Student Debt Relief Applications Now Available for US Citizens

Economics News

Student Debt Relief Applications Now Available for US Citizens

In late August 2022, US President Joe Biden fulfilled a campaign promise by announcing that the government would be providing US citizens with student loan debt-relief. US citizens can apply for up to $10,000 in debt cancellation via this loan forgiveness program. On October 17th, 2022, the US Department of Education opened up applications on StudentAid.gov.

To qualify for the debt relief, applicants must have an annual income less than $125,000. Borrowers who received a Pell Grant are additionally eligible for another $10,000, for a total possible relief amount of $20,000 (Pell Grants are a type of need-based aid reserved for low-income students in the US).

The applications are available in English and Spanish, and are notably simple and easy to complete. The information required to apply for the forgiveness is mainly simple demographic information, and takes only a few minutes. Applicants will not have to dig up obscure documents, find original certificates, or even provide banking information.

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

Eligible borrowers living abroad have reported difficulty submitting the application, as the official government website appears to deny access to the application on devices outside the United States. If you are experiencing similar issues, using a VPN to submit the application appears to work. Alternatively, the application is simple enough to allow a friend or relative in the US to submit the application in your stead, though you must provide valid contact information.

Student loan repayments were originally suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the economic uncertainty that the pandemic wrought. This suspension has been repeatedly extended by the federal government in the time since. It is unclear if the debt relief will be available for borrowers by the time payments are scheduled to resume.

Arguments for and against the debt relief

Sentiments about the student loan forgiveness are mixed. Proponents of the plan say that it is a step in the right direction to alleviate the massive amounts of federal student loan debt that plague US consumers.

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

Meanwhile, critics of Biden’s plan argue that the relief will damage the economy by worsening the inflationary pressures that already exist. Many also argue that the debt relief is unfair to those who already paid off their loans, and people who did not take out loans to finance their education. Ultimately, the debt relief burden will be on the shoulders of taxpayers, and people may be unhappy with their tax dollars being used to reduce others’ debt instead of serving the public more broadly.

Legal Status of the Student Loan Debt Forgiveness as of November 24th, 2022

After the announcement of Biden’s forgiveness plan, a lawsuit filed jointly by six state legislatures (those of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa and South Carolina) stymied the progress of the debt relief. On November 14th, 2022, a federal court extended the decision to block the US Department of Education from erasing the debt. However, this ruling came after the US Supreme Court declined to accept a separate legal challenge regarding the debt relief on November 4th, so it is unclear whether or not the plan will be blocked permanently.

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

Header image credit: Pixabay.