Students and Education | Representative Joseph Morelle

Students and Education

Students, parents, and educators across our country are frightened about the short and long-term impacts COVID-19 will have on our education system. As the situation rapidly evolves, Congress has taken steps to provide peace of mind for students and families – and we’ll continue working to provide the assistance our educational institutions need and the relief students deserve during this time of uncertainty.

Continue reading below to learn about some of the resources and support we’ve provided for America's schools and students.

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College Students and Loan Relief

K-12 Schools

College Students and Loan Relief

The federal government has enacted unprecedented relief for college students and Americans with student loans while our nation combats the COVID-19 pandemic. Please read below the action taken and resources available to students.

CARES Act Aid to College Students

  • Allows colleges to continue paying students using Federal Work Study even if the student is unable to work due to COVID-19.
  • Ensures that semesters college students are unable to complete as a result of COVID-19 are not counted against their Pell Grant or subsidized loan eligibility limit. For example, Pell Grant eligibility is limited to 12 semesters under federal education law. The CARES Act mandates that an incomplete semester interrupted by COVID-19 will not cost a student a semester of eligibility.
  • Permits U.S. college students studying at foreign institutions to continue their education during the COVID19 pandemic by taking courses via distance learning or attending a partnering U.S.-based institution. 

Relief to Borrowers

Between March 13, 2020 and September 30, 2002, the federal government will: 

  • Suspend student loan payments and freeze interest on all direct and federally held student loans. (NOTE: This does not apply to private student loans, commercially held Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans, or institutionally held Perkins loans. Borrowers should reach out to their servicers with questions.)
  • Halt all involuntary collection of federal student loan debt, including wage garnishment and tax refund offset, and halt negative credit reporting related to federal student loans.
    • Under pressure from Congress, the Department of Education also refunded approximately $1.8 billion in involuntary student loan offsets that were being withheld from more than 830,000 borrowers.

Additionally, exclusion for Certain Employer Payments of Student Loans was implemented with the CARES Act:

Under current law, an employee may exclude $5,250 from income for an employer-sponsored educational assistance program. The provision would expand the definition of expenses to include an employer paying student loan debt. The provision is effective for student loan payment made before January 1, 2021.

Below are some Frequently Asked Questions, as provided by the Department of Education. Please visit the Dept. of Ed website for more information.

FAQs

How can I take advantage of this 0% interest period if I have Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program and Federal Perkins loans not owned by ED?

While your lender or school can provide these benefits should it choose to do so, you can consolidate your FFEL Program or Federal Perkins loans not owned by ED into a Direct Consolidation Loan, which would be eligible for 0% interest. However, if you consolidate, after the 0% interest rate period ends, the interest rate on your loan may be higher than what you are currently paying. In addition, when you consolidate, any outstanding interest will capitalize, meaning that any outstanding interest is added to your principal balance. Your servicer can provide you with information about how your loan balance, interest rate, and total amount to be paid would change if you consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Who can tell me if my loans will have their interest rate temporarily reduced to 0%?

Contact your loan servicer online or by phone to determine if your loans are eligible. Your servicer is the entity to which you make your monthly payment. If you do not know who your servicer is or how to contact them, visit StudentAid.gov/login or call us at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243; TTY for the deaf or hearing-impaired 1-800-730-8913) for assistance.

If my loans are owned by ED, do I need to do anything for the interest on my loans to be set at 0%?

No, ED will automatically adjust your account so that interest doesn’t accrue (i.e., accumulate). The account adjustment will be effective March 13, 2020.

If I make loan payments during the 0% interest period, how will they be applied?

During the period of 0% interest (March 13, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2020), the full amount of your payments will be applied to principal once all the interest that accrued prior to March 13 is paid.

Are private student loans eligible for the 0% interest benefit?

No. ED does not have legal authority over private student loans, and they are not covered by the CARES Act.

K-12 Schools

Because of the NYS PAUSE Act, K-12 schools will remain closed until at least April 29th. This is a decision made by New York State, and not the federal government. 

Also in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York State Education Department announced the cancellation of this year's regents exams and issued guidance regarding modifications to graduation requirements. That information can be found below:

The COVID-19 emergency has evolved rapidly, leading to uncertainty as to when regular in-school classroom instruction will be able to resume throughout the state and whether students will be adequately prepared to take the Regents examinations. As a result, the Board of Regents and Department have cancelled the June 2020 administration of the NYS High School Regents Examination Program.

Because of this, the Department has modified the requirements that students must meet in order to earn high school diplomas, credentials, and endorsements. These modifications apply to all students enrolled in grades 7-12 during the 2019-20 school year who were intending to participate in one or more of the June 2020 Regents Examinations.

Students who, during the June 2020 examination period would have taken one or more Regents examinations, will be exempted from passing the assessments in order to be issued a diploma.  To qualify for the exemption, students must meet one of the following eligibility requirements:

  • The student is currently enrolled in a course of study culminating in a Regents examination and will have earned credit in such course of study by the end of the 2019-20 school year; or
  • The student is in grade 7, is enrolled in a course of study culminating in a Regents examination and will have passed such course of study by the end of the 2019-20 school year; or
  • The student is currently enrolled in a course of study culminating in a Regents examination and has failed to earn credit by the end of the school year. Such student returns for summer instruction to make up the failed course and earn the course credit and is subsequently granted diploma credit in August 2020; or
  • The student was previously enrolled in the course of study leading to an applicable Regents examination, has achieved course credit, and has not yet passed the associated Regents examination but intended to take the test in June 2020 to achieve a passing score.