7 Apartment Therapy Readers Reveal How the Student Loan Pause Changed Their Lives

published Feb 11, 2022
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When I landed my first job after earning my bachelor’s degree, I was making around $36,000 per year. Things were tight, to say the least, and making ends meet became even more difficult once payments for my student loans kicked in. My payments started at around $256 per month. That was also the year when my credit card debt began to pile on as I struggled to pay for, well, living life.

I eventually had to switch to an income-based payment plan, which lowered my monthly payments to about $63 per month, but these payments only applied to the interest, not the principal. When I eventually started making more money, my payments went up to about $205. I was able to pay this rate for a few months into 2020 — until the government began providing relief to Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Known as the student loan pause, these measures included a suspension of loan payments for federal student loans, a halt on collections for defaulted loans, and a zero percent interest rate. This allowed those who were still able to pay off their loans to tackle the principal more aggressively. 

I chose to pay nothing on my loans. In many ways, I regret not chipping away at the opportunity to pay off some of my loans while they were interest-free. That said, that extra $200 a month has helped me greatly. I was able to build up my lackluster savings and live alone — two things I have never been able to do. 

After multiple extensions, the student loan pause is currently set to expire on May 1. I am not the only one who benefited from this measure. Here are seven Apartment Therapy readers on the different ways the student loan pause changed their lives.

Spending Time on What Matters Most

Apartment Therapy reader Maggie, a contract attorney turned sales associate, was able to not only switch to a lower-paying job but spend more time with their baby. “The student loan pause definitely made it easier to take a job I loved that paid less, and take off more time for that baby in my lap!” Maggie tells Apartment Therapy.

Paying Off Student Loans Interest-Free

One of the biggest bonuses of the student loan pause, in addition to the deferred payments, was the halt on interest. This made it possible for those who could afford to continue to pay to reduce their overall loan costs. “It changed my life because I was able to pay a large portion of them off thanks to no interest!” says Kaylin, a nurse.

Masaki, a writer from Lansing, Michigan, had a similar experience. “I set aside all the money I was going to pay for it and am going to pay like this giant chunk, and will be pretty much done. Shout out to 0 percent interest rates,” Masaki says. 

Paying Bills and Other Debts

Student loans can take up a large chunk of someone’s budget, which makes paying off debts and other pressing bills more difficult. The student loan pause gave people the opportunity to do both of those things. “I was able to pay off a huge chunk of my credit card debt that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do!” says Jenni, a compliance professional from Detroit, Michigan. 

“It was extremely helpful for me, especially during the period of time in the pandemic that I didn’t have a job and was sick from COVID. It allowed me to use the money for other things that were much more of a pressing need at the time such as rent, utilities, and more,” Lacey, a writer from Owensboro, Kentucky, explains.

But Not Everyone Benefitted…

Because the student loan pause only applied to federal loans, those who had to take out private loans to pay for school did not get to appreciate a pause or zero interest rates.

“I didn’t qualify for government loans in college so I had to get private loans. My payments never stopped during the pandemic” says Caitlin, a financial educator from West Bloomfield, Michigan. 

“The majority of my loans are private, and they were still active during the pandemic. I’ve had my federal loans in forbearance for the last few years because of how expensive private ones have been. Only upside is they did not accrue interest,” explains Molly, a teacher from Denver, Colorado.