On Thursday, the Biden administration announced it will eliminate student loan debt for over 300,000 Americans whose severe disabilities that prevent them from earning significant incomes.
This action signifies the start of a larger overhaul of a current program that has been highly criticized. At this time, the federal government offers student debt relief for those who have minimal incomes and are “totally and permanently disabled.” The guidelines for the program, though, require applicants to submit proof of their disability and endure a three-year monitoring period to demonstrate the insufficiency of their pay.
Due to these rules, several thousands of people have been dropped from the program, and their loans were reinstated because they did not submit evidence of income. “We’ve heard loud and clear from borrowers with disabilities and advocates about the need for this change and we are excited to follow through on it,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. According to the Education Department, more than $5.8 billion in debt will be wiped out.
Advocates in favor of student loan cancellation for disabled people had already been encouraging the Education Department to completely halt the monitoring period and to automatically provide debt relief to those whom the Social Security Administration identifies as permanently disabled.
Now, beginning in September, the Education Department will start eliminating student debt for those listed as permanently disabled in Social Security records. This new action will affect roughly 323,000 Americans. “This is going to be a smooth process for our borrowers,” Cardona remarked. “They’re not going to have to be applying for it or getting bogged down by paperwork.”
Advocates like Aron Ament who serves as the president of the National Student Legal Defense Network, celebrated the new policy as a victory. Ament called it a “life-changing” move. He said, “This is a huge moment for hundreds of thousands of borrowers with disabilities who can now move on with their lives and won’t be trapped in a cycle of debt.”
Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., said that if the federal government knows borrowers are eligible for loan forgiveness, they should not have to file paperwork or other hurdles.
Scott commented, “With this simple and sensible change, more than 320,000 borrowers and their families are being freed from the burden of student loans that they should not have to repay.” But more extensive student loan forgiveness may be on the horizon, which would fulfill a Biden campaign promise. Cardona said conversations to assess the legality of widespread debt erasure are “still underway” (AP News).