White House says 813,000 in Mass. eligible for student debt relief
Nearly half can get up to $20,000 in loans canceled
AN ESTIMATED 813,000 student loan borrowers in Massachusetts will qualify for debt relief under President Biden’s student debt relief plan, according to data released by the White House Tuesday.
As a pandemic-era pause on student loan repayments ends in December, Biden announced a plan last month to provide permanent relief for some borrowers. Biden’s plan will cancel up to $20,000 in debt for Pell Grant recipients, who are generally the lowest-income borrowers, and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation for non-Pell Grant borrowers. Borrowers will be eligible for debt relief if they have an individual income of less than $125,000 a year or a household income under $250,000.
Of the Massachusetts borrowers who are eligible for relief, the White House says around 401,200 of them received Pell Grants, so they will be able to get up to $20,000 in debt cancelled.
Nationally, the White House estimates that 40 million people will have some debt forgiven, and about half of them will see their entire remaining balance wiped out because they owe less than $10,000 (or $20,000 for Pell recipients). The administration argues that making the loan forgiveness income-dependent and giving more money to Pell Grant recipients will ensure that the neediest individuals benefit. Demographically, 71 percent of Black undergraduate borrowers receive Pell grants, as do 65 percent of Latino borrowers.
US Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, said constituents frequently share with her emotional stories about the burden of student loan debt. “For those who aren’t dealing with student loan debt right now it may be hard to see just how soul-crushing this debt can be,” Warren said. “People are frightened by what it means for their futures and ashamed of what it says about their pasts.”
Warren said the relief will not help primarily “wealthy people who went to Ivy League schools” but middle and working class Americans whose families could not afford to pay for college.
Republican and conservative groups are considering filing lawsuits challenging the Biden administration’s plan. Some have questioned whether the president’s education secretary has the authority to unilaterally forgive debt for the government-backed student loans. Some have criticized the plan for redistributing wealth and holding taxpayers responsible for individual borrowers’ choices.
US Undersecretary of Education James Kvaal said on the White House call that the administration has looked at the secretary’s legal authority “extensively from every angle” and concluded “the secretary has clear authority to protect borrowers from financial harm resulting from the pandemic. We’re quite confident he has authority to carry out that step.”Details on how to apply will become available through the federal government’s website in October. Carmel Martin, White House deputy assistant to the president for economic mobility, said the goal is for people to be able to obtain the loan forgiveness before the end of the year, when the COVID-related pause on repayment expires and people must restart paying down their student loans.
According to the state-by-state data, the states with the highest number of student loan borrowers eligible for debt relief were, unsurprisingly, many of the most populous states. States with more than 1 million borrowers estimated as eligible for debt relief include Texas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.