The Education Department also required a 60-day comment period on the form, a seemingly longer timeline than necessary, Kantrowitz said. (Only three people have commented.)
"The department could have required only a 30-day comment period, or even a 15-day comment period," Kantrowitz said.
It might be unreasonable to expect the new program to be smoothly rolled out the day after the law passed, said Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. However, he said, "it could have been expedited if the department had resources and sufficient focus on it."
Liz Hill, press secretary at the Education Department, said the agency has established an interim process that allows borrowers to stop making payments on their loans as it works to implement the law passed by Congress. She also asked for borrowers running into issues to contact them at StudentAid.gov/feedback.
"The department is committed to supporting students who are undergoing cancer treatments and are struggling to repay their student loans," Hill said.
However, the complications have already caused Julie Roberts, who owes $50,000 in student debt and has stage 4 breast cancer, to all but give up on the new cancer deferment.
When she called her servicer, American Education Services, the staff didn't even seem to understand the program.
Over multiple phone conversations with the company this year, she said employees told her that the bill had not yet passed and that she didn't qualify for it — both of which are not true.