September 12, 2022

Biden-Harris Administration Plans to Forgive Student Debt for Eligible Borrowers – What We Know

Nancy Conneely, Managing Director of Policy
Policy and Advocacy


President Biden recently announced plans to forgive some amount of federal Direct Loans for borrowers. This is something President Biden has been talking about since he was a candidate running for president, but there was some uncertainty over whether he had the legal authority to do so or if it required Congress to act. After asking the Department of Education (ED) and the Department of Justice to research this legal question, both agencies determined that the President can use his executive authority to cancel student loan debt while under a national emergency (i.e., the COVID-19 pandemic).

Further details and guidance about the process are still being formulated by ED, but here’s what we do know about who is eligible:

  • Borrowers with annual incomes below $125,000 (individuals) or $250,000 (married couples/head of households) are eligible for $10,000 in forgiveness.
  • Borrowers who received a Pell Grant as an undergraduate can receive up to an additional $10,000 in forgiveness.
  • Direct Loans eligible for forgiveness include subsidized loans, unsubsidized loans, Grad PLUS loans, Parent PLUS loans and consolidation loans.
  • Eligible loans must have been disbursed by June 30, 2022 to qualify for forgiveness.

Cancellation will be automatic if ED has the borrower’s income data for tax years 2020 or 2021. If ED does not have the borrower’s income information, they must submit a simple application, which will be available in early October. ED recommends that borrowers whose loans are covered by the student loan payment pause apply for the cancellation by November 15, 2022 in order to obtain forgiveness before the pause ends on December 31, 2022. However, ED will continue to accept applications until December 31, 2023.

Borrowers can view their loan balances and check their Pell Grant status by logging into their Federal Student Aid account online at

For more information about student debt cancellation, check out these AccessLex resources: