The Biden administration, in a recent announcement, has continued its efforts to alleviate student debt burdens, approving nearly $5 billion in federal student loan debt cancellation. This latest move brings the total amount of student debt relief under the current administration to a substantial $132 billion, benefiting over 3.6 million borrowers. This development occurs despite the Supreme Court's rejection of President Joe Biden's hallmark student loan forgiveness program, which aimed to provide up to $20,000 in relief for low- and middle-income borrowers.
The current debt cancellations are being implemented through existing federal student loan forgiveness programs. These programs are specifically designed for certain groups, such as public-sector workers, individuals misled by for-profit colleges, and borrowers who have been consistently making payments for at least 20 years.
The latest beneficiaries are mostly those qualifying under two categories: the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which erases remaining debt for public-sector workers after a decade of payments, and those who have fulfilled at least 20 years of qualifying payments in income-driven repayment programs but did not receive full credit for their payments previously.
Most eligible borrowers were informed in November about the cancellation of their outstanding federal student loan debt. They are expected to see these changes reflected in their accounts soon. The Biden administration has been proactively addressing student loan forgiveness through these programs since taking office. Their efforts include expanding certain debt relief programs and rectifying previous administrative errors in borrowers’ accounts.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona emphasized that these latest discharges result from the administration's commitment to rectifying the country's flawed student loan system. These efforts include a one-time recount of past payments to address historical difficulties in tracking payments under income-driven repayment plans. This adjustment, first announced in April 2022, is set to benefit additional batches of borrowers in the months ahead.
However, this approach has faced legal challenges and opposition from some Republican lawmakers and conservative groups, questioning the administration's authority to make such recalculations.
In parallel, federal student loan payments, which were paused due to the pandemic, resumed in October 2023. To ease the transition, the Biden administration introduced new repayment plans and a 12-month period to protect struggling borrowers from severe consequences like negative credit reporting.
Looking forward, the administration is exploring alternative avenues to create a one-time student loan forgiveness program, relying on different legislation than the one rejected by the Supreme Court. This process, known as “negotiated rulemaking,” is expected to extend into the next year and could also encounter legal hurdles.