Student loan forgiveness and payments made during Covid

There is a buzz in the air amongst the 40+ million people in the United States who have student loans. The Biden administration announced on August 24th, 2022 that there would be broad loan forgiveness for federally held student loans. Up to $10,000 per person forgiven for regular student loans and up to $20,000 for those with Pell grants. I strongly recommend you go read the official announcement for more details if you think there’s a chance this could apply to you. Unless you fall into the category of what I’m about to talk about next, there’s nothing you need to do right now – no action to take. Just wait and be patient until more information is released.

However, some of us (myself included) fall into the category of people who have either paid off their student loans or just made some payments during Covid that would put you below the $10k or $20k forgiveness threshold. When I first heard about the forgiveness I felt some guilt/frustration that we decided to pay off our student loans back in February when we knew this could be a possibility in the future. To make sure this is clear – I was very happy this is happening regardless of what I do/don’t get from it. When I was doing more reading I learned about an interesting possibility – getting a refund on payments made during Covid and those potentially being eligible for forgiveness. There’s two parts to this and I’m only mostly certain of the first part currently.

DISCLAIMER – I am not a financial advisor nor do I have the background/authority/qualifications to give financial advice. I’m outlining my reasoning below and talking through the steps/actions I have taken. Do your own research and make decisions based on your own personal situation.

Part 1: Get payments made during Covid refunded

On it explicitly says the following:

“You can get a refund for any payment (including auto-debit payments) you make during the payment pause (beginning March 13, 2020). Contact your loan servicer to request that your payment be refunded.”

It doesn’t say any explicitly about paid-in-full loans but this should mean that if you request a refund for any payments made since March 13th, 2020 that refund request will be approved. My wife and I both called our previous lenders (Nelnet and Fedloan) yesterday (Aug 25th, 2022) to request refunds and they were both very helpful/friendly and submitted those refund requests. At this point it will be up to the Department of Education to approve or deny the refund request but based on the language above I would expect it to be approved. If approved, then you would get a check mailed to you for the refund amount and your loan balance would either increase or be reinstated (if previously paid-in-full).

Part 2: Get $10k (or $20k for Pell grants) of your loans forgiven (?)

This is the part where there’s more unknowns. I haven’t seen a government source confirm that refunded payments would be eligible for the announced student loan forgiveness. However, over on the StudentLoans subreddit I did see this question addressed by /u/Betsy514. For some background, that Reddit user is Betsy Mayotte. She is the President of The Institute of Student Loan Advisors and you can find more information about her credentials on their website. She has been a moderator of the StudentLoans subreddit for many years and all the information I have ever seen her post has been credible and if not immediately sourced, usually ends up being 100% accurate. The reason I bring this up is because in the recent thread about the administration’s loan forgiveness program she has put together an FAQ section to answer many of the most asked questions she’s seen in the last few days. In that FAQ she says the following:

If I paid off my loans during covid can I get a refund and then get forgiveness?
This was a surprise to me but apparently the answer is yes. But only payments made since March 2020 when the covid waiver started.

…and then goes on to say:

UPDATED: If you have paid in full loans or owe less than the forgiveness amount you are eligible for you will NOT get a refund. Exception is if you paid during the covid waiver – you can get those payments back by calling your loan servicer. there is a backlog for refunds so you receiving the money could take a while but the change to your balance should happen fairly quickly.

Currently she has not given a source for that answer, but I have pretty strong confidence she has multiple contacts who are in-the-know who might not be able to talk about it in an official capacity so far. Take it with a grain of salt for sure, but this seems like a good case for being hopeful this will work out.

Final Thoughts

Is this all guaranteed to work? Definitely not – there’s a lot of information I’d like to see shared by the administration and I believe that it will be shared in the coming weeks. However, I also see very little downside to taking action on Part 1 above and requesting a refund for payments made since Covid started if you currently have a loan balance below $10k (or $20k for Pell grants). If the loans end up being forgiven, AWESOME. If not, just send them the money back – no harm no foul.

Current questions I have and unknowns (I will update this post when I find answers)

  1. Is there a deadline to when your student loan account must have a balance to be considered for forgiveness?
    • This is important because the refund process can take up to a couple months to complete. Betsy mentions above that even though the refund process can take awhile to fully complete, your loan balance could change rather quickly. However, every lender could be different so nothing is certain there.
  2. Is there confirmation that refunded student loan payments would be eligible for forgiveness at all?
    • Betsy says yes but I’d love to see an official government answer to this question

App Deletion Strategy

I tend to hoard apps on my phone. As of this moment I have 345 apps installed on my phone and I’m not certain how many of those I need. However, whenever I think I have too many apps and decide I should go through and delete some I run into a problem. “Well what if I want to create a 3D CAD map of my home? I can’t delete Canvas!” This is the sort of thinking that creates physical clutter in one’s home and also tends to cause digital clutter.

Recently I’ve started a new strategy for deleting apps off my phone. I am one of those people who usually reads the release notes for apps when updates come through on the App Store because I want to be aware if a cool new feature is released for an app I use. Sometimes when I’m scrolling through the apps that need to be updated I realize I don’t care about what changed for it or I realize I didn’t even know that app was installed on my phone. In either of those situations I will almost always delete the app. On top of those I will also usually challenge myself to delete one app from the list of available updates since there is usually at least one good candidate to remove. Using these three criteria for deleting apps during the process of updating apps has allowed me to slowly and steadily remove some of the digital clutter in my life.

Important tip: in iOS 13 Apple added the ability to delete an app right from the update list instead of needing to remember to go back and delete it later! See below:

Example of how to delete an app from app update screen
It’s so easy to delete an app from the list of app updates!

Time Tracking

If you’re familiar with the concept of time tracking then you probably associate it with incredibly annoying experiences at your job. For the rest of you, I’m guessing this is something you’ve probably never spent much time thinking about – if at all.

At my first job I was expected to track my time down to every half hour and at the end of the week I had to assign all 40 hours of my time to various buckets (project codes). Each bucket would relate to a different software project that was going on in our company and since it was a life insurance company and software development was just overhead (I’ll get into that another day) they would use our time tracking to bill our time to other departments. I’m not going to rant too much about how much I hate time tracking for my job but essentially I would end up spending a couple hours a week just focused on tracking my time and figuring out which bucket each half hour of my day would go into. Don’t get me started on my annoyance of figuring out how we were supposed to track our time using the restroom, stepping away from our desks to give our minds a break, or just connecting with our coworkers about (gasp) things not related to work.

Mainframe Console
Sadly I couldn’t find a good image of the time tracking in an IBM Mainframe console but this is pretty similar to how it looked. Not friendly nor fun.

All this is to say that my first experience hearing about or having to do time tracking was not a great one. Obviously it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever experienced but it certainly isn’t pleasant nor would I choose a job today where I would be forced to do it.

Fast forward 6-7 years to when I started a wedding photography company. I’ve listened to many tech podcasts over the years and a theme that ran through them from time to time was the concept of time tracking. Many of them are independent app developers or bloggers who work full time for themselves and do time tracking as a way to see where/how they are spending their time and as a way to add efficiency to their businesses. When I started Schendel Photo I decided I was going to start doing time tracking as well to determine what is taking me the most time and what could be done better. It also helped me justify my prices (just to myself) as not only was I providing a great service to my clients, I was also giving a lot of time to each of them whether in person with them or behind the scenes. For Schendel Photo I didn’t end up using the information as much as I would have expected. I mainly used it to determine if I felt like I spent enough time on the business each week. If a lot of time went by without putting in many hours then I would try to be more intentional. I could’ve done more with the information but for reasons I will get into in the future – I’m not going to.

Now here we are today. About a week ago I decided to pick up time tracking yet again in my life. This time instead of tracking my time in my day job, or a business I’m starting, I decided I am going to use time tracking in my daily life. I’m very specifically not tracking any time related to my software job nor am I tracking time for Schendel Photo beyond an all encompassing category for when I do absolutely anything for the business. I am also very specifically not trying to track all my free time because I don’t want this to become a chore because if it becomes a chore I will simply stop doing it. So those are all the things I’m NOT tracking – so what am I tracking?

A few of the categories I’ve currently decided to track:

  • Video Games
  • Time with Friends
  • Home Finances (Time doing budgeting, etc)
  • Creation (Doing things like writing this blog post, programming personal stuff, etc)
  • Consumption (Movies, TV, YouTube, etc)
  • Non-Weekly Home (Various home projects that aren’t standard weekly chores)
  • Family
  • Reading

In total I have 13 categories right now which may sound like a lot, but many of them aren’t used daily. The key is that through these 13 categories I am tracking the majority of the non-tedious parts of my day. Also, very crucially, there are digital ways to be able to do this time tracking. If I had to use a clock and write down on paper what I spent time doing I would simply never do this. Personally, I use a service named Toggl to track my time. It allows you to create Projects which are the categories I mentioned above. Toggl also allows developers to hook into their service and create nicer user interfaces which is excellent because frankly their applications are not great. This is where I introduce an excellent app by an independent iOS/macOS developer named Joe HribarTimery. Timery allows you to not only create/manage these categories but it lets you create simple saved timers with them so that when I start doing one of these tasks I just open Timery and tap on which thing I’m doing. When I finish whatever I’m working on (or watching, let’s be honest) I just tap the stop button and it automatically logs that time for me. Timery has built in reports over various time periods, custom Home Screen widgets, and even more. I’m a big fan for how simple it makes a lot of this to do and honestly without it I wouldn’t be able to manage to do time tracking for myself. Toggl is free to use with no restrictions that most people would every run into and Timery is free to use for up to 4 timers and $10/year for unlimited everything (just do it, support indie developers!).


Saved Timers screen in Timery on iOS


I find myself often at the end of the day feeling like I didn’t do enough. Enough to better myself, enough to feel like I accomplished something, enough to feel proud of how I spent my time that day. I’ll be the first to admit, some of this is just my own brain and things I’m working through to be kinder to myself. There is also an aspect here of the toxic productivity culture in this country – if you rest you are bad. If you take time off of work you are bad. If you don’t have 3 side hustles, you are bad. I don’t believe in any of that. However, I also recognize places in my life where I am moving towards my “default future” instead of one I am actively choosing. I also recently went through an exercise with my therapist to come up with core values in my life, things that I want to guide where I spend my time. I’m hoping time tracking will reveal where I am following those values as well as time where I’m defaulting to things that don’t align with my values.