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‘This is a game changer for millions of Americans’: Student loan forgiveness applications are now officially open — here’s what you need to know

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Student loan forgiveness applications are now open — here’s what borrowers need to know to get their relief

Borrowers can now start applying online for relief under President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, which is expected to cancel billions of dollars in student debt for low- and middle-income families.

The beta version of the website went live on Friday night for borrowers to complete and submit their applications — although they won’t be processed until the site formally launches later this month.

In a September press release, The White House said they anticipate over 40 million borrowers would be eligible for the debt relief plan, while around 20 million borrowers could see their entire remaining balance eliminated.

Applications will be open until Dec. 31, 2023, however the White House is encouraging borrowers to apply by Nov. 15 to have them processed before student loan payments and interest resume in January.

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How to apply

The department launched the beta test in order to check for bugs and improve the site before it officially goes live. And although it’s a test for the wider launch, anyone who opts to apply during this period and successfully receives their confirmation email won’t have to resubmit their forms later when the site does go live.

“The applications will be available on and off during this time,” the department notes. “If you try and it’s not available, try again later or wait until the application is available to all borrowers.”

Keep in mind that according to a court filing by the administration earlier this month, the department will not be canceling any student debt before Oct. 23.

The Department of Education says around 8 million borrowers may automatically qualify to receive relief without applying — unless they decide to opt out — since it already has their income data. However, it still encourages all eligible borrowers to file the application regardless.

The form takes about five minutes to fill out and is available in both English and Spanish. You’ll enter your name, Social Security number, date of birth, phone number and email. You’ll also have to confirm you meet the income eligibility. And if the Department of Education doesn’t already have your details, you may be asked to provide proof of income by March 31, 2024.

Once you’ve applied, the department says most borrowers can expect to receive forgiveness within four to six weeks.

Who’s eligible?

You’ll need to meet certain income requirements to qualify for relief.

Borrowers who earned less than $125,000 in either 2020 or 2021 (and households who made less than $250,000 in either of those years) could get up to $10,000 of their federal student loan debt forgiven.

Pell Grant recipients — who are considered to have “exceptional financial need” — may receive up to $20,000 in debt relief.

Private or non-federal loans are not eligible for this plan, although if you consolidated your Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) or Perkins loans into Direct Loans prior to Sept. 29 of this year, they will qualify for debt relief.

And note that if your balance is less than the maximum relief being offered, the amount you receive will be capped at your outstanding eligible debt.

Watch out for scams

The Biden administration is reportedly cracking down on student loan scams and recently released a “Do’s and Dont’s” page for borrowers to protect themselves.

In a press release earlier this month, the White House announced that the FTC reached almost $30 million in settlements that “included refunds for tens of thousands of student borrowers who were illegally charged up front fees and falsely promised reduced or eliminated student loan payments.”

The Department of Education notes that borrowers should work directly with it and its loan servicers — and to be wary of companies that contact you to get your loan discharged in exchange for a fee.

You can report scam attempts to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-382-4357 or submitting an online form at reportfraud.ftc.gov.

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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.

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