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Who qualifies for $17B in student loan forgiveness?

A diploma with mini graduation cap and money. (Getty)

(NEXSTAR) – While running for office, President Joe Biden expressed support for federal student loan forgiveness of $10,000 per borrower. Just over a year into his presidency, Biden has yet to make any widespread student debt cancelation.

The administration has, however, canceled more than $17 billion in debt for some 725,000 borrowers for multiple reasons.

Here’s who has become eligible for student loan forgiveness under recent moves by the Education Department.

40,000 due to changes to ‘longstanding failures’

Most recently, the Biden administration announced new actions by the Department of Education to “fix longstanding failures in the student loan programs.” An estimated 40,000 borrowers became eligible for “immediate debt cancellation” as they now qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) under the new changes.

Thousands of other borrowers with older loans will also receive forgiveness through income-driven repayment, according to the Department of Education. Another 3.6 million will receive at least three years of additional credit toward income-driven repayment (IDR) forgiveness.

While the Department of Education’s announcement on these changes doesn’t include the total amount of debt forgiven, a Wednesday statement from House Budget Committee Republican Leader Jason Smith says it results in $3 billion in debt cancelation for the 40,000 borrowers.

More PSLF relief

In total, more than 113,000 borrowers have received $6.8 billion in debt cancelation “through improvements to PSLF” under the Biden administration, according to the Education Department.

Last October, an overhaul of the PSLF program was expected to result in 22,000 borrowers with consolidated loans to immediately see $1.74 billion in forgiveness without additional action. At the same time, the Education Department said another 27,000 borrowers could qualify for $2.82 billion in forgiveness if they were able to “certify additional periods of employment.”

By the end of 2021, the Biden administration said more than 70,000 borrowers were able to qualify for close to $5 billion in federal student loan forgiveness because of changes made to the PSLF program.

Borrowers with total & permanent disability

Another 400,000 borrowers with total and permanent disability have received $7.8 billion in student loan debt forgiven.

In August, over 323,000 borrowers were awarded more than $5.8 billion in automatic student loan discharges under a new regulation by the Education Department. To identify eligible borrowers, officials used existing data from the Social Security Administration.

Through that data matching, Federal Student Aid COO Richard Cordray said approximately 15,000 to 20,000 newly eligible borrowers will have their loans discharged each quarter.

Borrowers defrauded by their school

Roughly 107,000 borrowers who were defrauded by their school have seen $2 billion in student loan debt cancelation. Among those are roughly 1,800 former DeVry University students who received relief after the Education Department found the institution “made widespread substantial misrepresentations about its job placement rates.”

Another 25,900 borrowers are receiving borrower defense discharges due to findings related to five other institutions:

  • Westwood College
  • ITT Technical Institute’s nursing program
  • Minnesota School of Business/Globe University’s criminal justice programs
  • Corinthian Colleges
  • Marinello Schools of Beauty

According to the Education Department Secretary Miguel Cardona, these colleges “violated the law and standards.”

For those who attended ITT Technical Institutes before it closed, $1.2 billion has been forgiven.


Before Biden announced the fourth freeze on student loans, 96 lawmakers – 21 Senators and 75 members of the House – called on him to “cancel student debt now,” saying it would “provide long-term benefits to individuals and the economy, helping families buy their first homes, open a small business, or invest in their retirement. More broadly, canceling student debt would add tens of billions of dollars in GDP growth.”

There is, however, confusion regarding Biden’s power to cancel student loans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said he lacks legal authority, instead commenting “That would be an act of Congress.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, on the other hand, has argued Biden could do it under the same legal provision Trump used to delay payments and interest accrual at the start of the pandemic, The Hill reports.

According to The Hill, Biden requested a memo from the Department of Education on his authority to forgive student debt through an executive order a year ago, but the administration hasn’t announced whether that memo is complete.

Earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden canceling some federal student loan debt remains on the table. He could even decide in the coming months, according to The Hill.


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