Boycott Your Federal Student Loan Payments? Experts Say That’s a Bad Idea
Last updated August 26, 2023
The resumption of federal student loan payments, which begins in October, will be a financial stretch for many borrowers, whose average monthly payments will be $200 to $300 a month.
Some are looking for a way to push back. The idea of a student “debt strike” is being promoted on social media, and fostered by an activist group called the Debt Collective, which has its roots in the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011.
On its website, the collective encourages student loan borrowers to take part in the boycott to force President Biden to provide loan forgiveness for all student loan debt.
“The Debt Collective defines a student debt striker as anyone who is paying $0 a month for a combination of economic and/or political reasons—because they can’t pay and know they shouldn’t have to pay—and who is committed to joining the fight for broad-based cancellation. A student debt strike is about politicizing nonpayment collectively. Instead of doing things as individuals, we are doing them together as a united front.”
The idea of a student loan boycott appears to be catching on, according to a recent survey by Intelligent.com, a company that ranks colleges across the country. Of 1,000 federal student loan borrowers it surveyed in August, 62 percent said they were likely to boycott payments this fall. Half believe a boycott could lead to total debt forgiveness.
“I think the boycott is silliness,” said Bruce McClary, a vice president at the non-profit National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “People participating in this boycott are hurting themselves more than anything, and it’s not likely to end up in the outcome they hope.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has already blocked the Biden administration from a broad forgiveness program. And individuals who withhold payments for more than a year could suffer serious financial consequences, McClary noted.
To cushion the economic hardship that could result when the payment pause ends, the Biden Administration created a safety net, a 12-month “on-ramp” to repayment that runs from October 1, 2023, to September 30, 2024.
Payments are still due, and interest will accrue, but during the on-ramp period, borrowers will not be reported to credit bureaus, be considered in default, or be referred to collection agencies for late, missed, or partial payments.
When the on-ramp protection ends, McClary told Checkbook, those still withholding payments will suffer financial consequences.
“It could lead to lower credit scores, wage garnishment, withholding of tax refunds, and ineligibility for future government-backed loans like an FHA or VA mortgage,” he said.
Our recent article “Ready or Not, Federal Student Loan Payment Pause Ends August 31” provides resources for those who can’t afford to make their student loan payments.
Contributing editor Herb Weisbaum (“The ConsumerMan”) is an Emmy award-winning broadcaster and one of America's top consumer experts. He has been protecting consumers for more than 40 years, having covered the consumer beat for CBS News, The Today Show, and NBCNews.com. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at ConsumerMan.com.