Dec 16, 2023 - Politics & Policy

What's going on with student loan relief

Illustration of a graduation cap with a sales tag on the tassel

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Biden administration has been looking for ways to provide more student loan borrowers with relief.

The big picture: While the Supreme Court has blocked Biden's signature student loan forgiveness plan, the administration has managed to dole out almost $132 billion in relief for more than 3.6 million borrowers and has signaled there's more to come.

  • "The Biden-Harris Administration is proud of our record to provide relief to borrowers, using different existing authorities, as we work to fix the broken student loan system," an Education Department spokesperson told Axios.

Flashback: The White House announced $4.8 billion in student debt relief for some 80,300 people last week.

Where it stands: The Education Department said these adjustments are "only a portion of our work to fix the broken student loan system."

  • "We are strongly committed to standing up for borrowers who've been failed by the country's broken student loan system and creating new regulations that will reduce the burden of student debt," an Education Department spokesperson told Axios.

Who has gotten relief?

Here's a breakdown of the relief the Biden-Harris Administration has approved so far:

  • Nearly 901,000 borrowers have received almost $44 billion in IDR relief.
  • Through PSLF, there has been $53.5 billion in relief for almost 750,000 borrowers since October 2021.
  • There has been $11.7 billion in relief for almost 513,000 borrowers with a total and permanent disability.
  • Another $22.5 billion has gone to more than 1.3 million borrowers who were cheated by their schools, saw their institutions precipitously close or are covered by related court settlements.

Who could still get relief?

The Education Department is now working on a new proposal in place of Biden's initial student loan relief plan.

  • The new "negotiated rulemaking" process would make four sets of borrowers eligible for student debt relief.
  • They include borrowers who have seen their balances grow beyond what they originally borrowed, those who took out loans that are in repayment for over 20 years, borrowers who are eligible for relief but haven't applied, or those whose college or program didn't deliver sufficient financial value.

Yes, but some Democratic lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and relief advocate Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), say the new plan needs to be revised to include more borrowers.

Where it stands: The department's rule-making committee held public forums this week to discuss the proposals.

  • "We thank the negotiators for their work to reach consensus on many key issues and will share more information on the next step in the process – including the issuance of a notice of proposed rulemaking and our continued work to deliver relief to borrowers – soon," an Education Department spokesperson told Axios.

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