Biden-Harris Administration Moves Forward with Student Debt Relief Negotiated Rulemaking to Deliver Support to as Many Borrowers as Possible as Quickly as Possible

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Biden-Harris Administration Moves Forward with Student Debt Relief Negotiated Rulemaking to Deliver Support to as Many Borrowers as Possible as Quickly as Possible

September 29, 2023

The Biden-Harris Administration marked a critical step forward in its efforts to deliver student debt relief to as many borrowers as possible through negotiated rulemaking under the Higher Education Act, even as extreme House Republicans threaten a government shutdown that would hurt families, communities, and our economy. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) today released an issue paper laying out its initial set of policy considerations to create a path to debt relief for student loan borrowers in need. The paper identifies five questions about distinct categories of affected borrowers for which the Department is seeking feedback. This includes questions about borrowers whose balances are greater than what they originally borrowed, whose loans first entered repayment decades ago, who attended programs that did not provide sufficient financial value, who are eligible for relief under programs like income-driven repayment but have not applied, and borrowers who have experienced financial hardship and need support, but for whom the current student loan system does not adequately address.

“The Biden-Harris Administration has taken unprecedented action to fix the broken student loan system and deliver record amounts of student debt relief,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Now, we are diligently moving through the regulatory process to advance debt relief for even more borrowers. Today, after considering more than 26,000 public comments on how to tailor this relief, we are releasing this additional information about this effort. We’re committed to standing up for borrowers and making sure that student debt does not stop anyone from climbing the economic ladder and pursuing the American dream.”

The debt relief issue paper will be discussed at the first meeting of the Student Loan Relief Committee, which is scheduled to take place October 10 and 11. The committee will be comprised of non-federal negotiators from 14 affected constituency groups, as well as a negotiator from the Department. During the session, the non-federal negotiators will provide input on the policy considerations and questions outlined by the Department, as well as identify any new proposals they may have. Members of the public will also have an opportunity to provide comments at the end of each day. Through this process, the Department will continue to develop regulatory text for consideration. The committee is also scheduled to meet in November and December. The public will have an opportunity to submit written comments on the draft rules when they are published next year.

The Department is also releasing a list of the individuals who will serve on the negotiating committee, which can be found here. These individuals were chosen based upon review of the nominations received in response to the Department’s request for nominations. We are still looking for individuals who can serve as alternate negotiators for two constituencies: (1) state officials, including state higher education executive officers, state authorizing agencies, and state regulators of institutions of higher education and (2) Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Minority-Serving Institutions (institutions of higher education eligible to receive federal assistance under Title III, Parts A and F, and Title V of the Higher Education Act of 1965).

Individuals who wish to represent these constituencies or organizations that wish to nominate someone for these constituencies should email before October 6. Submissions should include the information originally requested for nominees, which can be found here. This includes contact information, evidence of expertise, and a resume. From these submissions, the Department will make a selection for the unfilled alternate negotiator positions and ask the committee for its consensus approval during its first meeting.

Updates on the student debt relief rulemaking process will be posted here. Members of the public who wish to view the sessions or provide public testimony can also find a link on that page closer to the committee’s meetings where they can register to do so.

Continuing to provide debt relief and support borrowers

Today’s announcement builds on the work the Biden-Harris Administration has already done to improve the student loan program and make higher education more affordable. This includes approving $117 billion in relief for more than 3.4 million borrowers, including:

  • $39 billion for 804,000 borrowers who are eligible for forgiveness through Income-Driven Repayment by fixing historical inaccuracies in the count of payments that qualify toward forgiveness.
  • $45.7 billion for 662,000 public servants through Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs.
  • $10.5 billion for almost 491,000 borrowers with a total and permanent disability; and
  • $22 billion for nearly 1.3 million borrowers who were cheated by their schools, saw their institutions precipitously close, or are covered by related court settlements.

The Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to making college more affordable and ensuring student debt is not a roadblock to attaining a college degree or credential or planning for the future. The Administration launched the most affordable student loan repayment plan ever – the SAVE Plan – earlier this year, has made the largest increase to Pell Grants in a decade, and has charted a course to double the maximum Pell Grant and make community college free to enhance college affordability and reduce unnecessary student debt. The Administration is also holding institutions accountable for unaffordable debts and recently proposed regulations that would set standards for earnings and debt outcomes for career programs while enhancing transparency for all programs to give students the information they need to make informed choices.