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are private student loans bankruptable

Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

Many students have their hopes set on a small group of top schools — the Common App flags over 40 schools as dream schools, many perfect for the future hedge fund manager or tech startup founder. Private student loans are a great way to get into these schools, but there is one big drawback — they cannot be discharged in bankruptcy like federal student loans can if things go wrong later. Private student loans can be a great solution for anyone who has been denied for a federal loan. However, there is a small percentage of students who were unaware that private student loans are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. This means that you will not be able to include private student loans when filing for bankruptcy. The reason why these loans are non-dischargeable is because they have higher interest rates than other common forms of debt like mortgage loans.

Guide To Private Student Loan Bankruptcy | Bankrate

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are private student loans bankruptable

Private student loans are not eligible for bankruptcy discharge.

Generally, private student loans are not eligible for bankruptcy discharge. However, there are some exceptions. Below are some scenarios in which you may be able to discharge a private student loan.

Student borrowers can attempt to discharge these types of loans if they can show that paying them back would cause undue hardship on the borrower or their family. The lender must prove that affording the loan does not cause undue hardship, and lenders tend to win these cases more often than not.

There is an exception for older loans taken out before 2007-2008 school year, but it isn’t common for private student loans from before this time period to be around anymore. Loans which predate this time period were typically forgiven after seven years of continuous payments rather than subject to bankruptcy discharge rules.

Private lenders have some flexibility.

If you need to make a change, you may be able to work something out with your lender. Lenders can often offer flexible repayment plans on private student loans. Reach out and ask if they would be willing to work with you.

Loans through a bank or credit union are treated like private ones.

This is important to know because loans through a bank or credit union are treated like private ones. If you took out private student loans, you may find that it’s much harder for you to get out of debt than someone who has federal student loan debt. That’s because private lenders have much more discretion over whether to forgive your debt than the federal government does.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t options available to borrowers with private loans, however. Some lenders offer hardship programs that can help borrowers get back on track and avoid defaulting on their debts again. Additionally, some may be willing to discharge your debt in the event of death or permanent disability. Be sure to check with your lender about the specific conditions under which they would agree to discharge your loan—and if you don’t feel comfortable negotiating for better terms on your own, consider hiring a lawyer who specializes in these types of cases.

If you’re behind on payments, try to work something out with the lender before you get too far behind.

If you’re behind on payments, try to work something out with the lender before you get too far behind.

Your student loan lender may have some programs that can help you if your financial situation has changed since leaving school or if you’re having a hard time making your payments. Call the servicer of your private loans and tell them what’s going on. If you need to, ask if they can lower your interest rate, lower your payments, or give you more time to pay them back. The sooner you let them know the better!

If you file for bankruptcy, your private student loans will not be discharged.

Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t mean that you can get your private student loans discharged, even if you’ve filed for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. If a lender sues you because of defaulted private student loans, then it is possible that the court may discharge them, but this rarely happens. The main problem with having private student loans and filing for bankruptcy is that they are not eligible for discharge in the same way as federal student loans.

However, just because your private student loans aren’t eligible to be discharged doesn’t mean that they can’t be forgiven. Some lenders allow borrowers to negotiate a lower monthly payment on their loans, which may help those who are struggling financially. This will not eliminate your debt entirely, but it could still offer some much-needed relief when paying off your loans.

can private student loans be discharged due to disability

How to Get a Student Loan Disability Discharge

Borrowers who have a severe disability that prevents them from engaging in substantial gainful activity or renders them unemployable may qualify to have their federal and private student loans forgiven. The disability discharge process is somewhat complicated. This guide will help you understand the steps you need to take to qualify for a student loan disability discharge. 

Less than 0.5% of borrowers qualify for a disability discharge each year, even though about 5% of borrowers have a severe disability, based on an analysis of government data.

Requirements for Federal Student Loans

Disabled borrowers of federal education loans made in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan program, the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program, and the Federal Perkins Loan may be eligible for discharge of their federal loans. The total and permanent disability (TPD) discharge will also cancel the requirement to complete TEACH Grant service obligations.

Note that the disabled person must have borrowed the student loans. Although the Federal Parent PLUS loan may be discharged upon the death of the student on whose behalf the loan was borrowed or the parent borrower, Federal Parent PLUS loans can be discharged only upon the disability of the parent borrower, not the disability of the student. 

There are three different ways of demonstrating a disability that is severe enough to qualify for the total and permanent disability discharge. These involve veterans with a VA determination of unemployability due to disability, people with certain Social Security disability statuses and people who obtain a doctor’s certification. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Veterans who the VA determines to be unemployable due to a service-connected disability or disabilities that are 100% disabling are considered to have a total and permanent disability. Veterans may also be considered to have a total and permanent disability if they have a VA determination that they are totally disabled based on an individual unemployability rating. 

Social Security Administration (SSA)

Borrowers who are eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are considered to have a total and permanent disability if the notice of award or Benefits Planning Query (BPQY) shows that the next disability review will be 5 or more years after the date of the most recent SSA disability status determination or review. Borrowers may request a BPQY from the SSA office that issued their SSDI or SSI or by calling 1-800-772-1213.

Doctor certification

A borrower is considered to have a total and permanent disability if a doctor certifies on the TPD Discharge Application that the borrower is unable to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a physical or mental impairment that has lasted for a continuous period of 60 months (5 years), can be expected to last for a continuous period of 60 months or can be expected to result in death. The doctor must be a M.D. or D.O. who is licensed to practice medicine in the U.S. 

The U.S. Department of Education has implemented a data match with the VA and SSA to help identify borrowers who might qualify for a total and permanent disability discharge. 

The U.S. Department of Education will send the borrower a letter if the data match identifies the borrower as eligible for a disability discharge. The letter will include a disability discharge application for the borrower to complete and submit. No further documentation of the disability will be required. 

Soon, the U.S. Department of Education will automate the disability discharge for eligible veterans unless they opt out of the process. Implementation of the automatic disability discharge process has been delayed because of the need for the U.S. Department of Education to issue new regulations to support this change.

How to Apply for a Federal Student Loan Disability Discharge 

To apply for a total and permanent disability discharge, complete the TPD Discharge Application and submit it with any supporting documentation.

The TPD Discharge Application is available in PDF format or through an interactive online tool on the web site. The online tool will prefill parts of the application form. Do not use a TPD Discharge Application available from other web sites, as they may not be current. 

You can also contact Nelnet, the servicer who processes TPD Discharge applications on behalf of the federal government, to ask for an application to be mailed to you. You can contact Nelnet by calling 1-888-303-7818, sending a fax to 1-303-696-5250 or sending email to [email protected].

If you tell Nelnet that you will be submitting a TPD Discharge application, they will place your federal loans in forbearance for 120 days to give you time to complete the application form. After they receive the TPD Discharge application, your federal loans will remain in forbearance while the application is reviewed. (Note that if your federal student loans are in default and subject to administrative wage garnishment or Treasury offset, the wage garnishment and offset will continue during the forbearance until the TPD discharge application is approved, when they will stop.)

Borrowers can also choose a representative to apply on their behalf. Unfortunately, the borrower will have to complete an Applicant Representative Designation form, even if the borrower’s representative already has a power of attorney for the disabled borrower. Yes, you have to complete a form to let someone else complete forms on your behalf. 

Supporting documentation includes a copy of the VA determination of unemployability, the SSA notice of award for SSDI or SSI or Benefits Planning Query (BPQY Form 2459), or the doctor’s certification on the TPD Discharge application. 


It is best to send the completed TPD Discharge application and other forms with delivery confirmation or by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you have proof of delivery. Mail the forms to U.S. Department of Education, P.O. Box 87130, Lincoln, NE 68501-7130.

If you are sending the forms by FedEx or other overnight delivery service, send it to U.S. Department of Education, 121 South 13h Street, Suite 201, Lincoln, NE 68508.

Keep a copy of the TPD Discharge application and supporting documentation for your records. 

Processing a Disability Discharge Application

After the borrower or the borrower’s representative submits the TPD Discharge application for federal student loans, the application will be approved or denied. 

TPD discharge application approval

The borrower can stop making payments on their federal student loans after they receive notice of approval of their TPD Discharge application.

If the TPD Discharge application is approved, any loan payments made on or after the date of disability determination will be refunded to the borrower. 

The date of disability determination is the date the VA made the disability determination, the date Nelnet received the SSA documentation or the date the doctor signed the TPD Discharge application. 

TPD discharge application denial

If the TPD Discharge application is denied, the borrower can submit a new TPD Discharge application at any time. It is best to include new information about the disability that was not provided with the previous application. 

Note that if the previous TPD Discharge application was submitted less than 12 months ago, the borrower can ask Nelnet to reevaluate the discharge application without having to submit a new application.

Borrowers who are actively being treated for cancer should consider applying for a cancer deferment. 

What Happens After a Disability Discharge is Approved?

Post-discharge monitoring period

If the borrower’s TPD Discharge application was approved based on SSA documentation or a doctor’s certification, there will be a 3-year post-discharge monitoring period. 

During the post-discharge monitoring period, the borrower’s obligation to repay the student loans or complete TEACH Grant service requirements will be reinstated if:

  • The borrower’s annual earnings from employment during the post-discharge monitoring period are greater than 100% of the poverty line for a family of two in the borrower’s state, regardless of the borrower’s actual family size, or
  • The borrower does not tell the U.S. Department of Education about changes in their address and telephone number or does not provide the U.S. Department of Education with documentation of their annual earnings from employment once a year for three years during the post-discharge monitoring period, or
  • The borrower receives another disbursement of a federal student loan or TEACH Grant that was first disbursed prior to approval of the TPD discharge and does not return the disbursement within 120 days of the disbursement date, or
  • The borrower gets a new federal student loan or TEACH Grant during the post-discharge monitoring period, or
  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) notifies the borrower during the post-discharge period that they are no longer considered disabled or reduces the review period to less than five years

Earnings limitation

Note that the focus is on earnings from employment, not unearned income. Investment income, such as interest, dividends and capital gains, do not count toward the poverty line limit. Likewise, disability benefit payments and retirement benefit payments are not considered earned income. 

The earnings limitation applies to earnings in any occupation, not just the occupation for which the borrower was trained. The TPD Discharge requirements are that the borrower must not be able to engage in any type of substantial gainful activity. 

Veterans whose loans are discharged because of a VA determination are not subject to the post-discharge monitoring period.

No new federal student loans or TEACH Grants

If the borrower returns to college during the 3-year post-discharge monitoring period, the loans and TEACH Grant service obligation will be reinstated. The borrower will be required to resume repayment of the previously discharged loans and acknowledge that they are once again responsible for completing the TEACH Grant service requirements.

Even after the post-discharge monitoring period, the borrower cannot receive new federal student loans or TEACH Grants unless a doctor certifies that the borrower is able to engage in substantial gainful activity.

The borrower must also sign a statement that acknowledges that they cannot get another TPD discharge based on their current disability unless the disability deteriorates. 

Impact on Medicaid and Medicare

The TPD Discharge and the 3-year post-discharge monitoring period do not affect eligibility for Medicaid or Medicare, nor any Medicare subsidies. 

Student Loan Disability Discharge Tax Treatment

Normally, the cancellation of debt is treated as income by the IRS.

However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 changed the treatment of student loans that are discharged due to the borrower’s death or disability. 

Federal and private student loans that the government discharges due to the borrower’s death or disability are tax-free on federal income tax returns from 2018 through 2025, inclusive. 

Whether the disability discharge is tax-free depends on the date the borrower receives the discharge. If the discharge occurred because of a VA determination, it is based on the date the discharge was approved. If the discharge occurred because of SSA documentation or a doctor’s certification, it is based on the end of the 3-year post-discharge monitoring period. 

The amount of student loan debt canceled by a disability discharge may still be considered income to the borrower for state income tax purposes. 

Private Student Loans: Disability Discharge

Some private student loans provide a disability discharge that is similar to the TPD Discharge for federal student loans. These lenders include:

  • Citizens Bank
  • College Ave
  • Commerce Bank
  • Discover Student Loans – 1-800-983-1412 
  • Earnest – 1-888-601-2801
  • Laurel Road
  • Sallie Mae – Call 1-800-4-SALLIE (1-800-472-5543)
  • SunTrust Education Loans – 1-800-233-0557
  • Wells Fargo – 1-800-658-3567
  • Other private student loan lenders

In addition, several state student loans provide a disability discharge, including state student loans from Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky and Texas. 

Some of the lenders offering a disability discharge on private student loans provide a disability discharge on private student loans that is more generous than the disability discharge standard for federal loans. For example, some of the lenders will discharge private parent loans if the student becomes totally and permanently disabled, not just if the parent borrower becomes disabled. 

Sallie Mae was the first lender to offer a disability discharge on private student loans, starting with the Smart Option student loan in 2009. Other lenders followed their lead within the next few years and started offering disability discharges on new private student loans. 

If a lender does not provide a formal disability discharge process or the borrower has older loans, the borrower should nevertheless call the lender and ask for a compassionate review of their situation. Many lenders will cancel the student loan debt of borrowers who became totally and permanently disabled while serving as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or while working for police, fire, EMT or other emergency services. 

The borrower may also consider refinancing their student loans to switch to a lender who offers disability discharge, or at least a lower interest rate. 

are sallie mae student loans dischargeable

Q: Are Sallie Mae loans eligible for loan forgiveness?

January 13, 2022

Sallie Mae loans may be eligible for loan forgiveness. Your eligibility for loan forgiveness depends on whether the loans are federal loans or private loans.

Sallie Mae used to have both types of student loans. But in 2010, they sent all their federal student loans to Navient. At that point, Navient became the loan servicer for all the federal student loans Sallie Mae used to service.

Those federal student loans are eligible for loan forgiveness.

Any private student loan that Sallie Mae still has does not qualify for loan forgiveness. But there is an exception. More on that below.

Latest on student loans

  • ITT Tech & Art Institute Settlement: Navient has agreed to wipe out $1.7 billion in private student loans.
  • Forgiveness update: $10,000 student loan forgiveness may happen later this year.
  • Covid-19 forbearance extended: The latest student loan payment pause moved the repayment start date to May 2, 2022.
  • Get out of default: Learn how to get out of student loan default.
  • Did your servicer change? What to do if you have a new student loan servicer.

Sallie Mae ITT Tech & Art Institute Settlement

Navient, who took over loans from Sallie Mae, settled a collection of lawsuits for $1.85 billion filed against it by a coalition of attorney generals.

The lawsuits allege that Navient steered borrowers into costly repayment plans and predatory student loans.

Almost all of that money will wipe out the private student loan debts for people who borrowed loans from Sallie Mae to attend ITT Technical Insitute and the Art Institute Schools.

Here are three things you need to know.

  • Federal student loan borrowers. Navient will cut a $260 check to about 350 thousand federal student loan borrowers who it placed in long-term forbearances.
  • Private student loan borrowers. Nearly 66 thousand people who borrowed private student loans for ITT Tech and the Art Institute Schools will have their loans wiped out. All told, Navient is writing off $1.7 billion in private student loans.
  • No need to apply. You don’t need to do anything to get this relief. Borrowers eligible for loan forgiveness will get a notice from Navient by July of this year.

You can read more about the settlement details in the Washington Post.

How to tell if Sallie Mae is a federal student loan

Before 2010, Sallie Mae acted as a loan servicer for federal student loans made under the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

FFEL Program loans were made by private banks and backed/insured by the federal government.

When the program ended in 2010, Sallie Mae sent all the FFELP Loans it serviced to Navient.

As a result, if your loans started with Sallie Mae but are now with Navient, your loans are likely federal student loans.

You can confirm they are federal loans by visiting That website lists all the loans you borrowed from the federal government.

FFELP Loans in good standing are not covered by the student loan freeze through September announced by President Joe Biden. You can pause payments in two ways: (1) by asking for a COVID-19 forbearance or (2) consolidating your FFELP Loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Loan forgiveness programs for Sallie Mae federal loans

If it turns out your Sallie Mae loans are federal, then those loans may qualify for loan forgiveness under the:

  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
  • ​Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness Program
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

Click here to learn more about FFELP Loan Forgiveness Programs

Under the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, teachers can qualify for a small amount of loan forgiveness via Title 1 Teacher Loan Forgiveness.

But what if you aren’t a teacher?

In that case, your Sallie Mae loans can qualify for forgiveness after 20 to 25 years of qualifying payments under an income-driven repayment plan. The Department of Education offers 4 IDR plans:

  1. Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
  2. Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
  3. Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
  4. Pay As You Earn (PAYE)

Sallie Mae federal loans qualify for both the IBR and ICR plans. They don’t qualify for the REPAYE and PAYE plans.

No matter which payment plan you choose (IBR or ICR), your loan balance can be forgiven after you make all of the required payments. The amount forgiven will be treated as taxable income, however.

Lastly, borrowers who work for PSLF qualifying employers can get their Sallie Mae federal loans forgiven after 10 years of qualifying payments.

But there’s a catch.

You have to consolidate your FFELP Loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

The PSLF Program has 5 requirements for forgiveness:

  1. You must have Direct Loans
  2. You must work full-time
  3. You must work for the government or a non-profit organization, or other qualifying employer
  4. You must be enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan
  5. You must make 120 qualifying payments under that IDR plan

Sallie Mae private student loan forgiveness

Sallie Mae does not offer loan forgiveness for its private student loans.

But they do offer loan cancellation if the primary borrower has suffered total and permanent disability.

What to do if you can’t afford your Sallie Mae student loan payments?

Unlike the U.S. Department of Education, Sallie Mae doesn’t offer repayment plans based on your income.

Instead, they offer 2 repayment options: Graduated Repayment Period and Fixed Monthly Payments

The Graduated Repayment Period lets you make interest-only payments for the first 12 months after leaving full-time status at school.

When those 12 months are up, your monthly payment will be for a fixed amount.

The Fixed Monthly Payment plan is just what it sounds like: you make fixed monthly payments until the loan is paid off.

Of course, neither of these plans helps if your monthly payment is more than you can afford.

So what do you then?

The first thing most student loan borrowers do is ask for a forbearance or deferment. But deferments don’t lower your interest rate. And they don’t stop your loan balance from growing—just the opposite.

When you run out of deferments and still can’t afford your payments, your repayment options are limited. (For example, Smart Option borrowers are allowed five 12 month deferments.)

You could, of course, look into student loan refinancing with a different private lender.

(In case you’re wondering, you can’t consolidate your private student loans into a federal student loan. Federal loan consolidation is limited to federal student loan debt.)

Depending on your credit score, you may qualify for low variable rates.

If refinancing isn’t an option, then you’re stuck.

You’ll either keep making your student loan payments as agreed or start missing payments. And if you start missing payments, your credit score and your cosigner’s credit score will take a hit. There’s no way around it.

Repayment options for delinquent Sallie Mae loans

All isn’t lost if you stop making on-time payments.

Sallie Mae offers delinquent borrowers 3 repayment options to help bring their account current:

  1. Interest Rate Reduction Program
  2. Term and Rate Modification
  3. 3 Pay

The Rate Reduction Program lowers your loan’s interest rate and lets you make interest payments for a while (usually 6 to 12 months).

This program benefits borrowers who are going through a temporary financial hardship.

The Term and Rate Modification is a student loan repayment program that lowers your interest rate and monthly payment for a limited time. But it also extends your loan term. So you’ll end up paying more over the long term.

The 3Pay repayment program lets you bring your loan current by making payments equal to or greater than the current amount due for three consecutive months.

As you can see, the main benefit of this program is bringing your account current.

Does Sallie Mae offer student loan settlements?

In the past, I’ve negotiated settlements for Sallie Mae student loans.

Like other private student loan settlements, you have to default on your loans before you can negotiate a settlement.

Once you default, you may be able to negotiate a settlement for around 40-75% of your loan balance.

Do you have to have that settlement amount in a lump sum? Not necessarily.

While a lump sum is helpful, you may be able to negotiate a settlement for a lump sum plus monthly payments.

Or, in rare instances, just monthly payments.

private student loan news

Student-loan borrowers are ‘paralyzed with uncertainty,’ a major private lender said — it’s lobbying Congress to resume payments in May anyway

Mar 21, 2022, 4:07 PM

College graduate
  • Private lenders are lobbying Congress to resume student-loan payments in May, per Politico.
  • Refinancing company SoFi wrote a blog arguing “affluent and capable” borrowers should be put back into repayment.
  • It also said Biden should fulfill his $10,000 forgiveness campaign pledge and target relief to those who need it most.

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Major private lenders say enough is enough — President Joe Biden should not give federal student-loan borrowers a fourth pause on their debt payments.

Last week, the CEO of SoFi — one of the nation’s largest student-loan refinancing companies — wrote a blog regarding student-loan payments. Anthony Noto wrote that the Biden administration has continued to “waffle” on potential student-loan relief, and he recommended that, to give borrowers certainty, Biden should fulfill his campaign pledge to cancel $10,000 in student debt, target the pause on payments only for those in “severe hardship,” and put the “affluent and capable” borrowers back into repayment on the expected May 1 resumption date.

“Borrowers today are paralyzed with uncertainty,” Noto wrote.

“If the government needlessly extends the broad moratorium for a fourth time, not only will it add to the country’s inflation woes and unnecessarily give to the wealthy who are willing and able to repay their debts, but it will severely disrupt people’s ability to make long-term financial plans,” he added. “American borrowers and future college students need clarity to make long-term financial decisions, but the burden of uncertainty around the future of their student loan debt is making that impossible.”

SoFi, along with other private lenders, are taking their efforts to Congress. Politico first reported on Friday that several lenders are lobbying Congress to narrow student-loan relief down to a targeted group of federal borrowers. According to a document obtained by Politico, titled “Back to Normal Means Ending the Student Loan Payment Pause,” the lenders argued another extension of the payment pause would be “unnecessary” given that borrowers are better off financially than they were at the start of the pandemic. They also argued that another payment pause will exacerbate inflation and would help wealthy borrowers the most.

Student-loan payments have been on pause for over two years as part of pandemic relief implemented first by former President Donald Trump, and later extended three times by Biden. With the current pause on payments set to expire on May 1, some Democratic lawmakers and advocates have argued that further relief is warranted, and that Biden should not throw borrowers back into repayment until he either implements broad student-loan relief or fundamentally reforms the student-loan industry so it works for every borrower.

But many Republican lawmakers, and conservative advocates agree with SoFi, saying the pause on student-loan payments has hurt taxpayers and should not be extended again. 

The cases for and against broad student-loan relief

After White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told Pod Save America earlier this month that borrowers would be on the hook for some form of relief before payments are set to resume in May, SoFi’s Noto wrote on Twitter that “the original intent of the moratorium was great,” but since then, it has cost taxpayers $150 billion. He said resuming payments is “the harder right thing to do instead of the easier path of indecision, wasting taxpayer money.

His argument is one a number of Republican lawmakers have used to criticize broad student-loan relief. Top Republican on the House education committee Virginia Foxx said in January that the student-loan payment pause is “troubling,” and broad loan forgiveness would be “a massive mistake.” She cited the $150 billion cost to taxpayers that accompanied Biden’s additional extension, and similar to what Noto said, she wrote providing a clear timeline for repayment will ease “borrower confusion.”

Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers and experts have been arguing the opposite. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer — leaders of the $50,000 student-loan forgiveness proposal — have consistently argued that broad relief would stimulate the economy because it would allow money that would have gone toward monthly payments to be invested elsewhere. 

New York Rep. Mondaire Jones recently echoed that sentiment, saying that “Americans who found themselves with disposable income began putting it towards food, car payments, and housing, among other things, actually bolstering the economy in the process.”

Still, Biden has not yet commented on further relief so borrowers are still on track to begin payments again in May. And as Insider previously reported, student-loan companies have spent millions of dollars on lobbying efforts to keep Biden from canceling student debt, and while it’s unclear how influential they might be in decision making, borrowers still have yet to see the broad relief they were promised.