The Biden administration has been steadily approving student loan forgiveness for millions of borrowers across the country.

Through a series of executive actions and regulatory changes that President Joe Biden has billed as “fixes” and “improvements” to broken programs that Congress had authority authorized, more than four million borrowers have received, or been approved for, loan forgiveness. The changes have served as somewhat of a workaround for Biden in implementing student debt relief following last summer’s Supreme Court ruling striking down his separate loan forgiveness plan, while officials work to finalize a new program that could be available as soon as this summer.

Last month, the Education Department released a detailed state-by-state breakdown of recent student loan forgiveness approvals under the new SAVE plan. And three states in particular stand out as receiving the most relief.

Biden Student Loan Forgiveness Approvals So Far

According to the most recent Education Department data, the Biden administration has approved upwards of $139 billion in federal student loan forgiveness so far.

The bulk of this relief has gone to borrowers pursuing loan forgiveness through income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. IDR and PSLF can provide full federal student debt relief after 10, 20, or 25 years in repayment, depending on the specific program. Temporary initiatives like the IDR Account Adjustment and the Limited PSLF Waiver, as well as regulatory updates and the creation of a new IDR plan called SAVE, have collectively resulted in over $100 billion in loan forgiveness so far.

The administration has approved additional relief through programs designed to address school-based issues, such as under Borrower Defense to Repayment and the Closed School Discharge program. Borrowers who have been unable to work due to disabling medical conditions have also benefited from improvements to a discharge program dedicated to that issue.

Three States Stand Out In Recent Student Loan Forgiveness Approvals

The Biden administration’s most recent student loan forgiveness approvals were issued under an accelerated feature of the new SAVE plan. SAVE is an IDR plan that typically results in a discharge of any remaining balance after 2o or 25 years in repayment. But that term can be shortened to as little as 10 years for borrowers who had smaller initial balances. The administration accelerated the implementation of this “early” loan forgiveness benefit last month; it was originally scheduled to be effective later this summer.

Over 150,000 borrowers were approved for nearly $1.3 billion in discharges through the early student loan forgiveness benefits under SAVE. According to a state-by-state breakdown released by the Education Department in late February, over 25% of this relief went to borrowers who live in the nation’s most populous three states: California, Florida, and Texas. More than 13,000 California borrowers collectively received $114.8 million in student loan forgiveness; 12,790 Florida borrowers got over $105 million in loan forgiveness; and 14,510 borrowers in Texas received $116.6 million. But borrower’s in all 50 states received relief.

“When we talk about fixing a broken student loan system, this is what we’re talking about,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement accompanying the release of the data. Cardona said the numbers “show that President Biden’s leadership is making a real impact on people’s lives in every state – they demonstrate that we won’t ever stop fighting to make higher education more affordable and accessible for more Americans. This is that commitment in action. This is the real deal.”

Biden Could Face Legal Challenge Over SAVE Student Loan Forgiveness

But legal storm clouds may be on the horizon. The state of Kansas may soon be filing a lawsuit against the Biden administration challenging the new regulations under the SAVE plan, including the early student loan forgiveness provision. Kansas state officials indicated the challenge could be filed by the end of March.

In the meantime, the Biden administration is moving forward with efforts to create a new loan forgiveness program under the Higher Education Act. This new plan could create several new pathways to debt relief, including for those experiencing financial hardships. The Education Department is expected to finalize regulations for the new plan this spring. But the administration will likely face legal challenges over this program, as well.

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