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Biden administration announces next steps for student debt relief

The Biden administration announced its next moves on student loan forgiveness Friday, pointing toward a narrower effort so far than the mass debt relief it previously offered. 

The Department of Education announced months ago it is going through the negotiated rulemaking process under the Higher Education Act to try to enact more student loan relief. 

The department has released its “initial set of policy considerations” for the new plan, focusing on “student loan borrowers in need.”

The administration is looking at five groups for its new debt relief: borrowers who entered repayment decades ago; borrowers whose balances are greater than what they originally owed; borrowers who are eligible for relief under specific programs but didn’t apply; those under financial hardship; and those who went through programs that didn’t give financial value. 

“The Biden-Harris Administration has taken unprecedented action to fix the broken student loan system and deliver record amounts of student debt relief,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. 

“Now, we are diligently moving through the regulatory process to advance debt relief for even more borrowers. Today, after considering more than 26,000 public comments on how to tailor this relief, we are releasing this additional information about this effort. We’re committed to standing up for borrowers and making sure that student debt does not stop anyone from climbing the economic ladder and pursuing the American dream,” he added.

These initial policy considerations will be discussed at the first Student Loan Relief Committee meeting Oct. 10-11.

The committee is made up of 14 affected constituency groups that are nonfederal negotiators. These groups will give feedback on the department’s proposal while offering ideas of their own. 

This process is expected to take longer than previous student debt relief actions, meaning a plan may not be finalized until well into next year, where it will inevitably face lawsuits from conservatives. 

The initial policy considerations seems the administration is moving away from its broad student loan forgiveness it aimed to give last year.

Previously, the administration sought to forgive at least $10,000 for all 45 million student loan borrowers, but the plan fell short after it was declared illegal by the Supreme Court. 

The next steps announcement comes ahead of student loan repayments resuming Sunday for the first time in three years, which will affect 28 million borrowers.

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