America’s 42 million student loan borrowers are catching a break. Donald Trump announced today that he would allow borrowers to suspend payments on the loans for 60 days, without incurring penalties or interest.
The president also announced he was allowing states to waive federal standardized test requirements. With most students sent home for the duration of the crisis, it would have been difficult, if not impossible to administer the tests.
Trump also announced that he will let states waive federal testing requirements for elementary and high school students, both moves in response to the coronavirus pandemic. State leaders have been increasingly anxious about testing mandates as the coronavirus shutters schools across the nation.
On student loans, in addition to suspending payments, the Education Department said it would set the interest rates on all federally held student loans to zero until at least May 12. That carries out Trump’s announcement last week that he was waiving the interest on student loans.
Trump said student borrowers won’t have to make loan payments “for at least the next 60 days and if we need more we’ll extend that period of time.”
Democrats want to go farther; they want student loan forgiveness.
But Senate Democrats have said that doesn’t go far enough. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called for canceling student loan payments made by borrowers during the national emergency and wants to guarantee borrowers at least $10,000 each in total loan forgiveness.
Trump, speaking during a news conference at the White House on Friday, also teased additional announcements on student loans from his administration.
“We have more to come on student loans, more good news for the students but we’ll do that at a different time,” Trump said.
Still to be determined is what happens if schools are closed for the rest of the term. As it stands now, even if students are learning online, most school districts are saying they can’t be graded for whatever work they do. It’s an “equity” issue; not everyone has computers or knows how to use them.
“To ensure equity, remote instruction should not be provided to students, including through the internet, technology at home, by phone, or otherwise,” the letter read.
On Wednesday afternoon, after backlash and confusion among teachers, Superintendent William Hite clarified the district’s position, saying that teachers cannot require students to do work remotely or grade them on that work.
At a city press briefing on COVID-19, Hite said that the district would update its guidance and stressed that it is not prohibiting teachers from contacting students and their families, but rather encouraging it. However, due to access concerns, the district would prohibit “a requirement to log in, a requirement to take attendance, and a requirement to distribute grades. If that’s not available to all children, we cannot make that available to some,” Hite said.
Hopefully, most kids will be back in school before May. What happens then is anyone’s guess. Do you just pass the kids on to the next grade? Extending the school year well into summer is one option, but fraught with scheduling conflicts for teachers, students, and employees.
If I were a parent, I’d be more concerned about my child’s learning deficit. They are probably not going to make up all the lost day which means lost learning. Parents are going to have to pick up the slack in order to not put their kids at a disadvantage.