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How to Get a Refund on Student Loan Payments You Made During the Pandemic

With the White House's student loan plan announced, you can get back your payments and apply the amount toward debt forgiveness.

Student loan borrowers at a rally outside the White House
Demonstrators at a rally outside the White House celebrating President Biden's plan to forgive student loan debt. 
Paul Morigi/Getty Images

In August, President Joe Biden announced student loan holders could receive up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness. He also extended the loan payment moratorium through Dec. 31, 2022.

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While many of the 45 million Americans with federal student loans have taken advantage of the pandemic pause on payments and interest, some have continued paying to chip away at their principal.

Borrowers can actually request a refund of any payments made on student loans since the loan forbearance began on March 13, 2020, according to the Federal Office of Student Aid. Your pre-pandemic amount would then be eligible for the new cancelation plan, up to $10,000 in debt cancellation ($20,000 for Pell Grant recipients). 

Here's what you need to know about refunds for loan payments made during the pandemic, including who is eligible and how to request your money back.

For more on student debt, find out if you qualify for a public student loan forgiveness waiver, the benefits (and drawbacks) of refinancing your student loan and how to avoid student loan forgiveness scams.

How do I request a refund of student loan payments?

To request a refund of any payments made since March 13, 2020, the Department of Education recommends contacting your specific loan servicer to request a refund. (More than 40% of all student loans in the US are managed by Nelnet.)

Read more: Find Out Who Your Student Loan Servicer Is

If you reach out, have details about your loan and payments on hand -- including how much you paid and the dates of your payments. And be prepared for a long call with significant hold times.

The Department of Education's Federal Office of Student Aid website also has information on the loan services and forgiveness plan, although the site has also been experiencing lags because of the high volume of traffic. 

What kind of loans are eligible for refunds?

If you've been making payments on federal loans from the Department of Education, you may request a refund of some or all made since the loan forbearance took effect on March 13, 2020.

Payments on other types of loans -- non-defaulted Perkins and Health Education Assistance Loans (HEAL) not owned by the Department of Education, Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) not held by the Department of Education and private student loans are not eligible for refunds.

If I get a refund, will the debt forgiveness be applied to my pre-pandemic loan amount?

While even loan service providers have questions about the particulars of the plans, most analysts believe your account should be eligible for the forgiveness plan, as long as you meet all the other qualifications.

"Those who have been making voluntary student loan payments of their federal student loans since March of 2020 can actually get a refund of those payments," Daniel Zibel, co-founder of the advocacy group Student Defense told Houston Public Radio. "You will have that amount canceled out."

What If I paid off my loans entirely during the pandemic?

The Department of Education has said borrowers who paid off all their federal student loans since March 13, 2020, still qualify for debt forgiveness, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Several borrowers who made payments during the pandemic said on Twitter that their loan servicers told them that if they received a refund, their loans would be reopened and the forgiveness applied to the revised balance.

CNET has not verified this information yet. We recommend talking directly with your loan servicer. 

Read more: How to Apply for Student Loan Forgiveness