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A student loan servicer told some borrowers payments will be auto-debited Sept. 1. It was a mistake.

U.S. Education Secretary on teacher shortage
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on teacher shortage, student loans 05:28

Some people with student loans received a notice Thursday from their servicer that their next payment would automatically debit at the beginning of next month — but the Education Department said any communications from servicers about payments restarting was sent in error.

The clock is ticking down on the expiration at the end of the month of the student loan payment pause, a pandemic measure that halted borrowers' payments and set their interest rate to zero. But student loan servicer Nelnet sent borrowers an email saying payments would automatically debit Sept. 1 and to check their website up to three days prior to make changes to that scheduled debit.

It was unclear exactly how many borrowers received the emails from Nelnet, but only a tiny fraction of the nation's more than 45 million borrowers with outstanding federal loans were affected.

Hours after the notification went out, Nelnet sent out a second email saying payments remain paused due to COVID-19. 

"Earlier today we emailed you that your student loan payment would be automatically withdrawn from your bank account on September 1, 2022," it read. "Please disregard that email. It shouldn't have been sent. We apologize for any confusion or concern it may have caused you."

Nelnet also said the servicer would send a billing statement 21 days before a payment is due, and if the payment pause is extended again by the federal government, they will announce it at the top of their webpage. Nelnet did not respond to an inquiry about the emails from CBS News.

The current deadline for the payment pause to end is Aug. 31 after it was extended again in April. But it's uncertain whether payments would actually resume. The White House has said President Biden would make a decision about canceling student loan debt before the pause expired or it would be extended. But so far, there has been no announcement.

In a statement to CBS News on Thursday, the Education Department also said any communications from servicers to federal student loan borrowers regarding restarting student loan payments were sent in error. 

"The Department of Education has directed servicers to inform federal student loan borrowers who received the message that payments remain paused," a spokesperson said. "The Department of Education will continue to assess the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy on student loan borrowers. We will communicate directly with borrowers about the end of the payment pause when a decision is made."

On Tuesday, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told "CBS Mornings" they're having conversations daily with the White House and borrowers will know soon when a decision is made.

Payments on federal student loans have been on hold for about 40 million Americans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Interest has been set to zero during this period.

While the administration is facing questions over payments resuming, Mr. Biden is also facing pressure to cancel student loan debt. Last month, Mr. Biden said he would make a decision on student loans by the end of August. In April, Biden confirmed he was considering canceling $10,000 in student loan debt but ruled out canceling $50,000 per borrower, which some Democrats have pushed for.

While the Biden administration continues to look into broader student loan debt forgiveness, it has already approved $28 billion in targeted student loan forgiveness including for those who had been defrauded by schools, with disabilities and through the public service loan forgiveness program.

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