Millions of Americans who have not had to make payments on federal student loans since the government paused them during the pandemic in 2020 can expect that window to close this summer.
There is still no exact date for borrowers to plan to restart their loan payments, other than sometime late this summer, because the date is tied to a Supreme Court ruling expected in June on legal challenges to the Biden administration’s sweeping proposal to cancel between $10,000 and $20,000 in student debt as a related pandemic-relief measure.
Loan repayments would restart 60 days after the Supreme Court ruling. If the Supreme Court does not rule before June 30, then the loan payments would begin 60 days after June 30.
The student loan pause put in place by the Trump administration was extended by President Joe Biden when he announced his student loan forgiveness measure last summer. But Republican state officials and conservative organizations immediately challenged the legality of the debt cancellation initiative, forcing the Biden administration to put a pause on applications for relief in October.
Loan repayment pause extended
The Biden administration extended the loan repayment pause again after the its debt relief program was blocked by a lower court late last year, citing unfair pressure on borrowers to begin paying back loans that were being contested.
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“We’re extending the payment pause because it would be deeply unfair to ask borrowers to pay a debt that they wouldn’t have to pay, were it not for the baseless lawsuits brought by Republican officials and special interests,” the Biden administration said at the time.
Republicans and some economists criticized Biden’s plan to write off debt at the expense of taxpayers who did not pursue higher education, calling it an overstep of the authority granted to the Department of Education and saying it would make rising inflation worse.
How to sign up for relief
The debt relief applies only to loan balances accrued before June 30, 2022. Interested borrowers can get on a waitlist here: https://studentaid.gov/debt-relief/application
Most borrowers requesting relief will have to apply for it, but the government has said anyone who filled out a FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, in 2022 and 2023 or is enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan from 2020 or 2021 should be automatically eligible and will be informed if they qualify.
Qualifying for $20,000 in debt relief
Nearly 8 million borrowers may be eligible to receive relief automatically, the Department of Education said.
The loan relief will cancel up to $10,000 in student debt if you earned less than $125,000 in 2020 or 2021, or if a dependent and your family earned less than $250,000 in one of those years. Additionally, if you received a federal Pell Grant, awarded to low-income borrowers, you could qualify to have up to $20,000 in loans written off in this one-time loan forgiveness.