What is happening to student loan forgiveness? Here’s what we know.

President Biden, shown with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, gives an update on student loan forgiveness on Oct. 17 in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
President Biden, shown with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, gives an update on student loan forgiveness on Oct. 17 in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

It’s been more than a month since an appellate court first hit the breaks on President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, and the legal challenges have only grown.

Biden unveiled plans in August to forgive up to $20,000 of federal student loan debt for borrowers who meet certain income requirements. The administration has said more than 40 million people could benefit.

But for now, it is battling rulings from lawsuits that have brought the policy to a halt.

After the administration petitioned the Supreme Court to intervene, the court agreed on Thursday to hear arguments on the legality of Biden’s plan in February. But refused to allow the program to go forward in the meantime.

Supreme Court to review legality of Biden’s student loan forgiveness program

The pause has left some borrowers desperate for details. Here are some things to know.

What’s the latest in the student loan forgiveness lawsuits?

There are several active lawsuits seeking to block Biden’s debt relief plan. Among them is a case brought by six states — Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina — alleging that the president overstepped his authority and threatened the revenue of state entities that profit from federal student loans.

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Key details on Biden’s student loan forgiveness

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After a lower court dismissed the lawsuit, the states appealed the ruling and requested an emergency stay to prevent the administration from canceling any loans, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit granted on Oct. 21. The appellate court later granted an injunction extending the pause on the relief program. Biden administration attorneys asked the Supreme Court to overturn the injunction.

Meanwhile, in a separate lawsuit, a federal judge in Texas declared the debt relief program unlawful, striking down the plan altogether. The Nov. 10 ruling from U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman of the Northern District of Texas handed a legal victory to the Job Creators Network Foundation, a conservative group that filed the lawsuit in October on behalf of two student loan borrowers.

The Education Department appealed that decision, asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to put a hold on the lower court’s ruling. The court refused, but said it would expedite its review of the administration’s appeal. Justice attorneys say they intend to seek relief from the Supreme Court.

Can I still apply for the debt relief program?

The Education Department is no longer accepting applications after the rulings, but it encouraged borrowers to sign up for updates at studentaid.gov.

I already applied for relief. What happens now?

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in November, “For the 26 million borrowers who have already given the Department of Education the necessary information to be considered for debt relief — 16 million of whom have already been approved for relief — the Department will hold onto their information so it can quickly process their relief once we prevail in court.”

When will loan payments resume?

Payments will resume 60 days after the Education Department is allowed to implement the debt relief program or the litigation is resolved. If that hasn’t happened by June 30, payments will restart 60 days later or on Sept. 1, according to the department.

The Biden administration had encouraged borrowers to apply for debt relief by Nov. 15, when the pause was scheduled to end Dec. 31, in hopes their applications would be processed before a pause on student loan payments ended. That could have given the Education Department enough time to recalculate borrowers’ monthly payments based on their new lower balances.

Where can I get more answers?

The Education Department has kept running updates about the forgiveness program on studentaid.gov. Still, questions and misinformation persist. Federal agencies have warned people to be wary of scams targeting borrowers, including from entities offering to assist with applying for relief in exchange for a fee.

Student loan forgiveness

The latest: The Supreme Court will review the legality of President Biden’s debt relief plan, after another appeals court rejected a bid to revive it. To date, Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan is on ice after a Texas judge blocked the student debt relief plan.

Calculate your eligibility: We tackled everything you need to know about the debt relief plan. Use this calculator to see how much of your student loan debt can be forgiven. Here’s what to expect in the student loan forgiveness application.

The opponents: What is happening to student loan forgiveness? A federal appeals court temporarily halted the student debt relief program. Six Republican-led states are also suing to overturn President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. An Indiana lawsuit was the first significant legal action seeking to invalidate Biden’s policy.

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