Student loans erased in waves
The Biden administration has made a series of announcements throughout the year as it has wiped out student loan debt for one group of borrowers after another.
In the most recent move, the Education Department said last week that an overhaul of a loan forgiveness program for public service employees could result in $1.74 billion in immediate debt cancellation for 22,000 teachers, first responders, nurses and others.
Some 27,000 more could see $2.82 billion in balances eliminated if their work records meet the program's requirements, officials said.
The department's news release revealed that the administration has now approved more than $11.5 billion in student debt forgiveness. That amount has included:
- $7.1 billion canceled for borrowers with "total and permanent disability."
- $1.1 billion in forgiveness for former students who officials say were misled by ITT Technical Institute before it went belly-up in September 2016.
- $55.6 million in loan discharges for people who attended three other trade schools that misrepresented themselves to students, according to the administration.
- $1 billion for additional borrowers who claimed they were defrauded by schools.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education is keeping all student loan repayment, interest and collections on hold through Jan. 31, 2022, and has waived student loan interest for 47,000 current and former active-duty members of the military.
Tens of millions still want loan forgiveness
Let's be real: The administration's debt forgiveness to date is puny compared to the total $1.7 trillion in student loan debt currently being carried by 45 million Americans.
During his presidential campaign, Biden said he would like to cancel $10,000 in federal student loan debt for every borrower. High-profile Democrats in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have been urging him to go bigger — and wipe out $50,000 per person.
Biden reportedly asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to determine whether a president can legally forgive mountains of student debt through executive action. But that was way back in April, and there hasn't been a peep since.
In a letter addressed to the president and the secretary on Friday, 15 House Democrats call student loan debt "a policy failure," and demand that the results of Cardona's review be released by Oct. 22.
Advocates for widespread forgiveness say reducing student debt loads will benefit the U.S. economy as a whole, because it will free up cash that borrowers can put toward major expenses, like homes and cars, new business ventures and other big investments in their futures.
How to tackle student debt while you wait for Washington
If you've got student loans and haven't been helped by any of the Biden administration’s cancellation moves, there are ways you can manage the debt while you hold on for possible relief from Washington.
Interest rates on student loan refinances through private lenders have been hitting all-time lows, and refinancing your student loan at a lower rate could chop down your monthly payments. If broad federal loan forgiveness ever does materialize, it won’t extend to refinance loans from private lenders.
If you own a home, there's still time to refinance that debt and save. The typical 30-year fixed mortgage rate is still historically low — under 3%, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Nearly half the homeowners who refinanced to ultra-low rates during the first year of the pandemic are now saving $300 a month or more, a Zillow survey found.
If a student loan or mortgage refi has grabbed your attention, keep in mind that the best interest rates go to borrowers with the highest credit scores. It's easy today to check your credit score for free, so get a peek and see if you need to do some work before you start reaching out to lenders.
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