Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), all principal and interest payments on federally held student loans are automatically suspended through September 30, 2020. Individuals are not required to contact federal student loan servicers in order to receive the benefit of these changes. Approximately 92 percent of the $1.6 trillion total outstanding student loan debt is owed to federal lenders.

In contrast, privately held loans, including Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) loans held by commercial lenders and Perkins Loans held by academic institutions, receive no relief under the CARES Act. Private loan lenders have taken alternative approaches to addressing strained borrowers in the face of a global pandemic. In contrast to the automatic forbearance of federal student loans offered by the CARES Act, borrowers applying for relief must contact their loan servicer directly in order to apply for relief.

Below is a short summary of the approaches taken by several major lenders in response to the COVID 19 pandemic:


Navient is offering up to three months of disaster forbearance to qualified FFELP and private loan borrowers who request it. The program will bring eligible loans “current” and postpone payments for up to three months. Interest will continue to accrue during that time but will not be capitalized at the end of the forbearance period.


Student loan borrowers are advised to reach out directly to discuss options for relief, but no new programs have been introduced that relate directly to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Earnest is offering up to three months of postponed payments, through a disaster forbearance, to qualified clients who request it. Interest accrues during forbearance but will not be capitalized (added to the unpaid principal) at the end of the forbearance period. Borrowers are encouraged to use the website to request forbearance and include the following information:

  • Details of how the individual has been financially impacted;
  • The industry the individual works in; and
  • An anticipated date the individual estimates they could resume payments.

Laurel Road

Student loan borrowers are advised to reach out directly to discuss options for relief, but no new programs have been introduced that relate directly to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank is offering all borrowers a three-month forbearance if needed, temporarily postponing payments for that period. Interest will continue to accrue on the loan but will not be capitalized at the end of the period. Individuals that still require assistance at the end of the three-month period can request an additional three-month forbearance. At the end of the forbearance period, the loan would re-amortize, and the monthly payment amount would be adjusted.


SoFI is allowing borrowers impacted by COVID-19 to apply for a payment deferral. Borrowers experiencing hardship at the end of the deferral period are encouraged to reach out to discuss further options.


As a result of COVID-19’s classification as a natural disaster, Commonbond borrowers can apply to take advantage of “natural disaster forbearance.” This program operates similarly to standard forbearance plans but can be used through the end of the national emergency declaration. During the forbearance period, interest will continue to accrue. Importantly, there are no fees for participating, and any time spent in natural disaster forbearance will not affect an individual’s ability to later use standard forbearance programs.

College Ave

College Ave offers a “Disaster Forbearance program” that temporarily suspends payments on College Ave student loans for three months. The loan will continue to accrue interest during this period, but the interest will not be capitalized once the forbearance period closes. Borrowers are encouraged to contact College Ave directly to discuss the program.

Additionally, New York and New Jersey have announced plans to provide relief for borrowers of student loans funded through state-funded programs:

New York

Prior to the passage of the CARES Act, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James announced on March 17, 2020, that the state would temporarily stop collection of all outstanding student loan debt owed to State University of New York schools. This moratorium is scheduled to last until at least April 15, 2020. This directive applies to student loan debt that is past due and owed to a school belonging to the SUNY system.

New Jersey

On March 19, 2020, Governor Murphy announced financial relief options for students and families repaying loans borrowed through the New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students program. Borrowers of NJCLASS loans must go to the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) website and fill out an application for relief due to financial hardships owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. HESAA has announced greater leniency in its review of these applications to account for the coronavirus.

To see our other material related to the pandemic, please visit the Coronavirus/COVID-19: Facts, Insights & Resources page of our website by clicking here.