New Federal Student Loan Changes Over COVID-19
2 minute read
With lectures and labs being suspended and online learning becoming the norm, physical therapy students have had to adjust to a new normal. But there is some potentially good news when it comes to students who have federal student loans.
First, on March 20, the Department of Education announced that it would provide financial relief to current students and graduates with student loan debt during the national emergency. The office of Federal Student Aid announced the following changes:
- All federal student loan interest rates will automatically be set to 0% for at least 60 days.
- Borrowers who are delinquent on payments for more than 31 days will be automatically placed in administrative forbearance (or suspension of payments without penalty) for at least 60 days.
- All borrowers can request administrative forbearance by contacting their loan service provider.
These changes are restricted to federal loans and federal loan borrowers only. How long will this last? The Department of Education has stated that it will provide this relief for at least 60 days and will extend the relief, depending on the severity of the COVID-19 national emergency.
Building upon this, on Friday, March 27, the president signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act, that provide additional support for students and educational programs. Under the CARES Act, federal student loan borrowers will be able to defer payments, and employers can offer repayment benefits tax free. Payments on federal student loans can be deferred through September 30, with no accrual of interest during that period. Additionally, the stimulus allows employers to contribute up to $5,250 annually toward an employee's student loans without the benefit of being taxed as employee income. The employer provision applies to any employer payments made between now and January 1, 2021.
The U.S. Department of Education's Student Federal Aid office has posted additional information as well as frequently asked questions on Coronavirus and forbearance for students, borrowers, and parents at: https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus.
Addressing student debt burden and loan repayment challenges remains a top priority for APTA. APTA has advocated to Congress to have physical therapists participate in student loan forgiveness programs such as the National Health Service Corps, and APTA's Financial Solutions Center offers valuable tools and information to help members make the best financial decisions possible.
David Scala, Senior Congressional Affairs Specialist, APTA
How Climbing Has Shaped My Perspective as a Physical Therapy Student
"The summit is what drives us, but the climb itself is what matters" – Conrad Anker
In this time more than ever life feels like an uphill climb. Due to the COVID-19 virus, these past couple of weeks have been filled with transitions and unknowns. It feels like we've been climbing and climbing and just can't see the top.
In recent weeks we transitioned to online classes, and many of our daily life activities have been put on pause. Without a doubt, this has been challenging, perhaps one of my hardest climbs, and has made me hold onto the various lessons I learned through climbing.
Growing up as a competitive rock climber, either competing in the competition circuit or being away in the mountains on real rock, climbing has shaped me into the person I am today. And in tough times like these it is important more than ever to hold onto these lessons, the lessons that taught me how to be resilient and strong, and the lessons that remind me, that yes, we will get through this — together.
We will get to the top of this climb, and hopefully I can share with you some of the lessons that I learned through climbing.
Lesson 1: Be flexible to change your plan.
Before stepping onto the wall I take a minute and look at the route. I place my hands in the air, trying to read the route and figuring out how to best approach it.
Climbing is a puzzle, it involves endless problem solving.
When I was a youth competitor, we had to try and complete different climbs within a short, designated amount of time. We had never seen the climb before, and the goal was to get to the top of the climb on your first try. However, many times what you thought would work on the climb ended up going a different way. You sat back, looked at the climb again, and had to make a quick decision on whether to attempt the climb again the same way, or to come up with a brand new approach to get to the top. Or if your time was running out, you had to make the decision to call it and save that energy for the next climb, or to keep trying. Climbing made me think quickly on my feet under pressure, reflect on what went well or did not go well, and made me learn that it is essential to be flexible to change your plan if needed, in order to meet your goal.
This lesson seems way too suitable right now. As physical therapy students, we have been forced to be flexible during this unprecedented time and to learn in different ways than we ever expected. We have to learn to go with the flow, trust the process, and take one day at a time. Furthermore, as future PTs and PTAs we need to realize that what we envision for a patient's treatment session may go as planned, or it may go the complete opposite. We have to think quickly on our feet, reflect on what went well or did not go well in order for our patients to reach their goals. Our profession is all about being flexible to change your plan, and knowing that it is totally okay to make a new plan. Patients come first, and what worked for them one day may not work for them another day. Climbing was essential in teaching me the importance of being flexible.
Lesson 2: There is no right or wrong way to do the climb.
In terms of outdoor climbing, there were more options for me to be creative with how I approached different climbs. With endless hold options and kid-sized fingers at the time, I often picked grabbing the tiniest of holds over jumping to the next hold.
Climbing made me realize that there are a thousand different ways to approach something, and that there isn't necessarily a right or wrong way in completing the route. One method may have worked for one person to get to the top, but someone with a different body height, size, etc., may have found a different approach that worked better for them. Yet the important message was that as long as you completed your goal and got to the top of the climb, it did not matter how you got there.
As a student, this lesson made me realize that all PTs and PTAs are different, and what works well for one PT or PTA may not work as well for another. For example, when we learn techniques in musculoskeletal class, I have learned that I may have to change my hands or body position to be a certain way in order to perform the skill. I have also learned that every physical therapy student has a different story — we all come from different backgrounds, all have different specialty interests, and all have different career paths in mind. Yet there is no right or wrong way to go about being a PT or PTA.
In my opinion, it is all about timing and what works best for you at the right time, while thinking what may work best for you in the future. Climbing showed me that although we all have the same goal in mind, there is no right or wrong way to get there. It is all about what works best for you.
Lesson 3: Be okay with failure.
This is a big one, and one of the most important lessons I have learned. What many people don't realize is that climbing is 99% failure and 1% success.
We try, try, and try again to complete a route, yet we may fall countless times until that one try when everything aligns, and we find ourselves at the top. As a kid, this was hard for me to learn and to realize. The more that I fell the weaker I felt. Farther away from success. Not good enough. Not strong enough.
Oh, how much I have learned since that little climber in me. I have learned that it is not that we fall, but it is the journey. It is about not giving up when things get tough, and to not sell yourself short either. Climbing taught me to not be afraid to try harder routes, as long as it inspired me.
As a student, I learned that it is so much better to push myself out of my comfort zone than to get a perfect grade on an exam or an assignment. I really learned that this year. It is not about the grade, but it is about learning from the experience and how that can help you grow in the future. Be okay with vulnerability. Be okay with failure if it means that you will grow into a better student or clinician. Now, I'm not saying that it is okay to not study or that failure in school is okay, but I am saying that it is human nature to have some fumbles along the way, as long as we grow in the process.
Another thing that I learned is that no one will ever be perfect, we can always be better. Sometimes, in order to strive for greatness we have to encounter failure along the way. I don't think that I would have truly realized that without climbing.
Lesson 4: Trust is a gift.
As a climber, you learn that trust is a privilege, and the word "trust" does not hold meaning lightly. Climbing taught me that you have to earn trust in yourself and in others.
In certain disciplines of climbing, your life is literally in the hands of who is belaying you. One of the most beautiful parts of climbing is the relationships that you make with others and this tight-knit community. That said, with trust comes communication, as it is essential to be able to communicate well when you climb with a partner.
Just as in our profession, your future patients will need to earn your trust. For some patients who are eager and have had great previous experiences with physical therapy, it may be easier to gain your trust. However, other patients may be scared or apprehensive that they aren't going to get better. No matter who the patient is and no matter what the circumstance is, they put their trust in your hands, just like a belayer in climbing. Trust is a gift and it takes time to earn it. Don't forget that.
Lesson 5: No matter what, keep climbing.
Last, but certainly not least, no matter what keep climbing.
Now this lesson is not talking about how everyone should climb. This lesson is talking about the importance of always striving for that next goal, whatever that goal might be.
When I completed a climbing route, whether I had worked on that route for years or for only a couple of hours, I would of course be happy and celebrate that victory. However, immediately the next day, I would always ask myself, "Okay, what's next?" As a climber, it is human nature to keep pushing and trying to do the next hardest climb, or pushing your limits mentally and physically. This is true whether on real rock or in competition. At first, it feels like an endless race, as if there is never really a finish line. For some this may sound anxiety-provoking. You reached your goal, so isn't that good enough? Although those points are valid, there is so much satisfaction in striving to make yourself better and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
In school this lesson taught me to never settle and to always ask yourself, "What's next?" Yes, you got into physical therapy school, but how can you strive to be better? Perhaps that is applying to a residency, or as simple as reading a new journal article, or spending just a little more time to get better at a skill. Whatever the reason is — no matter big or small — keep climbing. Don't compare yourself with others, but compare yourself to you. What's next to make you better for yourself and for your future patients?
On another note, if things feel like they are getting tough, even one more step or one more move on a climb will get you closer to your goal. Sometimes it just takes baby steps. We are lifelong learners and will learn from each other.
No matter what … keep climbing.
Rachel Meyers, SPT, is a student at Duke University. You can contact Rachel at Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter at @rmeyers95.