Based on your story and loan age, you either have a private loan (because you said you refinanced), or you actually meant you consolidated, and you still have old FFEL loans. These loans did not qualify for the CARES Act forbearance. Only Direct student loans qualified, which originated after 2007.
1. No, she cannot consolidate your Parent PLUS Loan into a consolidation loan in her name. There's a lot confusion surrounding consolidation and refinancing.
Consolidation = free government program, where you combine multiple federal loans in your name to a single loan in your name.
Refinancing = taking out a private loan. This loses all benefits, including PSLF. However, you can consolidate your loan into her name.
2. You would elect a repayment plan about a month before repayment begins. Note, payment pause may also be extended further, so no reason to jump the gun here.
3. You must be on an income-driven repayment plan, such as IBR, to qualify for PSLF. Simply not having qualifying employment doesn't change anything - she just won't get PSLF credits until she starts eligible employment.
Are the current debt forgiveness programs restricted to debt held by the US government or does it apply to private lenders as well?
Only debt held by the U.S. Government. There are no loan forgiveness programs for private loans (but there may be student loan repayment assistance programs offered by states or companies that could be applied towards private loans).
If it applies to private lenders, how can they be forced to forgive and is the government writing them a check to cover? They cannot.
If the government forgives, where is that money coming from or is it just adding to our Federal debt? It would be adding to our Federal debt. It's simply shifting the liabilty from individual Americans to the Federal govenment.
Q1. It will take a few months to get everyone's account sorted in the migration. If you check back, you might see your data updated. And assuming you have Direct Loans (not FFEL loans), then yes, payments restart in May. However, if you have FFEL loans, your payments may have never been paused. If you're not seeing the correct data, you can file a complaint at NelNet, and then the student loan ombudsman.
Q2. You likely haven't updated your income in 2 years. You need to login/call and re-certify your current income to get an accurate repayment amount - if you don't recertify your income annually, your payment will default to the standard 10-year amount (which is likely much higher). You can do this on StudentAid.gov as well.
You didn't borrow that much - what likely happened is when you were in default, collection fees and costs were continually added to the loan. Then, when you got out, everything was capitalized (meaning it was added to the principal balance). Sounds like this cycle happened twice.
You can qualify for PSLF with your Parent PLUS Loan, but only if you consolidate it to a Consolidation Loan AND you enroll in Income-Contingent Repayment. See this guide: What To Do With Parent PLUS Loans. You would then have to meet all the other criteria - 120 payments, etc.
Does anyone know the reasoning that went into excluding the parent plus loans from the public service loan forgiveness program? No, but Parent PLUS Loans are typically excluded from most things because the nature of the loan is to the parent, not the student.
Has anyone heard if they are going to add parent plus loans to the public service loan forgiveness waiver? No, it's been specifically excluded - and given the waiver expires in October (or whenever the Covid-19 state of emergency ends), it likely won't be added.
Honestly, we think that Parent PLUS Loans are the worst loan a parent can get. Just don't do it.
If you want a hybrid of this, maybe let the student borrow Federal loans for year 1 and year 2, keep it under $10,000 - and you can use the 529 plan for up to $10,000 in student loan repayment if you desire. That would let the money grow longer.
However, you also face risks in market returns over time as well...
Yes, you're on the right track with filing the FSA complaint. But it does take time - upwards of 180 days sometimes. Depending on your state, you should also file a complaint with your state's ombudsman. See this guide and make sure you followed the steps: https://thecollegeinvestor.com/38095/student-loan-ombudsman/
No, defaulting on your student loans is one of the worst financial moves you can make. You'll continue to accrue interest, but you'll also face fees - then interest grows on top of that. Defaulting for a year will probably see your loan balance grow upwards of 10-20%, if not more.
By the time it gets to a debt collector, you're going to be seeing a loan easily 30-100% more than you started with. And any negotiation of the balance is going to basically get you back where you started.
Then, realize you trashed your credit. So everything else in your life will cost you more - bigger security deposits, deposits required to get a cell phone or basic utilities, higher insurance rates, even losing job opportunities.
In our decade of helping people with their loans, student loan default is literally the worst thing you can do to your finances. And there is no way that you'll end up in a better place financially in the end - even a decade later you'll be recovering from this choice.