President Joe Biden approved a new batch of student loan forgiveness last week for thousands of teachers, nurses, charity workers, and other borrowers who have devoted their careers to public service work. Following this latest wave of approvals, the total number of discharge approvals under this popular loan forgiveness program has skyrocketed from just a few thousand prior 2021 to nearly 900,000, according to the Education Department.

“From day one, I promised to fix broken student loan programs and make sure higher education is a ticket to the middle class, not a barrier to opportunity,” said President Biden yesterday in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “I’m not backing down.”

Here’s what borrowers need to know

Biden’s Latest Student Loan Forgiveness Totals $5.8 Billion And Over $62 Billion In Total

Last week’s announcement indicates that the Biden administration approved nearly 77,000 borrowers for almost $6 billion in student loan forgiveness. This debt relief was not provided through some sort of unilateral executive action; rather, the administration has been implementing a series of improvements to the long-troubled Public Service Loan Forgiveness program by updating regulations and streamlining the application process.

The PSLF program is designed to incentivize work in underserved and underpaid areas that often require advanced degrees. This can include teaching, healthcare, nonprofit work, and state and local government. Borrowers who pursue PSLF can receive student loan forgiveness after making 120 “qualifying payments,” the equivalent of 10 years.

But since the program’s inception in 2007 (enabling legislation was passed on a bipartisan basis and signed by President Bush), the PSLF program was plagued by issues and barriers that interfered with borrowers’ attempts to get relief. Complicated eligibility rules, misinformation, poor loan servicing, and inadequate oversight resulted in a byzantine process where borrowers were often rejected, even those who did everything right in accordance with program requirements. Only around 7,000 borrowers had actually received student loan forgiveness under PSLF through 2020.

But the Biden administration has taken significant steps to improve the PSLF program. The administration enacted temporary waivers designed to remedy the effects of the longstanding problems and credit borrowers with time toward loan forgiveness that previously had not counted. The Education Department also updated regulations to make the program more fair and equitable. And officials created online tools designed to make it easier for borrowers to apply and request student loan forgiveness under the program.

Biden’s Efforts To ‘Fix’ Student Loan Forgiveness Under PSLF Are Paying Off

The results of the Biden administration’s efforts have been staggering. In just a few years, the program has gone from a 99% rejection rate and only a few thousand approvals to nearly 900,000 borrowers receiving over $60 billion in student loan forgiveness.

“Total relief through PSLF is now $62.5 billion for 871,000 borrowers since October 2021,” according to Education Department data released last week. “Prior to the Biden-Harris Administration’s fixes to PSLF, only about 7,000 borrowers had ever received forgiveness.”

Noting that nurses, teachers, firefighters, and other borrowers dedicated to serving the public had “faced logistical troubles and trap doors when they tried to access the debt relief they were entitled to under the law,” student loan forgiveness approvals under PSLF have increased a hundredfold from 2021 to 2024, said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement last week. “Today, more than 100 times more borrowers are eligible for PSLF than there were at the beginning of the Administration. The Biden Administration is turning a promise broken under our predecessor into a promise kept.”

The system is still not perfect, however, and PSLF borrowers are still encountering problems. This includes ongoing loan servicing issues, payment miscalculations, and processing delays. Senate Democrats recently demanded an inquiry into MOHELA, the Education Department’s contracted loan servicer for the PSLF program, following reports that the organization steered borrowers away from customer service agents, leading to hours-long hold times and no resolution when borrowers were facing problems.

Latest Student Loan Forgiveness PSLF Opportunity Is Set To End Next Month

One of the Biden administration’s signature efforts to repair the PSLF program is coming to an end next month.

The IDR Account Adjustment is a temporary program that allows borrowers to receive student loan forgiveness credit toward PSLF for periods that previously may not have counted. This can include many past periods of repayment as far back as October 2007, as well as certain periods of deferment and forbearance. The “credit” can also be applied toward student loan forgiveness on a 20- or 25-year term for Income-Driven Repayment plans.

Borrowers with non-Direct federal student loans (such as FFEL loans) would need to apply to consolidate their loans via the federal Direct consolidation program prior to April 30th in order to qualify for the PSLF benefits of the account adjustment. Moreover, borrowers pursuing loan forgiveness via PSLF would also need to certify their employment by completing an online employment certification process.

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