Biden administration previews student loan forgiveness application website

Us Politics Biden Education Debt
Activists gather to rally in support of cancelling student debt, in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 25, 2022. - Biden announced on August 24, 2022, that most US university graduates still trying to pay off student loans will get $10,000 of relief to address a decades-old headache of massive educational debt across the country. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP) (Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
Originally Published: 11 OCT 22 12:00 ET
Updated: 11 OCT 22 13:15 ET

(CNN) — The Biden administration on Tuesday offered a preview of the student loan forgiveness application website, which it described as “short and simple” ahead of its launch expected later this month.

In August, President Joe Biden announced his decision to cancel up to $10,000 in student loan debt for individuals making less than $125,000 a year or as much as $20,000 for eligible borrowers who are also Pell Grant recipients.

Officials said the website will be live “later this month” and applications will be open through December 2023 but declined to provide a specific launch date. The form was shared with reporters via a PDF file on Tuesday as preparations are underway to begin the process.

“We’ve worked really hard to make this application simple and straightforward. We kept the number of questions to a minimum and designed it in collaboration with user testing. Borrowers will not need to log in with their FSA ID. They will not need to upload any documents. The application will be available on both computers and mobile devices. It will be available in both English and Spanish and of course accessible to people with disabilities,” a senior administration official briefing reporters said Tuesday.

The form to apply includes information on the debt relief, who qualifies for it and how it works. It asks applicants for information including their full names, Social Security number, date of birth, phone number and an email address.

A second administration official said that the “vast majority of borrowers, nearly 95% with qualifying loans, meet the income requirement,” adding that there will be “strict fraud prevention measures in place.”

The form said that the Department of Education will determine eligibility and get in contact with applicants if more information is needed.

 

Who is eligible?

 

Borrowers must have federally held student loans to qualify. In addition to federal Direct Loans used to pay for an undergraduate degree, federal PLUS loans borrowed by graduate students and parents may also be eligible if the borrower meets the income requirements.

Borrowers whose federal student loans are guaranteed by the government but held by private lenders, many of which were made under the former Federal Family Education Loan program and Federal Perkins Loan program, are currently excluded — unless a borrower applied to consolidate those loans into Direct loans by September 29.

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 are eligible for up to $10,000 of their federal student loan debt forgiven. The income thresholds are based on adjusted gross income.

If a qualifying borrower also received a federal Pell grant while enrolled in college, the individual is eligible for up to $20,000 of debt forgiveness. The Department of Education already has information on file about who has received a Pell grant and borrowers won’t need to provide proof they received the aid in order to receive the additional relief.

 

How soon will borrowers receive debt relief?

 

After submitting the application, most qualifying borrowers are expected to receive debt relief within weeks.

Officials said that the “goal” is to begin to get the debt relief processed ahead of next January, when student loan payments will begin after a multi-year freeze amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We hope and expect to deliver student debt relief to millions of Americans before the loan repayments restart. And we expect the process from a completed application to debt relief for the vast majority of borrowers to happen in a matter of weeks,” the first official said.

The Department of Education is facing several lawsuits challenging the student loan forgiveness policy. A US district judge could decide Wednesday whether to temporarily block the program from taking effect.

Administration officials confirmed Tuesday that they still expect the application to be available in October.

 

How borrowers can verify that they qualify

 

The Department of Education already has information on file about who has a qualifying federal loan. For some borrowers, it also has their income information, due to previously submitted financial aid forms or income-driven repayment plan applications.

But the Department of Education does not have income information for millions of borrowers. All borrowers will be required to self-attest that they meet the income requirements.

Borrowers will be required to agree with a series of terms, including verification that they are the individual applying and that they will provide proof of income to the Department of Education if it is requested. They will also be required to certify that the information provided is accurate upon penalty of perjury.

Administration officials said that applicants who are “more likely to exceed the income cutoff” will be required to submit additional information, like a tax transcript. The officials did not provide further details on who may be asked to provide further income information.

There will be a multi-step process to prevent fraud, administration officials said, noting that just 5% of borrowers with eligible federal student loans would not qualify due to the income threshold.

There are also efforts underway to ensure the website does not crash amid high expected demand from borrowers, including additional support for web traffic and web volume.

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