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Photo: Bloomberg/Contributor via Getty Images

The Biden administration has extended pandemic relief for student debt through Jan. 31, 2022, the Department of Education announced on Friday.

Driving the news: The Education Department said it's the final extension of the freeze on federal loan payments, which has maintained a 0% interest rate and pause on collections of defaulted loans. The current moratorium on payments was originally scheduled to end on Sept. 30.

  • Americans owe about $1.6 trillion in student loans. Without an extension, more than 3o million people would've had to start making student loan repayments in October, even as the pandemic raged on.

Details: The agency noted that the additional time and definitive end date will give borrowers room to plan ahead and reduce the risk of delinquency or defaults.

  • Federal officials will also move to improve student loan servicing in an attempt to help borrowers transition back into repayment, per the department.

What they're saying: "The payment pause has been a lifeline that allowed millions of Americans to focus on their families, health, and finances instead of student loans during the national emergency," Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

  • "As our nation’s economy continues to recover from a deep hole, this final extension will give students and borrowers the time they need to plan for restart and ensure a smooth pathway back to repayment," Cardona added.
  • "It is the Department’s priority to support students and borrowers during this transition and ensure they have the resources they need to access affordable, high quality higher education."

The big picture: Top Democrats have called on President Biden to extend the student loan pause for weeks, urging him to cancel $50,000 per borrower.

  • The administration has canceled over $55.6 million in student loan debt for victims of for-profit college fraud.
  • The Education Department says it has also approved $1.5 billion in borrower defense claims and reinstated $1.3 billion in loan discharges.

Go deeper

Sep 13, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

State tax returns are coming, but Minnesotans could still wait weeks

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

State tax refunds for Minnesotans who received enhanced unemployment benefits or Paycheck Protection Program loans during the pandemic should start hitting bank accounts as soon as this week.

The backdrop: The Minnesota Legislature struck a deal this summer to exempt income residents made from the two relief programs from state taxes.

11 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

12 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."