As the coronavirus pandemic forced millions into unemployment and financial uncertainty in March 2020, federal student loan payments were put on pause and interest rates were set at zero. In August, the Biden administration issued one more "final extension" of the federal student loan payment pause to January 31, 2022. But in February 2022, millions of borrowers will have to start repaying their loans once again – many for the first time in nearly two years.
More than 42 million people had federal student loans of some form as of fall 2021, amounting to nearly $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, according to Education Department data. That includes more than 36 million with direct loans totaling more than $1.35 trillion.
"It's a major endeavor, and we're doing everything we can to get the word out to make sure that borrowers are prepared for when loan payments start in February," Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal told CBS News. The Education Department is already working to reach more than 30 million borrowers about the change.