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Student Loan Forgiveness Application to Require Only Basic Data From Many Borrowers


WASHINGTON—Many borrowers will only have to provide the federal government with basic information, including their legal names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth, to apply for federal student loan relief through a new program set to launch later this month, Biden administration officials said.

Borrowers must attest under penalty of perjury that the information they submitted is accurate and that they meet the income qualifications for the program, officials said. A subset of applicants whose income puts them close to the cutoff to qualify for forgiveness will have to submit additional information to verify their incomes, the officials said.

The administration has for weeks been working through how it will manage the largest student loan forgiveness program in U.S. history, which is set to pose a major test for the federal government’s bureaucracy. Tens of millions of people could seek relief through the program.

The application will be made public later this month, but officials didn’t give a date. They said it is the administration’s goal to process most of applications submitted by the middle of next month before mandatory loan payments resume on Jan. 1 for the first time in nearly three years. The administration estimates it will take several weeks for an application to be fully processed.

A copy of the loan forgiveness application provided by the White House requests the following information from applicants: First name, middle initial, last name, former last name, Social Security number, date of birth, phone number and email address.

To be eligible for the program, individual borrowers must make less than $125,000 a year or less than $250,000 a year per household. The program will forgive up to $10,000 in debt for federal student-loan borrowers, or up to $20,000 for borrowers who received Pell Grants when they were in college.

A borrower’s income will be based on adjusted gross income from 2020 or 2021.

The Education Department’s Federal Student Aid Office will review applications and match the information submitted by borrowers with data the department has in its federal student loan database. The department projects that nearly 95% of borrowers with qualifying loans will meet the income requirements to qualify for the program.

Officials declined to explain exactly how the administration will determine which applicants would be required to submit additional information, arguing that doing so could give scammers a road map for gaming the system. The administration has put in place checks to prevent fraud and address discrepancies between the information provided by borrowers and the data the government has on file. Applicants found to have falsified information could face heavy fines or prison, the officials said.

Once the application is made public, it will be available through a federal government website that can be accessed from personal computers and mobile devices. The application will be available in English and in Spanish, and will be accessible for people with disabilities, officials said.

The administration has encouraged loan servicers, which manage much of the federal student loan portfolio, to increase their call-center capacity and staffing levels ahead of the launch of the program, officials said.

President Biden said in late August that his administration will forgive up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans. Independent estimates suggest the plan will cost more than $300 billion over 10 years. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

Write to Andrew Restuccia at [email protected]

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