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In Connecticut, 454,200 qualify for federal student debt forgiveness

Biden Administration's Student Loan Debt Relief Program Creates Controversy
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English and Linguistics major Essence Ratliff studies in the Rice University Library on August 29, 2022 in Houston, Texas. U.S. President Joe Biden has announced a three-part plan that will forgive hundreds of billions of dollars in federal student loan debt.

An estimated 454,200 borrowers in Connecticut are eligible to receive at least $10,000 in federal student debt relief implemented under President Joe Biden’s plan on loan forgiveness, according to data released by the White House on Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Education gave a state-by-state breakdown of the more than 38 million people across the U.S. who qualify for relief. Last month, Biden announced that his administration will forgive $10,000 in federal student loan debt – and $20,000 specifically for Pell Grant recipients – depending on income. The White House said nearly 20 million of those eligible borrowers “could see their entire remaining balance discharged.”

Of the total number who are eligible borrowers in Connecticut, more than half – about 238,200 – are Pell Grant recipients who will qualify to receive $20,000 in relief. Most Pell Grant recipients are from families that earn less than $60,000 a year and require greater financial assistance to attend school.

Eligibility for the loan forgiveness plan is based on income. The relief applies to individuals who earned less than $125,000 a year during the pandemic or under $250,000 for married couples who jointly file taxes.

The Education Department says that nearly 8 million borrowers could receive automatic relief because the agency already has the required income data. Most who are eligible will need to submit an application, which should be available by early October. After they complete it, they should receive relief in four to six weeks.

Borrowers are encouraged to submit applications before Nov. 15 so they can receive their financial assistance before student loan repayments resume in January 2023, though the department says applications can still be received after the pause on those payments ends.

In addition to loan forgiveness, Biden made his fifth and final extension of the freeze on student loan repayments and interest accrual until Dec. 31. The moratorium has been in place since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.

In Connecticut, about 12.7% of residents qualify under Biden’s student loan plan. According to the Education Data Initiative, there are 497,700 borrowers who have about $17.5 billion in student debt. The average debt for borrowers in the state is $35,162, and more than half of borrowers are under the age of 35.

Members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation supported Biden’s decision on loan forgiveness, though some Democrats in Congress wanted the president to go even further. Progressives pushed for him to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt and not determine who could qualify for loans based on their annual income.

Proponents of the plan say it will provide financial help, especially for people of color who tend to need more student loans. According to data from the White House, nearly 71% of Black undergraduate borrowers and 65% of Latino undergraduate borrowers received Pell Grants.

Most Republicans, however, opposed the wide-ranging student relief, arguing that it’s unfair to past borrowers who have repaid their loans. They also argue that it’ll add to inflation on top of Democrats’ recently passed legislation on health care, climate change and tax policy.

While he ultimately followed through on his campaign promise from 2020, Biden had been skeptical of his authority to unilaterally forgive large amounts of student debt without Congress. Conservative groups are gearing up to bring legal challenges to Biden’s plan.

Lisa Hagen is the federal policy reporter in a collaboration between Connecticut Public and The Connecticut Mirror. Hagen is based in Washington, D.C., and produces stories that examine the impact of federal policy on Connecticut.
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