Student debt forgiveness applications are now available for US citizens

In late August 2022, US President Joe Biden made good on a campaign promise by announcing that the government would offer American citizens student loan debt forgiveness. US citizens can apply for debt cancellation of up to $10,000 through the Loan Forgiveness Program. On October 17, 2022, the US Department of Education opened applications at StudentAid.gov.

To qualify for debt forgiveness, applicants must have an annual income of less than $125,000. Borrowers who receive a Pell Grant are also eligible to receive another $10,000, for a total potential relief amount of $20,000 (Pell Grants are a type of needs-based aid intended for low-income students in the United States).

The applications are available in both English and Spanish, and are remarkably simple and easy to complete. The information required to submit a forgiveness request is basically simple demographic information, and it only takes a few minutes. Applicants will not have to search for obscure documents, find original certificates, or even provide bank information.

As such, we recommend that any reader from the United States with outstanding student loan debt complete the application. It can be found on the US Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid website (StudentAid.gov), through application closing December 31, 2023.

Eligible borrowers living abroad have reported difficulty applying, as the government’s official website appears to deny access to the app on devices outside the United States. If you’re having similar issues, using a VPN to cast the app seems to work. Instead, the application is simple enough to allow a friend or relative in the US to place the application for you, although you must provide valid contact information.

Student loan payments were originally suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the economic uncertainty created by the pandemic. This suspension has been extended repeatedly by the federal government at the time since then. It is not clear if debt relief will be available to borrowers by the time payments are scheduled to resume.

Arguments for and against debt relief

Feelings about student loan forgiveness are mixed. Supporters of the plan say it is a step in the right direction to relieve the massive amounts of federal student loan debt that has been plaguing American consumers.

According to Forbes, there is approximately $1.75 trillion in outstanding US student loan debt, 92% of which is from federal loan sources. The average amount of debt is $28,950. Thus, Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan will relieve a lot of the burden on individuals. Supporters of the plan argue that this relief would allow consumers to spend their money on items that can boost the economy.

Meanwhile, critics of the Biden plan argue that the relief will hurt the economy by exacerbating inflationary pressures that are already there. Many also argue that debt relief is unfair to those who have already paid off their loans, and people who did not borrow to finance their education. Ultimately, the burden of debt relief will rest on the taxpayer, and people may not be happy using their tax money to reduce the debt of others instead of serving the public more broadly.

The legal status of student debt forgiveness as of November 24, 2022

After the Biden relief plan was announced, a lawsuit filed jointly by six state legislatures (those in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa and South Carolina) blocked progress on debt relief. On November 14, 2022, a federal court extended its decision to prevent the US Department of Education from writing off debts. However, the ruling came after the US Supreme Court refused to accept a separate legal challenge to debt forgiveness on November 4, so it’s unclear whether or not the plan will be permanently banned.

Other similar legal challenges have been filed, mostly by right-wing politicians who claim the relief is unconstitutional or will harm the economy. Although these legal challenges have delayed the initial release of the application and left the fate of the debt relief uncertain, the Biden administration still recommends that borrowers apply.

Title image credit: Pixabay.

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