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Biden administration wipes another $5.8 billion in student loan debt

August 19, 2021, 6:20 PM UTC

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education announced it will discharge $5.8 billion in student loan debt for more than 300,000 borrowers who have a “total and permanent disability.”

“Today’s action removes a major barrier that prevented far too many borrowers with disabilities from receiving the total and permanent disability discharges they are entitled to under the law,” noted Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in a statement.

The discharge is automatic. The Department of Education will access Social Security Administration records to identify which borrowers are listed as disabled and, according to today’s announcement, will discharge the loans in September.

Since taking office in January, the Biden administration has announced several rounds of student loan forgiveness, including for defrauded students. However, in the grand scheme these rounds of student loan forgiveness are pretty small. In total, student loan borrowers owe $1.7 trillion. This $5.8 billion announcement doesn’t represent even 1% of that total.

According to the Department of Education, the Biden administration has now approved discharging $8.7 billion in student loan debt for more than 450,000 borrowers this year.

These discharges prompt the question: Is mass student loan forgiveness on its way?

“I don’t expect to see anything happening regarding student loan forgiveness this year. Congress doesn’t appear likely to act, as loan forgiveness is not a part of the massive social spending package, and the prospects of getting other major legislation through Congress appear to be tough at this point,” Robert Kelchen, higher education professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, tells Fortune. “I also don’t see the Biden administration forgiving loans through executive action this year, as the most politically opportune time to do this was right after taking office.”

Indeed, last month House Speaker Nancy Pelosi angered progressives when she told reporters that Biden doesn’t have the authority to forgive massive amounts of student loans through executive order.

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