borrower.

However, Biden’s “Plan B” for student loan forgiveness is already well underway. The Department of Education is currently going through a process of “negotiated rulemaking” to forgive student loan debt for certain borrowers. A committee consisting of students, college presidents, student loan borrowers, and other “stakeholders” held meetings this fall and in December to hammer out the details of who will get forgiveness under the new plan, and how much.

Though the details have yet to be finalized, the department has proposed forgiveness for people who have paid on their loans for 20 years, people whose loan balances have grown over time, and several other categories of borrowers.

Whatever the new plan ends up being, it likely will face legal challenges from opponents, said Betsy Mayotte, president of the Institute of Student Loan Advisors, a nonprofit group that offers free advice to borrowers.

“We definitely think that people will push back on it in court, or maybe even in Congress,” Mayotte said.

Continuing Chaos

Restarting the student loan payment system hasn’t gone completely smoothly, and the rough road is likely to continue into the next year, Mayotte said. 

Student loan servicers—the companies that the government hires to handle billing and customer service for loans—have had a hard time handling the transition, according to an Oct. 29, 2023, memo by an official at the Department of Education, listed on the Freedom of Information Act section of the department’s website. Borrowers who call their servicer waited an average of 58 minutes, with fewer than half ever getting through to someone.

Others had their monthly payments calculated incorrectly, including 78,000 who had their payments for the SAVE plan miscalculated because the servicer had incomplete information on their income and family size, the memo said.

The department withheld payments from one company, MOHELA, because it sent out bills late, resulting in 800,000 borrowers falling into delinquency on their loans.

“I’m afraid that, especially recent grads that have never been in repayment before, I’m getting a sense from our constituency that some of them think that this is how student loans always are—that there’s always six-hour hold times and there’s always four-month processing times and that’s just not the case,” Mayotte said. 

Biden and Trump May Battle Over Loan Forgiveness

Student loan forgiveness may be a campaign issue in the 2024 election between Biden and his likely opponent, former President Donald Trump. While Biden has pushed for broad student loan forgiveness, Trump celebrated its demise at the hands of the Supreme Court, saying that it would have been “very unfair” to people who didn’t go to college if it had gone through.

Trump appointed three of the six judges who make up the high court’s conservative majority, all of whom voted to strike down Biden’s forgiveness plan.

Other aspects of Biden’s student loan reforms also have been politically divisive. In October, a Senate resolution to revoke the SAVE plan failed to pass by one vote. Although the vote was largely symbolic because it didn’t have enough support to overcome a certain Biden veto, it did demonstrate willingness among Republicans to oppose student loan forgiveness—every GOP Senator, plus West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, voted to end the SAVE plan. 

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