The cost of attending a four-year university has nearly tripled in the last forty years with a substantial price increase of 180%, resulting in $1.75 trillion of student debt for federal and private loan borrowers across the country. To address this issue, on Aug. 24 President Biden released a three-part plan which intends to erase up to $20,000 of student debt for loan borrowers. This fulfills a campaign commitment made by the President in order to “address the financial harms of the [COVID-19] pandemic.”
This plan is aimed at extending aid to lower and middle-income loan borrowers by providing federal loan cancellations of either $10,000 or $20,000–student loans are not 100 percent eradicated. However, not every student loan borrower is eligible for loan relief as only federal loans are applicable, not private loans. One can expect clearance of $10,000 off their federal loans if they are a head of household or married couple making less than $250,000 per year or their individual income is less than $125,000 annually and Federal Pell Grant recipients can expect a reduction of $20,000. The loan forgiveness plan will utilize the 2020 or 2021 tax year to determine eligibility based on your adjusted gross income; it will look at your family’s income if you filed the FAFSA as a dependent and your personal income if you filed as an independent.
The Department of Education (DOE) and loan servicers have noted that they possess the income information needed for automatic relief so long as individuals have submitted their most recent tax return and are in an income-driven repayment plan. This means that an automatic disbursement of loan forgiveness should occur with no additional paperwork necessary. However, if the Department of Education does not have your income information, you will need to complete a form that is expected to be released in early October and end on December 31st of 2023. It is suggested that you sign up to receive an alert from the Department of Education to be notified when the application is open. If you would like to be sure of getting loan relief even if the DOE has your income information, you can still fill out said form. Loan forgiveness can be expected within four to six weeks of completing the application, and your loan servicer should keep you updated on when your loans are forgiven. You, as well, may check your loan balance online to see if there are any changes in the upcoming months. Additionally, it is important to note that the Department of Education has “announced a final extension of the pause on student loan repayment, interest, and collections through December 31, 2022.” This means that while repayment for federal loans is currently on pause, loan borrowers should expect to resume payments in Jan. 2023.
Whittier College has also added to some of its programs due to this relief bill, specifically with the temporary expansion of the Public Student Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). The expansion states that “[i]f you have made 120 on-time payments while working at Whittier (or another non-profit institution), you likely qualify, regardless of what payment plan you use/used and regardless of your loan servicer, provided the loans were originally government loans.” The deadline to apply is “October 30th, and if you need to consolidate, that generally takes around 30-60 days (though you might be able to submit your application before the consolidation process is complete).”
And yet, despite the possibility of a break from student loans, Californians may not be getting relief anytime soon. Californian tax policy may cause loan forgiveness to be “taxable under current state rules, even though it’s tax-free under federal law.” While state officials are trying to work out the matter, state law says that California has not changed its policy to classify any federal and state tax law that does not forgive debts “as income unless the borrowers are bankrupt.” Unless the individual qualifies for an exception, they have to pay the tax.
If you have any questions in regard to loan relief during your time at Whittier, you can email the Office of Financial Aid at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Business office at 562.907.4207. And for more questions about student loan relief, you can visit studentaid.gov/debt-relief-announcement/.
Featured Photo Courtesy of Rolling Stone