An Update on U.S. Federal Student Loan Forgiveness
The U.S. Federal Student Aid program remains a powerhouse of financial support for students seeking loans to cover the costs of post-secondary education. These days, that amounts to around $112 BILLION annually.
I’ve been writing about forgiveness for such loans a lot lately, in light of the current administration’s plans to announce additional loan forgiveness sometime in the near future. In fact, President Biden himself promised to provide more information “soon” back in April.
So far, those details have yet to be shared with the American public. A June 14 Forbes story, on the other hand, sheds useful additional light on forgiveness initiatives already in play, and related numbers of beneficiaries.
The Targeted Initiatives
The Forbes piece speaks directly to three programs for which loan forgiveness is already at work for holders of federal student loans. Altogether, it has benefitted more than 1.2 million Americans. Those programs are as follows:
Borrowers Harmed or Defrauded by Schools: Some schools misstated the benefits or value of their education programs, and fall under the Borrower Defense to Repayment umbrella; other school closures prevented borrowers from finishing their degrees, and fall under the Closed School Discharge program. Together, they represent $7.9 billion in cancelled federal student loans to 690,000 borrowers.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): This covers borrowers who devote their careers to public service work, including public school education. $7.3 billion in loans have been forgiven, for 127,000 borrowers. Note: This program will expire on Oct. 31 (How's that for a Halloween trick?), so eligible student loan holders should submit their applications ASAP under this program.
Permanent Disability Discharges (TPD): This covers borrowers who are disabled, and includes a streamlined application for Social Security disability benefits as well. $8.5 billion in loans have been forgiven so far, for more than 400,000 borrowers.
The final total for all this forgiveness so is around $23.7 billion. President Biden has spoken about forgiving an additional $25 billion of student debt, with some indication that means testing will apply to those who can benefit from planned loan reductions or cancellations.
Waiting on the Details
The current administration hasn’t yet shared its detailed plans for added loan forgiveness. But with midterm elections coming up in November, it’s not unreasonable to expect more news before September, to give the “good news” time to energize lackadaisical Democrats or independent voters.
Who knows? A bit of financial boosting in these inflationary times may even sway affected Republicans. That’s a big stretch, though, so please understand my commentary is a bit tongue-in-cheek on this topic.
What is important, as I’ve said before, is to recognize that debt forgiveness matters most to those who must struggle hardest to repay their loans. That’s why I think means testing is a good idea for deciding who gets off the federal student loan hook. In fact, I also think that those with a combination of low balances and low income should get highest priority.
Those folks are the ones most likely to struggle hardest, after all, to discharge those balances. In the same vein, those with large loan balances who are working as highly-paid professionals usually have multiple degrees, often including one or two advanced degrees, in their education portfolios. To my way of thinking, they should get no or only minimal loan forgiveness, since they’re most likely to enjoy incomes that make loan repayment entirely likely and predictable.
Again: As soon as the details on loan forgiveness become available, I’ll share them in another story here. In the meantime, stay tuned and stay cool, as the summertime heat builds up.