Illinois expands payment relief for student loan borrowers

By Kendall Polidori and Mari Devereaux

Photo by Chris Sweda-Pool via Getty Images
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces expanded efforts to provide relief for private and commercial student loan recipients during the coronavirus pandemic.

Following Congress’ CARES Act that provided financial relief for student loan borrowers by postponing repayment, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expanding the effort to include private and commercial student loan recipients.

“I’m happy to announce that, as of today, more student loan borrowers in Illinois will now get relief,” Pritzker said in a Tuesday, April 21 press release.

The new initiative applies to borrowers who were not provided relief under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, which was signed by President Donald Trump March 27 and assisted Americans with federal student loans by delaying repayments until Sept. 30.

According to the release, the expansion encompasses 20 private student loan servicers and could benefit more than 138,000 Illinois residents with privately held student loans who are struggling to make payments due to the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic.

The initiative’s relief options include: “providing a minimum of 90 days of forbearance; waiving late payment fees; ensuring that no borrower is subject to negative credit reporting; ceasing debt collection lawsuits for 90 days; working with borrowers to enroll them in other borrower assistance programs, such as income based repayment.”

Borrowers should contact their student loan providers or the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Information Center for financial assistance.

Cynthia Grunden, assistant vice president of Columbia’s Student Financial Services, was not available for an interview regarding the new initiative, but said in a Tuesday, April 21 email to the Chronicle that some alumni would likely benefit from the relief if they have a private loan servicer in Illinois, though it is “unlikely that any current Columbia students are impacted by this change.”

Grunden added that “current Columbia students are definitely impacted by the relief provided to Direct Loan borrowers via the CARES Act.”

Though students currently enrolled in college courses do not typically make student loan payments, data from Institutional Effectiveness from the previous academic year shows more than half of Columbia students received some type of educational assistance in the form of loans.

In the 2018-19 academic year, 4,418 Columbia students received unsubsidized Stafford loans, 3,872 received subsidized Stafford loans, 1,550 students received PLUS loans and 713 borrowed from private loan servicers, according to the college’s Institutional Effectiveness Fact Book.

The governor’s press release also encouraged regulated student loan services to relax restrictions or obligations when possible.

“At this unprecedented time of financial hardship, it was essential to find a way to provide relief to all student loan borrowers who are struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Deborah Hagan, secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, in the press release.