Let’s Look Back At 18 Months of Extensions on the Federal Student Loan Freeze

Student Loans

Ambassador writing program

The Summary

The pause on federal student loan repayments was supposed to end today, so here's our quick recap of a year and a half’s worth of extensions.

The pause on federal student loan repayments was supposed to end today, so here's our recap of a year and a half’s worth of extensions.

Over the past year and a half, student loans have been a hot topic of conversation among our elected officials. Presidential candidates debated them during the 2020 Democratic primaries, the Department of Education has cancelled over $9 billion in student loan debt, and in the wake of the pandemic, student loan relief became a key component of the CARES Act.

Notably, borrowers have enjoyed a pause on their student loan and interest repayments since March 2020, and a series of extensions have kept them frozen until January 2022. In honor of today—which was supposed to be the previous end date—let’s look back at the past eighteen months of freezes and extensions:

March 27, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the CARES Act and President Trump signed it into law. Short for the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” this multi-trillion dollar piece of legislation provided assistance to individuals, businesses, and state and local governments. Among many other things, it paused repayments on federal student loans until September 30th, 2020 and temporarily set their interest rates to 0 percent.

August 8, 2020

As the September end date approached, President Trump signed a memorandum ordering Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to extend the repayment pause until December 31st, 2020. Secretary DeVos implemented the measure on August 21st, giving borrowers three more months before they’d have to resume their payments.

December 4, 2020

Secretary DeVos extended the ongoing freeze by one extra month to allow Congress and the incoming Biden administration to decide their course of action. “The added time also allows Congress to do its job and determine what measures it believes are necessary and appropriate,” DeVos said. Repayments were now set to begin again on January 31st, 2021.

January 20, 2021

As one of 17 executive orders he issued during his first day in office, President Biden extended the pause yet again, this time until September 30th, 2021. His administration cited the ongoing pandemic as the reason for the extension, saying “Borrowers of all ages are often faced with a tough tradeoff between making their student loan payments, investing in their long-term financial future, or paying their bills. The pandemic has only increased the economic hardship of the millions of Americans who have student debt."

August 6, 2021

The Department of Education (ED) announced one more extension, this time until January 31st, 2022. An ED press release stated that “The Department believes this additional time and a definitive end date will allow borrowers to plan for the resumption of payments and reduce the risk of delinquency and defaults after restart.” The ED confirmed that this would be the last extension granted and that borrowers should prepare to resume their payments in 2022. They also promised to release more resources and information as the end date gets closer.

That brings us to today. While the effects of the COVID-19 Delta variant could prompt other emergency relief bills this fall, the ED’s announcement has made it clear that this will be the final student loan extension issued. That’s why borrowers should prepare for the end of the repayment freeze and begin 2022 with a plan in place for their federal student loans.

Keep Exploring


Federal Budget

Care about public policy? You need to understand where the federal government gets - and how it spends - money.

Read More


Social Security

More than 65 million Americans rely on Social Security for retirement income, survivors benefits, and disability insurance payments. Learn more about how the program works, its funding challenges, and the proposals to address them.

Read More


Leadership Programs

Our programs and events help you stay informed and get involved. Want to learn more about issues like Medicare, student loans, and Social Security? Check out our leadership and events section.

Read More


Policy Library

Learn more about our country's biggest challenges.

Read More