Cancer Patients Can Get a Break on Federal Student Loan Payments

Federal law allows cancer patients to stop making payments on their federal student loans.

By , Attorney · University of Denver Sturm College of Law

According to the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, more than 89,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year, and many of those individuals have student loan debt. To provide some relief to student loan borrowers who are battling this disease, on September 28, 2018, a new federal law, the Department of Education Appropriations Act, 2019, went into effect.

This law allows individuals who have cancer to get deferments on their federal student loans.

What's a Deferment?

If you qualify, a "deferment" allows you to stop making payments on a federal student loan for a set period of time. During the deferment, interest does not accrue on the debt.

Deferments of federal student loans have historically been available to people who are, for example, unemployed, returning to school, deployed in the military, or serving with the Peace Corps.

Student Loan Deferments for Cancer Patients

Under federal law, a borrowers may receive a deferment and temporarily stop making payments on a federal student loan while:

  • being treated for cancer and
  • for six more months after treatment is completed. (20 U.S.C. § 1087e(f)(3)).

This law is applicable to loans made on or after September 28, 2018 or in repayment on September 28, 2018. (20 U.S.C. § 1087e(f)(3)).

How to Get a Deferment

To get a deferment of your federal student loans, call your loan servicer. Continue to make the payments on your loan until the deferment is in place.

When to Talk to an Attorney

If you're undergoing cancer treatment, or your treatment ended within the last six months, and your servicer refuses give you a deferment, consider talking to a consumer protection lawyer or a debt settlement lawyer with experience in student loan matters. A lawyer can help you enforce your rights.

You can also submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) online or by calling 855-411-CFPB (2372) if you have a problem with your student loan servicer. The CFPB will then work to get you a response to your complaint.