Arts, science and engineering graduate students at the University of Minnesota's graduate school commencement in April 2011. President Joe Biden has said he supports erasing up to $10,000 in student loan debt. Credit: Tim Post | MPR News 2011

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President Joe Biden’s administration announced last week that it is taking applications as part of its sweeping plan to forgive student loan debt for millions of Americans. About 400 million borrowers are eligible for student debt relief, and another 20 million will have their entire balance canceled, according to the White House.

In announcing his plan, Biden said he was seeking to ease the increasing financial burdens that higher education tuition has placed on lower- and middle-class families. The administration launched an online application form last week to process requests for loan forgiveness, but cautioned that it is in a testing phase.

“We’re accepting applications to help us refine our processes ahead of the official form launch,” said a statement on the federal student loan forgiveness website. “If you submit an application, it will be processed when the form officially launches, and you won’t need to resubmit.”

The administration previously announced changes to its loan forgiveness plan after facing lawsuits from Republican-led states—Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Carolina—that argued that the debt-relief plan would harm private companies that service federal student loans. 

GOP state officials also argued that the president doesn’t have the power to make such a decision without the support of Congress. 

In response to the lawsuits, the administration revised its plan, eliminating eligibility for about 800,000 borrowers who have privately held loans.

Sahan Journal has put together a guide on how to apply for student debt relief after the updates to the plan.

Who qualifies for student debt relief?

You are eligible for student loan debt relief if your annual federal income was below $125,000 (individual or married, filing separately) or $250,000 (married, filing jointly or head of household) in 2020 or 2021.

Individuals who earned less than $125,000 in either 2020 or 2021 and married couples or heads of households who made less than $250,000 annually in those years will see up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt forgiven.

In addition, those who qualify income-wise and who received a federal Pell Grant while enrolled in college are eligible for up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness.

Public service workers with at least 10 years of service may also be eligible to have their student loan debt canceled. 

New loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2022, do not qualify for debt relief. 

How and when can I start applying for debt relief, and what is the deadline?

The application takes a few minutes to complete, and is available here: https://studentaid.gov/debt-relief/application. Applicants will not need to upload any additional documents or use a federal student aid ID for the application.

The federal student loan forgiveness website said the application will be available intermittently during this test phase, and that the application “will be available to all borrowers later in October 2022 through Dec. 31, 2023. Check back soon.”

“The application will be available on and off during this time,” the federal website said. “If you try and it’s not available, try again later or wait until the application is available to all borrowers. Don’t worry if you don’t get a chance to apply right now. There’s no advantage to applying before the full launch.”

Once your application is submitted, the U.S. Department of Education will review it and determine your eligibility.

Those seeking debt relief have until December 31, 2023, to apply. A paper version of the application will be made available “soon” for borrowers who can’t apply online, the federal government said.

Fore more information, visit https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/debt-relief-info

What has changed since Biden first announced the loan forgiveness plan?

Six Republican-led states sued the Biden administration, saying that forgiving privately held loans will deprive states of tax revenue and hurt student loan servicers.

Originally, the Department of Education had planned on making privately held loans eligible for forgiveness as long as borrowers consolidated such debt into the federal District Loan program.

But now, those whose federal student loans are guaranteed by the government but held by private lenders are excluded from eligibility.

When should I expect to hear back from the federal government about my application?

The Department of Education says there will be a four- to six-week turnaround time for processing student loan forgiveness applications. Applications will be processed on a rolling basis until the December 2023 deadline.

Beware of scam companies

If you are contacted by a company that says it will provide loan discharge, forgiveness, or cancellation for a fee, it is most likely a scam. You don’t have to pay for help with your federal student aid.

What other resources can I check for more information?

For more information regarding student debt relief, check out the links below:

https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/debt-relief-info
https://studentaid.gov/debt-relief-announcement
https://studentaid.gov/articles/student-loan-forgiveness/
https://ticas.org/covid-resources-for-student-loan-borrowers/

Nikhil Kumaran

Nikhil Kumaran is a student at The University of Minnesota. He is studying journalism and political science.