Where Things Stand With the Student Loan Forgiveness Application

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The U.S. Department of Education promised borrowers that the application for student loan forgiveness would open by early October — and be simple and seamless. 

The sweeping federal student loan relief, which called to cancel up to $20,000 for millions of borrowers, was announced by President Joe Biden back in August. Of the 45 million student loan borrowers, most will need to fill out an application to see if they meet the income limits to qualify for student loan forgiveness. 

Yet so far, just getting the application live has been anything but easy. Political opponents and legal challenges are complicating things. 

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The Biden administration faces at least four lawsuits from conservative groups across several states. A federal judge will hear arguments on one of them next week and decide whether to pause the relief. Either way, it’s unlikely that any debt will be forgiven before October 17, according to court documents

For now, borrowers can still expect the application for student loan forgiveness to open at some point in October, according to the White House. A senior administration official said last week the lawsuits shouldn’t affect the application’s release, but declined to give a firm date. 

Robert Farrington, a student loan expert and founder of The College Investor, told me the administration is trying to cover all its bases, including “potentially an ‘opt-out’ provision to ensure that people that don’t want forgiveness (due to potential issues like taxes) can avoid it.” 

Once the application is available, the Department of Education said that borrowers will not need to log in with their federal student aid ID or upload any supporting documents. Higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz told me the application is “supposed to be simple” and will likely involve “a simple attestation that the borrower’s income in 2020 or 2021 was below the income caps.” The agency released a preview of the application on Tuesday.

These are some steps you can take to prepare for the application if you have federal student loans. 

  • Check if you qualify: If you’re a single federal loan borrower, your income has to be less than $125,000 annually to qualify for $10,000 in forgiveness, and married couples qualify for that amount if their joint income is under $250,000. Borrowers with Pell Grants qualify for a total of $20,000 in loan cancellation if they meet the income requirements. Borrowers can check the type of loans they have by logging into the Federal Student Aid portal, and reviewing their previous tax documents to verify their adjusted gross income in 2020 or 2021 (either year applies).
  • Sign up for notifications: Go to ed.gov/subscriptions, enter your email address, and check the first box to be notified when the application opens. Review these key dates ahead of time.
  • Keep a record of your loans: Experts recommend maintaining a paper trail of your student loans, so you have proof of disbursement dates, current loan amounts, and loan types. That way, you can refer to your own records if any issues arise regarding your balance.
  • Contact your loan servicer: If you have important questions or want a refund for any loan payments made during the COVID-19 pandemic, your loan servicer is one of your best resources. Reach out as soon as possible to get your questions answered. 

Still have questions about student loan forgiveness? Below, we have answers to some of the most common questions, and we’re continuing to find out more. Keep checking our FAQ for updates in the coming days and weeks. 

The Bottom Line

Millions of federal student loan borrowers are in limbo — waiting for the administration to take action and forgive their student loan balances. Use this time to stay informed, check your income, and reach out to your loan servicer if you have questions.