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The application for Biden's student loan relief is open. Here's what to know about it

President Joe Biden and U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced a sweeping plan for student debt relief in August.
Bonnie Cash
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Bloomberg via Getty Images
President Joe Biden and U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced a sweeping plan for student debt relief in August.

Updated October 17, 2022 at 4:55 PM ET

President Biden's student loan forgiveness application is now officially open, and borrowers can begin applying for up to $20,000 in debt cancellation.

The U.S. Education Department published a beta version of the form last week, in order to test and find problems with the site before its official launch. Since Friday, more than 8 million borrowers have already applied for debt relief, with no reported glitches or crashes, according to the White House.

Biden's plan is to cancel up to $10,000 in debt for those earning less than $125,000 per year and up to $20,000 for those who received Pell Grants.

It's hard to imagine a more anticipated form than the one tens of millions of federal student loan borrowers will need to complete to qualify for Biden's debt relief plan. Here's what else we know:

How long the application will be up: In a legal filing, the department said it "will not discharge any student loan debt under the debt relief plan prior to October 23, 2022."

The application will be available through Dec. 31, 2023.

Where the application is posted: The application is live at studentaid.gov, and it's available in English and Spanish.

What the application asks for: As U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told NPR a few weeks ago, the application is quite simple. It requires only basic information, including name, birth date, Social Security number, phone number and an e-mail address.

Borrowers will not need what's known as an FSA ID to log into the application, nor will they need to upload any documents, including tax records.

Will borrowers need to prove they meet the plan's income requirements? Instead of having to provide documents that verify that you, as an individual, earned less than $125,000 in 2020 or 2021 or, as a couple, less than $250,000, the application simply asks borrowers to check a box to "certify under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that all of the information provided on this form is true and correct."

A senior administration official told reporters that the U.S. Department of Education will closely match the information applicants provide with loan and income information it already has on file. In case of discrepancies, the department "will work with borrowers to secure additional documentation."

The official said roughly 95% of borrowers should meet those income thresholds, though it's not clear how many the department will flag for additional income verification.

How long will it take the department to process each application? When asked by NPR how long borrowers who fill out the application will have to wait before they see their debts canceled, one senior administration official said, "a matter of weeks."

Timing matters because the department wants to discharge as many debts as possible before student loan payments resume in January.

In September, Cardona told NPR, "I will tell you, [by] January 1 when [loan repayment resumes], we have to have all that set up. So we know that, between October and before the loans restart, not only is the information going to be needed by all borrowers, but we're going to have to be done with that process."

On a call with reporters, a senior administration official backed up Cardona's timeline, saying the department plans to quickly process applications in November and December to discharge debts and limit borrower confusion come January.

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Cory Turner reports and edits for the NPR Ed team. He's helped lead several of the team's signature reporting projects, including "The Truth About America's Graduation Rate" (2015), the groundbreaking "School Money" series (2016), "Raising Kings: A Year Of Love And Struggle At Ron Brown College Prep" (2017), and the NPR Life Kit parenting podcast with Sesame Workshop (2019). His year-long investigation with NPR's Chris Arnold, "The Trouble With TEACH Grants" (2018), led the U.S. Department of Education to change the rules of a troubled federal grant program that had unfairly hurt thousands of teachers.
Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.