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The US Department of Education has announced that its application for student loan forgiveness will go live in early October, suggesting it could be ready any day now.
Amid the legal challenges surrounding President Joe Biden’s historic move to forgive millions of Americans up to $20,000 in debt, experts advise borrowers should act quickly when the form is launched.
“If a borrower gets forgiveness, they can keep it even if the court blocks the president’s plan,” said higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz.
Here are the steps you should take to prepare to apply.
1. Check if you qualify
Biden announced in August that most federal student loan borrowers are eligible for some forgiveness: up to $10,000 if they haven’t received a Pell Grant, a type of low-income student grant, and up to $20,000 , if they did this.
Relief is limited to borrowers earning less than $125,000 per year or married couples or heads of household earning less than $250,000.
Check your most recent tax returns to confirm your income fell below these thresholds in 2020 or 2021 (both work). The Department of Education will take into account what is called the Adjusted Gross Income or AGI of the individuals, which may be different from your gross salary.
To certify your AGI for 2020 and 2021, look for line 11 on the front page of your federal tax return, known as Form 1040.
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By and large, the vast majority — about 37 million borrowers — will be forgiven depending on the type of loan they have because their debt is under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. This includes direct Stafford loans and all directly subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans. Under the Direct program, Parent Plus and Grad Loans are also eligible for relief.
However, some borrowers with Commercially Held Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) may unfortunately be excluded from the Jubilee. Borrowers can check if they have any of these loans at Studentaid.gov. Sign in with your FSA ID, then go to the My Help tab to look up your loan details.
2. Determine how much relief to expect
If you have concluded that your income level and credit type do not preclude you from the Biden administration’s forgiveness, the next step is to find out whether you qualify for a $10,000 or $20,000 relief.
That depends on whether or not you received a Pell scholarship during your college years.
To see if your college financial aid package included a Pell Grant, check your account at Studentaid.gov. Here, too, the subsidy should appear under the heading “My help”. Most recipients come from families earning less than $60,000, Kantrowitz said.
If you were only awarded the scholarship for one year, you are still eligible for the $20,000 cancellation.
3. Keep a record of your credits
Before applying for a loan termination, experts say you should take screenshots and write down your current loan amounts.
This way you can ensure that your new balance is correct and that you get the full discharge to which you are entitled. If there are problems, you can claim it from your student loan officer.
4. Contact your credit service provider (if necessary)
If you have questions for your servicer about forgiveness, contact them as soon as possible, experts say.
“Credit servicers are likely to be inundated with questions a few days before deadlines,” Kantrowitz said.
You should also ensure that your servicer as well as the education department have the most up-to-date contact information for you. Visit StudentAid.gov to ensure the information is current.
This will ensure that you do not miss any important information about the forgiveness process.
Finally, the Department of Education has said borrowers can check their website for updates until the loan cancellation request is complete.
Borrowers have already been told they do not need to upload supporting documents or use their FSA ID on the form.