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Biden races to enact new student loan forgiveness plan ahead of November

By Katie Lobosco, CNN

Washington (CNN) — Biden administration officials on Monday unveiled the details of a new plan to forgive student loan debt, suggesting that millions of Americans could start seeing debt relief as soon as this fall.

The new set of proposals, which CNN reported on Friday, have yet to be finalized. It’s President Joe Biden’s second attempt to implement broad student loan forgiveness after his first plan was struck down by the Supreme Court last summer. The president traveled to Wisconsin on Monday — a key swing state this November — to announce the plan.

“While a college degree is still a ticket to the middle class, that ticket’s becoming much too expensive,” Biden said in remarks at a technical college in Madison.

“Too many people feel the strain and stress, wondering if they’re going to get married, have their first child, start a family. Because even if they get by, they still have this crushing, crushing debt. It’s not just a drag on them, it’s a drag on our local economies,” he added.

The new policies, when combined with the more narrow actions already taken by the Biden administration to cancel student debt, would benefit more than 30 million Americans, according to a fact sheet provided by the White House.

That means that nearly 70% of all federal student loan borrowers would see their debt reduced or fully canceled due to Biden’s policies.

But first, the plans must be finalized – a process that could take months – and must withstand any potential legal challenges.

Biden’s new student loan forgiveness proposals could set up another fight with Republicans. Several conservative-led states and groups sued the Biden administration over the first student forgiveness program, arguing that the executive branch had overstepped its authority.

“President Biden will use every tool available to cancel student loan debt for as many borrowers as possible, no matter how many times Republican elected officials try to stand in his way,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Sunday on a call with reporters.

After the Supreme Court rejected Biden’s first plan last year, the president vowed to pursue another pathway to delivering student loan debt relief. Since then, the Department of Education has been conducting a formal and lengthy process, known as negotiated rulemaking, to develop a new student loan forgiveness program.

It’s a different process from what the Biden administration used in its first attempt to provide sweeping loan forgiveness, which would have canceled up to $20,000 in student loan debt for borrowers earning $125,000 or less a year.

The new plans target specific groups of borrowers. If implemented as proposed, borrowers could see relief if they fall into any of the following categories:

  • Those who have balances bigger than what they originally borrowed due to interest.
  • Those who already qualify for student loan forgiveness under existing programs but have not applied.
  • Those who entered repayment at least 20 years ago.
  • Those who enrolled in “low financial value” programs, which left students in debt but without good job prospects.
  • Those experiencing financial hardship.

The new proposals unveiled Monday must still go through a public comment period. Then, after reviewing those comments, the Department of Education will publish a final version of the rule.

Typically, if a final rule is published after going through negotiated rulemaking by November 1, it can take effect on July 1, 2025.

But some exceptions are allowed, and parts of the rule could be implemented early. For example, the Biden administration implemented parts of the SAVE Plan – an income-driven student loan repayment plan – last year while other parts of the plan won’t take effect until July.

In the case of the new student loan forgiveness proposals, the Department of Education could start canceling accrued interest for qualifying borrowers this fall, according to the White House.

There are more than 25 million borrowers who owe more than they initially borrowed due to interest accumulation, and they could see debt relief starting this fall if the new proposals are enacted. Low- and middle-income borrowers could see the entire accumulated amount of interest waived, while higher-income borrowers could see up to $20,000 wiped away.

Even though Biden’s sweeping student loan forgiveness got knocked down by the Supreme Court, his administration has still canceled more student loan debt than under any other president – mostly by using existing programs. His administration has made it easier for certain groups of borrowers – such as public-sector workers, including teachers; disabled borrowers; and people who were defrauded by for-profit colleges – to qualify for student loan debt forgiveness.

So far, 4 million people have seen their federal student debt canceled under Biden, totaling $146 billion.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Betsy Klein and Arlette Saenz contributed to this report.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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