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More than $13 billion in student loans has been forgiven in the past year—here’s who gets it

BY Sydney LakeJanuary 20, 2022, 2:35 PM

Student loan borrowers and the Too Much Talent Band thank President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for extending the student loan pause and now demand that they cancel student debt at a gathering outside The White House, as seen in January 2022. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for We, The 45 Million)

With exactly one year of the presidency under his belt, Joe Biden has canceled more than $11 billion in federal student loan debt through five rounds of forgiveness. That accounts for just 1% of all federal student loan debt, though, which now stands at about $1.8 trillion.

In early January, Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that Navient, one of the country’s largest education loan management companies, would cancel $1.7 billion in private student loan debt to resolve claims of deceptive servicing practices. That latest move brings the total amount of student loan debt forgiven in the past year (both federal and private) to about $13 billion.

Hundreds of thousands of borrowers have benefitted thus far from student loan forgiveness, but there are still approximately 43 million borrowers who remain in debt. That’s because the forgiveness that’s been granted thus far has gone to targeted groups as opposed to the more wide-sweeping cancellation that many top Democrats want.

“The Biden administration has a real track record now that we can look to and know how it thinks about awarding student loan relief,” Andrew Pentis, a certified student loan counselor with Student Loan Hero, previously told Fortune. “It’s been a track record of targeted relief to specific borrowers—not the mass forgiveness proposals that many progressives have called for.”

If you’re wondering whether you might qualify for one of the rounds of student loan forgiveness this year, Fortune has rounded up the main borrower groups who are currently eligible.

Borrowers who attended now-defunct schools

More than 188,000 borrowers will benefit from $2.6 billion in forgiveness targeted at helping those students who attended schools that are now deemed as having taken part in deceptive or illegal practices.

This group includes students who attended Corinthian Colleges, ITT Technical Institute, American Career Institute, Court Reporting Institute, Westwood College, or Marinello Schools of Beauty. These schools have been deemed as having misled students. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona first announced the cancellations in March 2021.

Before these loans were canceled, borrowers had to submit a loan discharge application form, which asks questions about the student’s previous enrollment. The Federal Student Aid (FSA) office then decided whether to grant no, partial, or full forgiveness if the applicant’s school had deceived them. Borrowers started having their loans automatically discharged beginning in September 2021.

Borrowers with total and permanent permanents

In August 2021, the Education Department announced a $5.8 billion round of forgiveness to wipe out student loan debt for 323,000 borrowers who have total and permanent disabilities that prevent them from being able to work.

Eligible borrowers must be registered as having a “total and permanent” disability (TPD) by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to have a debt automatically discharged. Borrowers no longer have to fill out a separate application to receive relief.

The Education Department previously monitored borrowers’ income for three years after receiving TPD status, and if a borrower’s income met a certain threshold, then the loans could be reinstated. The department announced in August 2021, however, that it would stop sending these automatic income information requests, and is proposing eliminating the monitoring period for the long haul.

Borrowers who are public servants

In October 2021, the Education Department unveiled sweeping changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which was developed to relieve public servants—including teachers, firefighters, social workers, and other government or nonprofit employees—of the federal student loan debt. This round of forgiveness accounted for about $1.7 billion in federal student loan debt cancellation.

Public servants who were seeking full debt cancellation had to be enrolled in a repayment plan and make 120 on-time student loan payments—but 98% of PSLF borrowers who had applied for forgiveness since the program’s 2007 inception were denied by the program due to a number of hurdles with the approval process.

Changes to the application and approval process immediately helped 22,000 borrowers, and another 27,000 borrowers are eligible for a collective $2.8 billion in forgiveness if they “certify additional periods of employment,” according to the Education Department.

More than one-half-million borrowers could benefit from long-term changes to the PSLF program if they consolidate their non-qualifying loans under the federal Direct Loan program. Fortune previously detailed how PSLF borrowers can have their debt erased.

Borrowers with private loans from Navient

Nearly 66,000 private student loan borrowers across the US will benefit from Navient’s cancellations, which came as a result of a probe by 39 state attorneys general for “allegations of widespread unfair, deceptive, and abusive student loan servicing practices and abuses in originating predatory student loans ,” according to a statement released by Shapiro’s office.

According to Navient, the company will cancel the debt of borrowers who originated loans “largely between 2002 and 2010 and later defaulted and charged off.” These borrowers were either issued subprime private loans and couldn’t pay them back or Navient had driven them into forbearance, preventing borrowers from being able to pay down their principal amount.

The company will notify borrowers by July 2022 regarding who will have their private debt canceled. Eligible borrowers who made any payments after June 30, 2021 on private loans that were canceled will be refunded. Borrowers don’t need to do anything additional to have their private debt canceled.

See how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best business analytics programs, data science programs, and part-time executive, full-time, and online MBA programs.

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