Millions of federal student loan borrowers are getting word that their applications for debt forgiveness have been approved.
The Education Department sent out a first wave of emails to some borrowers on Saturday, informing them that their student loan forgiveness application for up to $20,000 of debt cancellation has been approved while also providing an update about where the program stands amid a flurry of legal setbacks.
"We reviewed your application and determined that you are eligible for loan relief under the Plan. We have sent this approval on to your loan servicer. You do not need to take any further action,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote in the email.
Cardona added that the department “will discharge your approved debt if and when we prevail in court.”
What does the approval email actually mean?
The emails to borrowers began going out one day after the Biden Administration petitioned the Supreme Court to revive its broad student loan forgiveness plan. The program has been on hold after being blocked by federal courts in two separate lawsuits. The court orders bar the Education Department from discharging anyone’s debt for the time being.
The Supreme Court has not yet decided whether to hear the Biden Administration's appeal.
In the mass email to borrowers, Cardona stated that the department believes the lawsuits are “meritless” and vowed to fight for borrowers.
Before the program was blocked by courts, shutting the application portal down, the Education Department said around 26 million borrowers applied and 16 million had been approved. The emails are going out to those 16 million approved applicants in waves.
“Don’t worry if you don’t get an email today — more are coming,” Cardona tweeted Saturday.
The emails are mainly an effort by the administration to keep applicants updated amid a dizzying array of legal developments. They don't change anything for borrowers at the moment, since the debt can’t be canceled unless the Biden Administration wins in court. So for now, tens of millions of borrowers remain in limbo after the planned forgiveness timeline fell apart.
Under the original timeline, as many as 20 million student loan borrowers were expecting to have their loan balances completely wiped out through President Joe Biden’s forgiveness plan before the end of the year. But instead, they now face the return of monthly payments as the pause on federal student loan payments — which has been ongoing for nearly three years — is slated to expire on Jan. 1, 2023.
The impending expiration and the uncertainty around Biden's forgiveness plan have led advocates to press the president to extend the payment pause for an eighth time.
“Throwing millions of borrowers back into repayment as the state of debt relief remains uncertain is a recipe for disaster and will result in widespread confusion and set borrowers up for failure,” a coalition of more than 200 advocacy groups wrote in a letter to Biden on Monday.