Mon. Jun 10th, 2024

The Biden administration has wiped out $39bn (£29.7bn) in student loans for 804,000 borrowers with debts outstanding for more than 20 years.

The relief is a result of “fixes” the government says it made to the plans.

Qualifying borrowers will be notified if their loans will be discharged in the coming weeks, the Department of Education said.

It comes weeks after the US Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden’s broader $400bn student loan relief bid.

Friday’s move will fix administrative errors that meant some borrowers’ payments did not count towards them qualifying for student loan relief, the education department said.

“For far too long, borrowers fell through the cracks of a broken system that failed to keep accurate track of their progress towards forgiveness,” US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

Borrowers are eligible for the forgiveness after 20 or 25 years of payments, depending on their plan, officials said.

Some of Mr Biden’s political opponents swiftly condemned the announcement.

“This president is dead set on ruining our postsecondary education financing system for a few votes next November,” North Carolina Republican representative Virginia Foxx, the chairwoman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said in a statement. “Taxpayers and the rule of law be damned.”

Another Republican, Michigan representative Lisa McClain, said on Twitter that the “unconstitutional” loan forgiveness scheme is “a slap in the face to hard-working taxpayers that have dutifully paid off their student loans”.

The US government offers multiple types of income-driven repayment plans, known as IDR plans, under which borrowers make a monthly loan payment based on their income over the course of 20 or 25 years.

The administration first announced it would make changes to the plan in April 2022 to address “historical inaccuracies in the count of payments that qualify toward forgiveness under IDR plans”, the education department said.

Last month, in a 6-3 ruling, the US Supreme Court effectively shut down Mr Biden’s larger plan to cancel billions of dollars in student loans for more than 40 million Americans. The Supreme Court found the Biden administration overstepped its authority with the program, which would have forgiven about $10,000 per borrower, and up to $20,000 in some cases.

Soon after the ruling was announced, Mr Biden pledged to find a different way to offer student loan forgiveness. “Today’s decision has closed one path. Now we’re going to start another,” he said.

In a statement, Abby Shafroth, co-director of advocacy at the National Consumer Law Center and director of its Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, praised the move, adding that Congress has the authority to help “right this wrong”.

“This action is the result of long-overdue fixes to structural failures in the student loan system that prevented borrowers from actually getting the relief promised by law,” she said.

Mr Biden has taken a series of steps to provide student loan relief to smaller groups via executive actions since he took office. For instance, last year he cancelled student loan debt for 200,000 borrowers who said they were harmed or defrauded by their universities.

By Joy

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