Biden Administration announces broad student debt cancellation

On Wednesday, August 26, the Biden administration released its plan to cancel federal student loans up to $10,000 for qualifying debtors, a move the White House says will see 90% of relief go to people earning less than $75,000. You can read the full announcement here, but here are the notes:

  • To be eligible, your annual income must be below $125,000 for individuals, or up to $250,000 for households.
  • Pell Grant recipients who meet the income threshold will be eligible for up to $20,000 in debt cancellation.
  • Student loan repayment will be paused through December, to resume in January 2023.

A simple application will be released in the coming weeks — if you would like to receive notice of the application, sign up at the Department of Education subscription page.

The announcement will also make big changes to the way student loan interest payments are made:

  • Borrowers would pay no more than 5% of their discretionary income on monthly undergraduate loans — down from 10%. Additionally, the amount of income that is considered non-discretionary will be increased — meaning, those making about the equivalent of $15 minimum wage will not be required to make a monthly payment.
  • Loan balances after 10 years of payment for borrowers with loan balances of $12,000 or less will be forgiven, down from 20 years.
  • Borrowers’ unpaid monthly interest will also be covered — so no borrower’s loan balance will grow as long as they make their monthly payments, even when that monthly payment is $0.

This plan doesn’t go far enough, but it will provide substantial relief to working-class debtors and help to reduce the racial-equity gap that exists in the United States. This is not a handout — this limited jubilee is the result of debtors organizing to put political pressure on elected officials to live up to the promises they make to their constituents. One of the leading debt organizers — The Debt Collective, which Metro DC DSA has proudly organized with in the past — has vowed to continue to push for full cancellation and further debt relief. This small jubilee will go far, and wouldn’t be possible without the tireless effort of people willing to stand up for themselves and each other in the face of economic peril.

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