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Published: Apr 17, 2024 10 min read
President Joe Biden talks about canceling student debt
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This story has been updated to include new information released this week about the cost of the plan.

The Biden administration’s new student loan forgiveness initiatives would wipe out nearly $150 billion of debt for some 30 million borrowers.

The administration published the official forgiveness proposal to the Federal Register on Tuesday, kick starting a 30-day public comment period. The plan was first announced last week.

It marks the second major attempt by the Biden administration at broad student loan forgiveness. This latest batch of proposals is far narrower in scope than President Joe Biden’s first forgiveness plan, which called for canceling up to $20,000 for borrowers earning less than $125,000 before it was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June. That plan was estimated to cost about $380 billion, according to the Education Department (though outside analyses priced it even higher).

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Biden's new proposal focused on debt forgiveness for borrowers with specific situations like runaway interest, financial hardship or remaining loan balances after paying down their student loans for more than two decades.

“What does that really mean for people?” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said on a press call last week. “It means breathing room, it means freedom from feeling like your student loan bills compete with basic needs, like groceries or health care.”

In crafting the new plan — which is still undergoing a formal negotiated rulemaking process that started in October — White House officials said they “studied the Supreme Court’s decision carefully” and believe the administration has strong legal standing to cancel debt using the Higher Education Act.

That said, the White House appears to be primed for a legal fight. Officials noted several times the Republican-led lawsuits that have overturned or stalled Biden's previous student debt relief efforts. But ultimately, officials told reporters this plan was different enough that they feel confident going forward.

Barring any legal challenges, the administration expects to begin forgiving debt early this fall, likely before the November presidential elections. The vast majority of the relief will be automatic, an official said.