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Do you qualify for Biden’s student loan cancellation? Here’s a primer

Loan cancellation up to $10,000 is available for those who earn less than $125,000 individually. Qualifying Pell Grant recipients are eligible for $20,000 in forgiveness

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Students walk on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City.

Students walk on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022. Many Utah college students are figuring out if President Joe Biden’s loan debt cancellation applies to them.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

President Joe Biden’s announcement to cancel some federal student loan debt has been met with celebration by some but grumbling by others who believe it will increase the federal deficit.

At the University of Utah, word of the federal student loan forgiveness has added to the palpable “positive energy” on campus this fall, which the school’s chief experience officer, Andrea Thomas, said could also be attributed to the start of new academic year and a reprieve from navigating COVID-19 restrictions.

“If you walk across our campus now — you know, school started this week — there is just so much positive energy, and it’s hard to parse out what’s ‘We’re so happy to be having an experience’ and ‘We got some really great news when it comes to loan forgiveness,’” she said.

For some qualifying students, the announcement means their entire outstanding balances will be wiped clean. For many Utah students, whose loan balances average about $33,000, the announcement will result in partial forgiveness for what they owe.

While that’s good news for individuals, some experts estimate that the loan cancellation will cost the federal government upward of $600 billion.

While debate about the announcement is ongoing, here’s what we know so far about who is eligible and what borrowers can expect in the coming year.

Who is eligible and how much relief is available?

It depends on what your individual or household income was during the pandemic and whether you received a Pell Grant.

Borrowers can qualify for up to $10,000 in student loan forgiveness while Pell Grant recipients are eligible for an additional $10,000 in forgiveness.

Relief is available for borrowers earning under $125,000 per year or $250,000 per year for a married couple filing taxes jointly.

How do I apply?

To apply for forgiveness or payments to count toward forgiveness under the temporary changes, visit the Federal Student Aid help tool.

The University of Utah recommends patience when visiting the website.

“An estimated 43 million people will benefit from loan forgiveness. The sheer volume of loans being assessed means some questions may not be answered immediately. The best advice is to be patient, keep all pertinent loan information on hand and document your interactions and loan balances at every step of the process,” according to tips provided by the university.

I just dropped my daughter off at college and she has a federal student loan. Does she qualify for relief?

This initiative applies only to federal student loans disbursed prior to July 1, 2022, so likely not.

How many Utahns have student debt and what do they owe?

According to the Utah System of Higher Education, Utah has some of the lowest student loan debt in the nation.

In Utah, people are much less likely to carry educational loan debt, and they owe less on average. The average student loan debt for Utahns is $32,835.

Approximately 307,000 people in the Beehive State have some student loan debt in the state but, generally speaking, Utahns are much less likely to carry educational loan debt and owe less on average than individuals nationally.

Does student loan forgiveness apply to private loans?

No.

This will relieve part of what I owe. What do I need to know about my outstanding balance?

The University of Utah advises: “Prepare for loan repayment to begin. The federal student loan freeze will end in January 2023. If you still have a loan balance after your qualifying amount of debt relief, you are expected to begin making payments again at that time.”

Is everyone happy about this?

No. Some student loan borrowers who have retired their debt are questioning why their generation of borrowers got no relief. Others question why personal debt should be forgiven by the government when the forgiveness will largely benefit people with higher incomes.

Kari Landro, of Millcreek, said Biden’s loan forgiveness was “nothing but a ploy to get votes.”

“It’s an outrage. When I went to college and worked to pay off my loan, it never occurred to me that the government or taxpayers should have to pay this burden. We were poor as immigrants but we all worked to put ourselves through school. How dare Biden put this on taxpayers and put us deeper in debt,” she said.

Still others, the nearly 60% of Americans who by age 25 have not earned bachelor’s degrees, are critical because they, along with all taxpayers, will shoulder the burden of a growing federal deficit yet receive no benefit from Biden’s initiative.

The executive action also was criticized by several Utah political leaders.

Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, tweeted “President Biden’s announcement isn’t a real solution because it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. University costs continue to skyrocket. Student loan forgiveness only places the brunt of its financial consequences on the next generation.”