It’s been four months since the Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt for most people with federal loans. Now, the administration has come out with a new, very different student debt relief plan.
It’s still in the early stages and will need to go through a whole rule-making process, but if some version of it is finalized, it could offer a new path to loan forgiveness for a lot of people.
This new forgiveness plan would not apply to everyone with federal student loans.
“The Department [of Education] is basically focusing on providing relief to five broad categories of borrowers,” said Adam Minsky, a lawyer who works with student loan borrowers.
Those categories include “borrowers who owe a lot more now than what they originally borrowed, perhaps due to interest, accrual and fees over time,” he said. Also, “people who attended certain institutions that basically saddled them with unreasonable amounts of debt and didn’t provide them with a clear pathway to generating income through employment.”
The new forgiveness plan would also include borrowers who have been paying on their student loans for more than 25 years, people who should qualify for existing student loan forgiveness programs but for whatever reason haven’t applied, “and finally, there’s sort of like a catch-all category for borrowers who might be experiencing some sort of extreme financial hardship, said Minsky.
For now, that’s really all the detail there is. It’s unclear, for instance, whether people who fall into one of those categories would get all of their remaining student loans forgiven or just some.
“We’re working through those issues — some of these ideas are partial forgiveness, some are more complete,” said James Kvaal, the Under Secretary of Education. “We’re currently at one of the early stages of the process, but we’re working as fast as we can.”
The goal, he said, is to get debt relief to as many borrowers as possible as quickly as possible.
“It’s the White House trying to take another bite at apple from a different angle where they might have surer footing from a legal perspective,” said Betsy Mayotte at the nonprofit Institute of Student Loan Advisors.
It will likely be about a year — maybe a little less, maybe little more — before anything is finalized, she said. “This is not a done deal, and the proposals could change significantly before it is a done deal.”
Plus, any final rule could be challenged in court, Mayotte added.
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