On Monday Oct. 17, President Joe Biden announced the official launch of the federal application for student loan forgiveness. Student loan borrowers can apply to have up to $20,000 of student debt relieved. The federal relief program was announced in August, with the beta version of the launch released by the federal Department of Education on Oct. 15. Since then, over 8 million people have applied for loan forgiveness.
Student loans are not automatically forgiven. Borrowers must complete the form to become eligible, and people have until Dec. 31, 2023 to apply. The plan intends to cancel up to $10,000 in debt for individuals that earn less than $125,000 per year, and up to $20,000 in debt for people that received Pell Grants. Borrowers must have received federal student loans to qualify for relief. This includes federal Direct Loans that were used on an undergraduate degree, as well as federal PLUS loans borrowed by graduate students. Parents of students that took out loans may also be eligible if they meet the income requirements.
Biden stated, “It’s easy. It’s fast.” Requirements for the application include the borrower’s name, social security number, date of birth, phone number and email address. No login or documents are required, and the estimated time of completion is five minutes. Information regarding student debt relief and how it operates is included on the form, and people can apply on their phone or desktop.
Applicants were surprised by how easy it was to complete the application. In one viral tweet, user @PrinceHAK33M wrote, “The loan forgiveness application was so simple. I almost didn’t open it because I thought I’d have to search for information I didn’t have memorized. Took 5 minutes lol.”
Biden spoke at the White House alongside Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, “This is a game changer for millions of Americans … and it took an incredible amount of effort to get this website done in such a short time.”
The federal Department of Education currently holds $1.6 trillion in student loan debt and will oversee the forgiveness process. The Department said it will not cancel any student loans until Sunday, Oct. 23 at the earliest. Biden’s administration estimates that more than 40 million people will be eligible for debt relief.
In a major shift on Sept. 29, the Department of Education announced that the relief plan would not apply to borrowers with privately held federal student loans. This change came after the plan faced major legal challenges from Republicans that argued that the program was a costly, illegal use of executive power. This applies to the 7 million people with student loans held by private entities but guaranteed by the federal government. This number is relatively small, as there are an approximate 45 million Americans that have federal student loans.
The Department of Education continues to face multiple lawsuits challenging the student loan forgiveness policy. A federal judge from Missouri has heard a motion for a preliminary injunction and will decide whether to temporarily block the program from taking effect. This may delay the student loan cancellation from occurring until the judge delivers a final ruling on the case.
When asked about legal challenges to the plan, Biden asserted that he believes the plan will hold up in court. “Republican members of Congress and Republican governors are trying to do everything they can to deny this relief, even to their own constituents,” Biden said. “Their outrage is wrong and hypocritical.”
“I will never apologize for helping working Americans and middle-class people as they recover from the pandemic,” he added.
While the relief policy may benefit millions of Americans, it does not address the root issue of student debt: the increasing rising cost of college and the belief that students must go to graduate school to have an edge in the competitive job market. About 40% of federal student loan debt is from post-undergraduate masters and Ph.D. programs.
People seeking student debt relief can fill out the form, available in English and Spanish, at studentaid.gov.