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In August, President Joe Biden announced his decision to forgive up to $10,000 in student loan debt for people earning less than $125,000 a year or up to $20,000 for eligible borrowers who are also Pell Fellowship recipients.
Officials said the website would go live “later this month” and applications would be open until December 2023, but declined to provide a specific launch date. The form was shared with reporters via a PDF file on Tuesday as preparations are underway to start the process.
“We have worked very hard to make this application simple and straightforward. We have reduced the number of questions to a minimum and designed it in conjunction with user testing. Borrowers will not need to log in with their FSA ID. They will not need to upload any documents. The application will be available on computers and mobile devices. It will be available in English and Spanish and of course accessible to people with disabilities,” a senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday.
The application form includes information about debt relief, who qualifies for it, and how it works. It asks applicants for information such as their full names, social security number, date of birth, phone number, and an email address.
A second administration official said “the vast majority of borrowers, almost 95% with qualifying loans, meet the income requirement”, adding that there will be “strict fraud prevention measures in place”.
The form stated that the Ministry of Education would determine eligibility and contact applicants if further information was needed.
Borrowers must have student loans held by the federal government to qualify. In addition to direct federal loans used to pay for an undergraduate degree, federal PLUS loans taken by graduate students and parents may also be eligible if the borrower meets income requirements.
Borrowers whose federal student loans are government guaranteed but held by private lenders, many of which were made under the former federal family education loan program and the federal Perkins loan program, are currently excluded – unless a borrower asks to consolidate these loans into direct loans. before September 29.
Individuals who earned less than $125,000 in 2020 or 2021 and married couples or heads of households who earned less than $250,000 per year in those years are eligible for cancellation of up to $10,000 of their federal student loan debt. Income thresholds are based on adjusted gross income.
If an eligible borrower also received a Federal Pell Grant while enrolled in college, they are eligible for debt forgiveness of up to $20,000. The Department for Education already has information on who received a Pell Grant and borrowers will not need to provide proof that they received the aid to qualify for the additional relief.
After submitting the application, most eligible borrowers should receive debt relief within weeks.
Officials said the “goal” was to start processing debt relief before next January, when student loan repayments begin after a multi-year freeze amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We hope and plan to provide student debt relief to millions of Americans before loan repayments restart. And we expect the process, from a completed application to debt relief for the vast majority of borrowers, to take place within weeks,” the first official said.
The Ministry of Education is facing several lawsuits question the student loan forgiveness policy. A U.S. district judge could decide on Wednesday whether to temporarily block the program from taking effect.
Administration officials confirmed Tuesday that they still expect the app to be available in October.
The Department of Education already has information on file about who has an eligible federal loan. For some borrowers, it also contains information about their income, due to financial aid forms already submitted or income-contingent repayment plan applications.
But the Ministry of Education does not have income information for millions of borrowers. All borrowers will need to certify that they meet the income requirements.
Borrowers will be required to agree to a series of conditions, including verification that they are the person making the application and that they will provide proof of income to the Department of Education if requested. They will also be required to certify that the information provided is accurate under penalty of perjury.
Administration officials said applicants who are “more likely to exceed the income threshold” will be required to submit additional information, such as a tax transcript. Officials did not provide further details on who may be asked to provide additional earnings information.
There will be a multi-step process to prevent fraud, administration officials said, noting that only 5% of borrowers with eligible federal student loans would not qualify due to the income threshold.
Efforts are also underway to ensure the website does not crash in the face of expected high borrower demand, including additional support for web traffic and web volume.
This story has been updated with additional information.