Biden Official: We’re ‘Just Getting Started’ On Student Loan Forgiveness. What Does That Mean?

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Over the past month, the Biden administration has implemented $2 billion in student loan forgiveness for 30,000 borrowers.

Highlighting the story of one borrower, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona tweeted Monday: “Overnight, one person’s student loan debt went from over $40,000 to zero… and we’re just getting started.”

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Is Additional Student Loan Forgiveness in the Works? Yes – but the specific details remain somewhat unclear.

New student loan waiver extension for civil service workers

Secretary Cardona’s tweet was specifically referencing the new expansion of Biden’s administration’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. PSLF offers federal student loan forgiveness for borrowers committed to public service careers working full-time for public or non-profit organizations. As part of new changes announced by the administration in October, the Education Department is temporarily easing some of the confusing and complicated rules governing the PSLF program, allowing thousands of additional borrowers to be eligible for loan forgiveness.

According to the department, officials have already determined that 30,000 borrowers will receive at least $2 billion in student loan forgiveness under the expansion of the PSLF program. The department expects thousands of additional borrowers to benefit in the coming months as they take steps such as consolidating their FFEL loans through the Federal Direct Loan Program, or certifying their public service employment. The department has suggested that an additional $2.82 billion in student loan forgiveness, on top of what has already been enacted, could be given to borrowers as the temporary PSLF waiver program continues to gain traction.

Other Student Loan Forgiveness Initiatives by the Biden Administration

The Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness initiative isn’t limited to the PSLF program. The Department of Education is also implementing several other federal student loan forgiveness extensions, including:

  • $1.5 billion in federal student loan relief expanded under Borrower Defense for Repayment, a program that cancels federal student loan debt for borrowers who have been defrauded by their school. The administration reversed a Trump-era policy that allowed the department to partially forgive federal student loan balances; A reversal of that policy would extend the relief for sanctioned debtor defense claims.
  • $1.1 billion in student loan redemption for alumni of ITT technical institutions, which collapsed in 2016. Student loan cancellation is being implemented under the Closed School Discharge Program, which eliminates federal student loan balances for borrowers who could not complete their degrees after their schools closed.
  • $5.8 billion in automatic federal student loan cancellations under the Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge Program. The TPD program provides relief for borrowers who have a medical condition that prevents them from maintaining adequate, gainful employment. Automatic federal student loan cancellation under the program will be available to borrowers who are already receiving Social Security disability benefits and have a disability review period of at least five years. The department is also reversing $1.3 billion in loan restitution for TPD borrowers whose previous disability discharges came undone during the pandemic due to failure to comply with administrative post-discharge monitoring requirements, which have been forgiven.

Is Comprehensive Student Loan Forgiveness Coming?

Still, the billions of dollars in student loan forgiveness being implemented by the Biden administration is only a tiny fraction of the $1.8 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. Debt collectors, advocacy groups and many Democrats in Congress have been urging President Biden throughout the year to deliver on his campaign promise to comprehensively repeal student loans. Advocates are pushing to cancel $50,000 or more in student loan debt per borrower, but Biden has been resistant to it, and has questioned whether he would have the legal authority to act alone without Congress. Even $10,000 in student loan forgiveness, which Biden said he would support during his presidential campaign, would eliminate the student loan debt of 15 million borrowers.

However, Congress has not been able to pass any student loan forgiveness laws. Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) suggested it would not happen because of partisanship and a low Democratic majority in both the House and Senate.

Last spring, the administration promised to issue a legal memo outlining the potential authority Biden has to unilaterally cancel student loans using executive action, without relying on Congress to pass the law. Will happen. That memo was never officially released, but student loan activists were able to obtain a heavily revised version through a Freedom of Information Act request. The revised memo doesn’t provide any conclusive insight about whether the Biden administration will implement collective student loan forgiveness. But it adds to the pressure, and suggests that while the memorandum was completed months ago, the administration did not act or clearly express its intentions.

Progressives in Congress are pushing the Biden administration to broaden student loan cancellations. “There is a huge amount of executive action that [the Biden administration] is sitting on what I think is underused,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) Including Student Loans said The New York Times earlier this week. “Biden could do this stuff with a flick of a pen,” she said, and his inaction “is just reminding us that he’s not choosing.”

But so far, despite Secretary Cardona’s public statements that much student loan forgiveness is on the way, no one in the Biden administration is suggesting that a broad-scale student loan forgiveness is imminent. Meanwhile, federal student loans are set to resume repayment this winter, after the payment moratorium ends on January 31, 2022.

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Biden’s $11.5 Billion in Student Loan Forgiveness: Some is automatic, some is not. Here is a breakdown.

Student loan forgiveness: Education department clarifies rules for expanded new program

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