U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos shows FAFSA mobile app as she speaks during 2018 FSA Training Conference at Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta in November 2018. DeVos announced Wednesday her department is temporarily suspending loan collections for default borrowers. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

U.S. officials temporarily halt default student loan debt collection

U.S. Department of Education officials announced Wednesday a 60 day suspension of collection actions and wage garnishments against default student loan borrowers to provide additional assistance to those borrowers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, private collection agencies have been instructed to halt all collection activities, including making phone calls to borrowers and issuing collection letters and billing statements.

There are currently over 5 million borrowers in default on a federal or private student loan, according to some 2019 government estimates.

The suspension is retroactive to March 13.

"These are difficult times for many Americans, and we don't want to do anything that will make it harder for them to make ends meet or create additional stress," U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement.

About 57% of Georgians who have recently earned college degrees have student loan debt, according to a 2019 report by The Institute for College Access and Success. The average student loan debt is about $29,000. About one in three University of Georgia students borrow money to attend while about one-half of students Georgia State and Kennesaw State universities borrow money to pay for tuition, state data shows.

The Trump administration has made several changes since declaring a national emergency to the virus to help borrowers. They include allowing borrowers with federally held student loans to suspend their payments for the next two months and all interest waived on federal student loans.

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