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Student loan forgiveness application is now open: How to apply

18 October 2022

The U.S. government opened a website to allow Americans with federal student loans to apply for up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness. 

The site comes after the Biden administration said its goal was to create an application that would be “short and simple.” The application requires just a few minutes to fill out, but could leave some borrowers with questions about the timing for debt forgiveness, among other issues. 

President Biden highlighted the new debt-relief site in a press briefing on Monday, saying the forgiveness program is now open and calling it a “game-changer for millions of Americans.” On Friday, the Education Department opened a beta version of the application and on Monday went live with the website to apply for loan relief.

About 95% of Americans with college loans are expected to qualify for forgiveness, while the remainder earn too much money and are ineligible. While the program could help about 40 million Americans who are carrying debt from higher education, it has also drawn legal challenges from conservative lawmakers and advocacy groups who are seeking to block the effort. 

Unless those challenges result in a court injunction, the application site indicates the Department of Education is on track “to begin forgiving student loans in November and December ahead of January 2023, when student loan repayment is expected to resume,” noted Benjamin Salisbury, an analyst with Height Securities, in a research note. 

Here’s what to know about applying for student debt forgiveness. 

When is the loan-relief site launching?

Mr. Biden said the program has officially opened on Monday and pointed people to a government website, studentaid.gov, where they can apply for loan forgiveness.

In a press briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration has seen an “overwhelmingly strong response” to the new site since its launch.

More than 8 million people applied for forgiveness through the beta site since it opened on October 15, according to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

If I filled out the beta application, do I need to reapply?

No, according to the Biden administration. 

“If you submit an application during this [beta] period, it will be processed when the site officially launches,” the Education Department said. “You won’t need to resubmit. If you have already applied and received a confirmation email, you do not need to apply again.”

How long is the application?

The application is short, with two sections that require only a few minutes to fill out.

  • The first section requires you to provide basic information about yourself, including name, date of birth, email and Social Security number.
  • The second section is an “attestation” that you qualify for loan forgiveness, including that your income falls below the cutoff for eligibility.

Only individuals who earned less than $125,000 in 2020 or 2021 and married couples with total annual income below $250,000 are eligible for loan relief under the program. 

The application doesn’t require borrowers to upload tax forms or any other documents. 

However, Biden administration officials said there may be cases where some applicants are required to provide more documentation to confirm they are eligible. For instance, borrowers who “are more likely to exceed the income cutoff” may have to provide tax returns or other documents to confirm their income meets the eligibility requirements, an official said.

Is there a deadline for applying?

Yes. The deadline is December 31, 2023, which means that people with student debt have more than a year to send their applications to the Department of Education. 

People who want to ensure they get debt relief prior to the resumption of student loan repayments in January should make sure to apply for forgiveness before November 15, as it could take several weeks for the Education Department to process the application. 

What happens if I claim to be eligible when I’m not?

The attestation section of the form requires applicants to confirm that they are eligible “under penalty of perjury.” In signing the attestation, applicants are verifying that they earn under the income thresholds set by the program and that they are the person applying for loan relief. 

People who claim to qualify for loan forgiveness, but actually earn over the income limits, could face fines and other problems, including jail time, administration officials have said. 

Could legal challenges halt the loan forgiveness? 

It’s possible, according to experts. Several lawsuits have been filed seeking to block the student debt-relief program, with a judge expected to rule soon on a challenge filed by six GOP-led states. These challenges could delay, or even derail, the government’s loan forgiveness program.

Asked about the legal challenges, Biden on Monday said he didn’t believe they were “legit.”

If the judge denies to provide a national injunction on the debt-relief program, “the Biden Administration can be expected expeditiously to forgive student loans, effectively further complicating the litigation process,” Salisbury noted in his report.

He added, “The ruling will face the risk of appeal from either party, in which case the case would then be heard by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, where it would be likely to face a panel of conservative judges.”

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Author: Aimee Picchi

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