More than 110,000 people with student debt benefited from a temporary change in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
The Biden administration announced in October that the program would make it easier for some payments to qualify for loan forgiveness.
On average, individual borrowers have been forgiven $60,000, resulting in a total of $6.8 billion in student loan forgiveness.
According to CNBC, “the reforms under the Biden administration include reassessing borrowers’ timelines and counting some payments that were previously ineligible because, say, a borrower was unwittingly in a nonqualifying repayment plan.”
The changes were made during the COVID-19 pandemic to address some of the financial hardships faced by the American people following widespread layoffs and economic turmoil.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program was established by President George W. Bush in 2007. The program cancels the federal student loan debt of people who are employed by nonprofit organizations or government agencies after 120 payments or 10 years.
Eligible forms of public service include being employed by a federal, state, local, or tribal government, being a military service member, or working for a not-for-profit.
An estimated 25% of the American workforce qualifies for the debt forgiveness program, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The program has proved difficult to navigate and is noted for a number of administrative conflicts. Ultimately, as many as 98% to 99% of applicants have been denied.
Additionally, Congress passed the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness in 2018 which expanded the types of qualifying repayment programs. TEPSLF did not correct the existing problems of student loan forgiveness.
The federal government announced a new appeals program in March 2021 for borrowers who were initially denied from the PSLF. The appeals program launched for applicants this week.
The temporary rules are currently set to expire on Oct. 31, 2022.
During his presidential campaign, Biden promised widespread student loan forgiveness.
The federal government is offering additional ways to relieve student debt. The Federal Student Aid office said 3.6 million people who participate in income-driven repayment loan programs could be covered by a new “one-time account” adjustment.
Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president may limit his student loan forgiveness program to Americans who make less than $125,000 per year. Biden has said he would take executive action to forgive loan debt.