Millions of federal student loan borrowers will likely have to wait until at least mid-October to apply for debt forgiveness — weeks later than originally expected.
President Joe Biden’s broad federal student debt forgiveness plan is facing several legal hurdles. Chief among them: Republican attorneys general in six states are challenging the constitutionality of Biden’s plan in court. A court docket publicly uploaded Thursday suggests the program’s rollout is getting delayed.
The Biden Administration “will not discharge any student loan debt pursuant to the policy challenged in this case before October 17, 2022,” the docket states.
Additionally, a federal judge for the case has scheduled a hearing on Oct. 12 to decide whether to grant an injunction on Biden’s forgiveness program. In other words, if the judge imposes the injunction, the Biden Administration will have to pause forgiveness while the lawsuit plays out in court — with potential to drastically extend the timeline or tank the forgiveness program entirely.
Biden’s federal student loan forgiveness plan seeks to wipe out up to $20,000 for most borrowers who received a need-based Pell Grant and up to $10,000 for non-Pell borrowers, so long as they meet an annual individual income cap of $125,000.
Earlier this week, a senior administration official told reporters on background that the date mentioned in the court docket will not affect the release date of the application. However, in prior weeks, officials repeatedly stated that the application would be released for borrowers to fill out in “early October.” Now, the FAQ section of studentaid.gov simply says “October 2022.”
What else to know about applying for student loan forgiveness
Once the application is live some time this month — barring any additional setbacks — borrowers can expect a fairly easy-to-complete form.
Administration officials have said numerous times since the program’s announcement that the goal is to keep the application as simple as possible. In fact, the Education Department says that it has enough information on approximately 8 million borrowers that no application will be needed from them whatsoever.
Everyone else who believes they qualify for forgiveness will have to fill out a short form that essentially promises the federal government that the information you’re providing is correct under penalty of perjury. No additional paperwork is required to prove your eligibility.
“You won't need your FSA ID, and you won't need to upload any documents to submit your application,” an FAQ on studentaid.gov states. “Our goal is to provide borrowers a seamless and simple experience, and we're working closely with the servicers who will process the relief.”
At least initially, the application will be available only online. It’s expected to remain open until Dec. 31, 2023. Once the application is completed, it could take about four to six weeks for the qualifying loans to be forgiven.