In the days after the Biden administration unveiled its long-anticipated student loan forgiveness plan in August 2022, discussions on (and off) social media platforms focused on details and aspects of the initiative — including whether eligible borrowers had to “apply” to benefit from the program:
On August 29 2022, we examined claims that eligible borrowers could receive refunds for payments made during an extended “pause” initiated in March 2020; more granular details about the manner in which the plan operated were not immediately available following the announcement.
In the above tweet, user @prettypromiss stated that “student loans aren’t automatically forgiven,” alluding to an application available from October through December 2023. No link or information about the source of the claim appeared alongside the very popular tweet.
A threaded follow-up tweet suggested, however, that not all eligible borrowers had to apply:
Broadly, people commenting on the thread expressed confusion about the dates mentioned, the relevance of related programs (like Public Service Loan Forgiveness, or PSLF), and how the plan itself operated:
On ed.gov (a source for information on student loans via the Department of Education), a sidebar appeared to provide information on “student loans, forgiveness.” However, that link only led to information about older programs like PSLF.
We located a page on studentaid.gov, “The Biden-Harris Administration’s Student Debt Relief Plan Explained.” It appeared to have the most up-to-date information on whether borrowers included in student loan forgiveness, explaining:
What do I need to do in order to receive loan forgiveness?
- Nearly 8 million borrowers may be eligible to receive relief automatically because relevant income data is already available to the U.S. Department of Education.
- If the U.S. Department of Education doesn’t have your income data, the Administration will launch a simple application which will be available by early October .
- If you would like to be notified when the application is open, please sign up at the Department of Education subscription page.
- Once a borrower completes the application, they can expect relief within 4-6 weeks.
- We encourage everyone who is eligible to file the application, but there are 8 million people for whom we have data and who will get the relief automatically.
- Borrowers are advised to apply before November 15th in order to receive relief before the payment pause expires on December 31, 2022.
- The Department of Education will continue to process applications as they are received, even after the pause expires on December 31, 2022.
According to the page as of August 30 2022, “nearly eight million borrowers” might be eligible for automatic student loan forgiveness without submitting an application. Further, a “simple application” for the remaining eligible borrowers would launch in “early October 2022,” with advice to apply before November 15 2022 to qualify for student loan forgiveness before the expiration of the “pause” on December 31 2022.
Several social media posts (including a viral tweet) indicated that student loan forgiveness was not automatic, and that borrowers were required to submit an application (which was not available in August 2022, and which was not expected to become available until October 2022). Information on studentaid.gov on August 30 2022 indicated that approximately eight million borrowers might receive relief automatically, adding that everyone who was eligible was encouraged to submit an application. That information suggested that at least some eligible borrowers would be required to submit an application to receive relief; as of August 30 2022, no particular date for the October 2022 application launch has yet been provided.