Yes, some federal student loan borrowers will need to apply for debt forgiveness

Some federal student loan borrowers will need to fill out a “simple application” for debt forgiveness if the Department of Education doesn’t have their income data.

President Biden’s administration is set to wipe out between $10,000 and $20,000 in federal student loan debt for millions of borrowers.

The plan includes an income cap of $125,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples, and excludes certain types of loans from eligibility. If a person's income in either the 2020 or 2021 tax years was below these income caps, they are eligible for debt forgiveness, senior officials with the Biden administration said. 

Following Biden’s announcement on Aug. 24, several VERIFY readers asked the team whether their loans will automatically be forgiven. Google Trends data also show that many people are looking for information on how to apply for student loan forgiveness.

THE QUESTION

Will federal student loan borrowers need to apply for debt forgiveness? 

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, some federal student loan borrowers will need to apply for debt forgiveness if the Department of Education doesn’t have their income information. 

WHAT WE FOUND

Some federal student loan borrowers will need to fill out a “simple application” for debt forgiveness if the U.S. Department of Education doesn’t have their income data, the federal agency says on its website.  

That’s because many borrowers haven’t been required to certify their income during the student loan repayment pause that began in March 2020, Abby Shafroth, director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project at the National Consumer Law Center, said.

Though there isn’t a confirmed launch date for the application, the Department of Education and White House say it will be available before the repayment pause ends on Dec. 31, 2022. 

Anyone who would like to be notified when the application is open can sign up with their email address on the Department of Education’s subscription page. Make sure to check the box marked “Federal Student Loan Borrower Updates.”

More from VERIFY: Fast Facts about student loan forgiveness

While some borrowers will have to apply to claim debt relief, nearly 8 million others may be eligible to receive it automatically because the Department of Education already has their income data. 

“That includes roughly 6 million borrowers whose families recently completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This would be people who perhaps applied for further student aid this year because they’re still in school or applied last year in 2021,” Shafroth said. “Any of those FAFSA applications from 2021 or 2022 already provide the Department of Education with income information that it can use to automate that relief.”

The other 2 million borrowers within the group of those who may be automatically eligible include people who have recertified their income for an income-driven repayment plan during the student loan repayment pause, according to Shafroth.

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