Updated, March 20, 2024: The original version of this article indicated that 2 out of 5, not 1 out of 5, borrowers qualified for loan forgiveness or $0 payments.

The Biden administration has been forging ahead with student loan forgiveness and other debt relief for borrowers. And the results are striking. Of the estimated 43 million student loan borrowers in America, approximately 20% have either been approved for debt cancellation or have no current repayment obligation.

Despite last summer’s Supreme Court decision striking down President Joe Biden’s one-time student loan forgiveness plan, the administration has still managed to provide widespread relief. Through regulatory reforms and executive actions that have “fixed” or “improved” existing loan forgiveness programs, many more borrowers are benefiting from student debt relief. And Biden is also developing a new, separate student loan forgiveness plan which — if enacted — could do even more.

“Early in my term, I announced a major plan to provide millions of working families with debt relief for their college student debt,” Biden said last month. “But my MAGA Republican friends in the Congress, elected officials and special interests stepped in and sued us. And the Supreme Court blocked it. But that didn’t stop me.”

Here’s a breakdown of Biden’s student loan forgiveness and debt relief impacts so far.

3.9 Million Borrowers Approved For Student Loan Forgiveness

Nearly 4 million Americans have been approved for close to $140 billion in student loan forgiveness through multiple Biden administration initiatives. According to the Education Department, this includes:

  • $56.7 billion in student loan forgiveness for close to 800,000 borrowers through regulatory changes and temporary waivers associated with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
  • $45.6 billion in relief for more than 930,000 borrowers through “improvements to income-driven repayment,” including the still-ongoing IDR Account Adjustment initiative which is set to end this spring.
  • Close to $12 billion in loan forgiveness for more than half a million borrowers who are medically disabled.
  • $22.5 billion in discharges for 1.3 million borrowers due to school-related issues. This includes relief under the Closed School Discharge program, Borrower Defense to Repayment, and court settlements.

More than 4 Million Borrowers Have No Student Loan Payments While Progressing Toward Loan Forgiveness

In addition to the Biden administration’ student loan forgiveness initiatives, the new SAVE plan is also providing relief to borrowers. SAVE is an income-driven repayment plan that can provide affordable monthly payments tied to a borrower’s income and family size.

Administration officials have touted SAVE as the most affordable repayment option ever. The program’s generous income exclusion limit and favorable repayment formula have resulted in 4.3 million borrowers having no payment obligation for at least 12 months, according to the Education Department. SAVE can result in eventual student loan forgiveness after 10, 2o, or 25 years in repayment. And even $0 monthly “payments” count toward loan forgiveness under the SAVE plan.

Biden’s New Student Loan Forgiveness Plan Coming Soon, But Will Likely Face Challenges

Advocates for borrowers have largely been supportive of the Biden administration’s efforts to provide student debt relief, but many have argued that it hasn’t been enough. To that end, the Biden administration is also creating a new student loan forgiveness plan. This “Plan B” is designed as a fallback option to replace the program that the Supreme Court nixed in June.

After the Education Department completed a key step in the rulemaking process several weeks ago, the details of Biden’s forthcoming loan forgiveness program are coming into focus. The plan will provide five potential pathways to relief based on the age of the loan, the loan balance relative to the original amount borrowed, the borrower’s eligibility for existing loan forgiveness programs, the school the borrower attended, and financial hardships. Final regulations are expected to be released in May, and the plan could become available as soon as this summer or fall.

However, Republicans have been critical of Biden’s efforts, calling them “illegal” and unfair to non-borrower taxpayers. Biden’s new student loan forgiveness plan is likely to face legal challenges. And officials in Kansas recently announced their intention to sue the Biden administration over the SAVE plan later this month.

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