President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he’s making good on a promise to help students get out from under student loan debt. But it can be dependent on the type of loan — meaning some debtors won’t get any relief.

“What are usually just technical differences could now determine whether or not a borrower qualifies for President Joe Biden’s new and unprecedented plan to forgive hundreds of billions of dollars in federal loan debt,” as CBNC reported.

The president said that $10,000 in federal student loans for those with up to $125,000 income individually or $250,000 for a household will be forgiven, while those who received Pell Grants — the neediest students — could get up to $20,000.

A White House fact sheet said Pell Grant recipients account for more than 60% of the borrower population — and that the Department of Education believes about 27 million borrowers will qualify for the $20,000 in student debt relief. It said that Pell Grants used to cover 80% of the cost of a college education for a low-income student, but the grants have not kept up with costs and now only pay for about a third, leaving low-income students and parents to borrow the rest.

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CBS News reported that the typical Pell Grant is about $4,600, which is well below the cost of college for a year.

The list of loans covered by the forgiveness plan include loans in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program — including Direct Stafford Loans, and other Direct-branded federal student loans, whether or not they were subsidized. Parent PLUS Loans and Grad Loans are eligible for the debt relief under the Direct Loan Program.

That means that borrowers who used federal loans to help pay for graduate school can qualify, too — all, of course, subject to the income limitations.

The Century Foundation notes the Parent PLUS Loans borrowers average $29,600 in debt that the parents shouldered for their child’s education. And on average, parents still owe roughly 55% after 10 years of making payments — “after 20 years, a whopping 38%” —because of higher interest rates and less favorable terms than other federal student loans. The report notes, in fact, that “in 2015, 40,000 disabled or retired Parent PLUS borrowers saw portions of their Social Security benefits withheld from them after defaulting on their loans.”

Since the loan forgiveness only applies to loans held in some way by the U.S. Department of Education, those who received student loans from private lenders including banks and finance companies are likely out of luck.

CNBC’s Annie Nova explains it this way: “The federal government began lending to students on a large scale in the 1960s. Back then, though, it didn’t directly give out student loans. Instead, it guaranteed the debt provided by banks and nonprofit lenders, under what is now known as the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program. That program was completely eliminated in 2010, after lawmakers argued that it would be cheaper and simpler to directly lend to students. Nearly 10 million people still hold FFEL loans.”

Mark Kantrowitz, a higher education expert, told Nova that about half of those loans are held by the department and thus could be forgiven, while half are held by commercial lenders. Those loans not held by the government, by the way, didn’t get a pandemic payment pause, either.

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Nova wrote that those with FFEL commercial loans can call their loan servicer and consolidate them into the Direct Loan Program, making them eligible for forgiveness.

Federal Perkins Loan Program loans that are held by colleges, not the department, are also excluded.

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All private student loans are excluded from the forgiveness program.

Current and past students can both apply for the debt relief — as long as the loan was taken out before July 2022. The consolidation of ineligible FFEL and Perkins loans doesn’t have to occur before then, but experts told Verify that debtors should get it done quickly.

Because of provisions in the American Rescue Plan, the student loan debt relief will not count as income subject to income tax, the White House said.

More information on student debt relief is online at, including where to sign up to be notified when applications for the relief can be submitted. Not everyone will need to apply, either, as the Department of Education has information needed on some who are eligible and will automatically apply the debt relief.

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