Biden’s student loan forgiveness application is officially live. Here’s how to apply
The official application for federal student loan forgiveness went live Monday, President Joe Biden announced during an update on the relief process.
“It takes less than five minutes” to fill out, Biden said during his remarks. “This is a game-changer for millions of Americans. We’re getting moving.”
A test version of the application was launched Friday night and was available intermittently over the weekend. Borrowers were surprisingly pleased with the beta application overall, telling Fortune it was simple to use and required no documents or other uploads that could slow down the process.
Over 8 million people have already applied using the beta application, according to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, who was at the briefing with Biden. Those applicants will not need to apply again.
Borrowers with federal student loans can apply at StudentAid.gov, the website for Federal Student Aid (FSA), for up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness.
For those waiting to apply, here’s what to know about the one-time student loan forgiveness effort.
Who is eligible?
Most borrowers with federal loans are eligible for some type of student loan forgiveness.
Those who earned under $125,000 (or $250,000 for couples) in 2020 or 2021 and received a Pell Grant while in school can receive up to $20,000 in debt cancellation; others meeting those income limits but who did not have a Pell Grant can get up to $10,000.
Income is based on each person’s adjusted gross income, which can be found on line 11 of your Form 1040. If you meet the income limit in one year but not the other, that’s okay—you still qualify.
Do those currently in school qualify for forgiveness?
Yes, as long as your parents meet the income requirements and your loans were disbursed before July 1, 2022, you can receive loan forgiveness even if you are in school right now.
That said, FSA is advising borrowers to apply for debt relief using their own income information—not their parents'.
"If we identify you as a dependent student, we’ll email you with instructions for you and your parent," says FSA. "Until then, you don’t need to do anything except submit your application."
Additionally, borrowers with Parent PLUS Loans also qualify (if they meet the income limits) as do graduate students. Parents can submit their own application.
Who is ineligible for loan forgiveness?
Forgiveness does not apply to any private loans and anyone making over the income limits.
Additionally, some borrowers with commercially-owned Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans who did not consolidate into Direct Loans prior to Sept. 29, 2022 will not qualify for forgiveness. Biden says his administration is still looking for a way for these borrowers to get some type of relief.
"ED is assessing whether there are alternative pathways to provide relief to borrowers with federal student loans not held by ED, including FFEL Program loans and Perkins Loans, and is discussing this with private lenders," says FSA.
What happened to my student loan refund?
Some borrowers made voluntary payments during the COVID-19 pause that dropped their loan balance below the total amount of forgiveness they are eligible for. These borrowers can request a refund from their loan servicer.
That said, the Biden administration says borrowers will also be refunded automatically if they are eligible—no phone call required.
"If you made payments during the payment pause and your current balance is higher than the amount of debt relief you receive, you won’t get an automatic refund after you apply for debt relief. This is because the full amount of debt relief will be applied to your loan balance," says FSA.
Those borrowers can still receive a refund by calling their loan servicer—but their monthly payments and balance will increase while they wait for forgiveness to come through.
What happens after I apply?
Most borrowers won't need to do anything else. If the government needs additional information—such as income verification—they will reach out to the applicant.
Borrowers will be notified when their forgiveness is granted, and their loan servicer will apply the debt relief and let them know when that happens.
When will forgiveness be processed?
Forgiveness will be granted on a rolling basis, meaning the sooner you apply, the sooner you could receive forgiveness. The administration previously estimated it could take six weeks for the applications to be processed.
But it could take much longer than that, particularly with legal challenges still ongoing. Multiple lawsuits from conservative and libertarian groups have been filed and have already slowed down the forgiveness process. The Department of Education originally said the application would be available in "early" October. Even with the application launch, the Department of Education promised a federal court that no debt will actually be canceled before Oct. 23, 2022.
"Litigation is underway. I don't think, our legal judgment is it won't [stop it]," Biden said during the briefing.
This post was updated with more information on the forgiveness effort.
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