Last week, President Biden announced that the application process for the new, one-time, student loan forgiveness initiative is fully live and active. Over 12 million borrowers have already applied for loan forgiveness, according to top administration officials.
Under Biden’s plan, 40 million student loan borrowers may be able to receive as much as $20,000 in student loan forgiveness on federal student loans held by the U.S. Department of Education. This would include Direct Stafford loans, Direct PLUS loans for graduate students and parents, and Direct consolidation loans, as well as some (but not all) FFELP loans. To be eligible for the relief, borrowers must have earned under $125,000 in income (or less than $250,000 if they are married) in either 2020 or 2021.
According to the Biden administration, the application should take five minutes to complete. Eligible applicants should go to studentaid.gov and in the section on student loan debt relief, click “Apply Now.”
Applicants should be ready to enter some basic personal information such as: Name, Social Security Number, date of birth, phone number and email address. The application does not require documentation about your income or your student loans.
Applicants should review the eligibility rules and confirm that they are a match. For most applicants, that means attesting that they make less than $125,000 a year or that their household makes less than $250,000 a year. If eligibility rules are met, the applicant clicks the box confirming that everything provided is true and then clicks “Submit.”
After the form is submitted, the Biden administration says it should take four to six weeks to process. The Education Department will use its existing records to make sure loans are eligible and to look for applicants who might exceed the income limits. Some will be asked to provide additional documentation to prove income.
Most borrowers who apply before mid-November should expect to get their debt canceled before Jan. 1, when payments on federal student loans are scheduled to restart after a pause during the pandemic.
Some Republican-led states have filed lawsuits to try to stop the cancellation, but the Biden administration is confident the challenges won’t succeed. Late last week, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay in response to an emergency motion brought by attorneys for several Republican-led states. The temporary hold was placed after a lower court ruled that the September lawsuit from the GOP states lacked standing. In their appeal of that lower court ruling, the plaintiffs — which include Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina and Arkansas — said the forgiveness program will irreparably harm their states’ student loan programs. Even so, the stay only halts the discharge of debts and the application process for debt relief remains open.
If you are planning to seek relief from student debt, whether for yourself or a family member, we recommend that you submit your application. The U.S. Department of Education notes on its site that even with the pending lawsuits, they will continue to review applications. They also note that, “We will quickly process discharges when we are able to do so, and applicants will not need to reapply.” If you need any assistance in completing the application or confirming eligibility, please reach out to your LMC professional.