Your student loan debt forgiveness questions answered
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While President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan has drawn mixed reactions, many agree that it’s something in the right direction.

Since there are more than 43 million borrowers of federal student loan debt, there are bound to be questions. The Defender went in search of answers and here’s what we found.

Who qualifies for debt forgiveness?

Borrowers who make less than $125,000 per year qualify and married couples with a combined income of $250,000 or less qualify. If you didn’t finish college but have federal student loan debt and meet the income requirements, you qualify for forgiveness. 

How much of my student loan debt will be forgiven?

Borrowers who make less than $125,000 will receive up to $10,000 if they didn’t receive a Pell Grant, which is a type of aid available to low-income undergraduate students, and up to $20,000 if they did. 

What type of student loans qualify?

The federal student loan system is complicated, and loans come with various names and terms depending on when they were taken out and for what purpose. Generally, most federal student loans qualify for forgiveness, including Pell Grants, government-owned FFEL loans, and Direct Loans. Certain loans from the Federal Perkins Loan Program, such as ones held by colleges, may be excluded. All private student loans (Sallie Mae, etc.) are also excluded.

Are Parent PLUS and GRADPlus loans eligible for forgiveness?

Yes.

What do I need to do if I qualify? 

The Department of Education has income data for nearly eight million borrowers, which means they may be eligible to receive relief automatically. But many people who qualify for forgiveness will need to provide their income information to the Department of Education, which will launch a “simple application” soon.

How will this affect your monthly payment?

Student loan forgiveness will likely decrease your monthly payments or get rid of them entirely. Reportedly, 45% of borrowers, or almost 20 million people, would have their debt fully canceled, while 95% of borrowers would benefit from the plan in some way.

What’s the timeline for the student loan forgiveness application? 

You will need to fill out a form with the Department of Education, which will be available before the pause on federal student loan repayments ends on Dec. 31. If you want to receive a notification by the Department of Education when the application is open, you can sign up on its subscription page. It’s still unclear what kind of information the application will require, but it’ll likely require income information to see if you qualify for forgiveness.

Which tax year is used to determine the income? 

Either your 2020 or 2021 federal tax return. If your adjusted gross income was under $125,000 in either 2020 or 2021, you’re eligible.

If you’re still in college, would you be covered for forgiveness? 

Yes. However, if a parent claims you as a dependent on their taxes, the Department of Education will use their income to decide if you qualify. Borrowers who received student loans after June 30, 2022 are not eligible for forgiveness.

Do student loans in default qualify for forgiveness?

Yes, all defaulted borrowers are eligible for forgiveness.

Does it matter if you attended a public vs. private university?

No, it doesn’t matter.

Is there a website or phone number I can go to apply for my student loan forgiveness? If so, is there a deadline?

Borrowers can expect the application to be available by early October. Once completed, borrowers can expect relief within four to six weeks if approved. If you fill out the application before Nov. 15, you will receive relief before payments resume in January. The Department of Education will keep the application open until the end of the year.

What if I paid off my loans? Do I get anything retroactively?

No, this is a one-time student loan cancellation plan. If you already paid off your student loans prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, you won’t receive a refund for those payments.