By Amy Miller, AFC®
According to the White House, 45 million Americans currently carry student loan debt, totaling around $1.6 trillion nationwide. Earlier this year, to combat the burdens individuals face due to student loan debt, the Biden Administration announced a student loan debt relief plan that will provide debt cancellation to qualified student loan borrowers. Although the plan was paused last week by a federal appeals court, the White House and the Education Department are encouraging individuals to continue applying.
Here’s a look at the plan, who qualifies, and how to apply.
Student loan borrowers must have a qualifying loan balance prior to June 30, 2022. Any new loans taken on or after July 1, 2022, are not eligible for debt relief.
Types of qualifying loans include the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL), and Perkins Loans which are held by the U.S. Department of Education (ED).
Loans that are in default can also qualify and can be held by the ED or be commercially serviced. Included loans are Subsidized & Unsubsidized Stafford, Perkins loans, parent PLUS and Graduate PLUS.
Consolidated loans are also eligible if all the consolidated loans were previously held by the ED and were taken on or before June 30, 2022.
Private loans do not qualify.
You can log on to your account at studentaid.gov and select “My Aid” to find out if you have qualifying loans.
Applicants must meet income requirements for either 2020 or 2021, but not both, to qualify for debt relief. Borrowers are eligible if their adjusted gross income is less than $125,000 for individuals or $250,000 for households and widows(er)s.
Amount of Debt Cancellation
Qualifying loans will receive up to $20,000 in debt cancellation for Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the ED and up to $10,000 for non-Pell Grant recipients.
Borrowers need to apply to receive debt relief unless they completed a Free Application for Federal Student Loan Aid (FAFSA®) for the 2022-2023 school year or are in an income-based repayment plan that is based on their 2020 or 2021 income. Borrowers who meet the criteria for debt relief without applying will be contacted by the ED via email.
How to Apply
The official application portal, studentaid.gov, went live last week and has already had more than 12 million people apply for debt cancellation, according to the NY Times.
Online applicant reviews state that the process is very simple and took only minutes to complete. The application requires borrowers to enter their name, contact information, social security number, and date of birth. No documents are required initially but the ED may request proof of income when reviewing the application.
Applicants will receive an email confirmation once the application has been completed and submitted.
Emails will originate from one of three addresses – firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Emails from any other address should be disregarded and reported to the Federal Trade Commission.
The application processing time is estimated to take 4-6 weeks. If approved, applicants and the loan service provider will be informed, and the amount of debt relief will be credited to the qualifying account.
Studentaid.gov is currently the only option available to apply. The ED has stated that paper applications will be available soon for those who are not able to access the internet and apply online. In the meantime, anyone needing assistance can call 1-833-932-3439 and speak to a customer service agent.
The deadline to apply is December 31, 2023.
Below are a few links you can use to learn more about the plan and apply: