Last month, the Biden-Harris administration announced it planned to forgive $10,000 in federal student debt for those earning less than $125,000 per year and $20,000 for those who had received Pell grants.
Following the announcement, the U.S. Department of Education released a three-part plan that answered questions, detailed eligibility and set an application deadline of Dec. 31, 2023. The plan, however, did not announce exactly when and where students can apply for loan forgiveness.
“There are a lot of questions that people have about the program right now with this application,” said Josh Montavon, director of Financial Aid and Scholarships at Salt Lake Community College. “There’s not even an application right now to apply, so once the application goes live, it’s going to be all over the news. Hopefully [by] early October the application will be out there.”
Instead of specific dates, the Department of Education said earlier this month that an application will launch in “early October.” The department also notified borrowers to fill out the application before Nov. 15 to receive relief before the payment pause ends in January.
The White House estimates roughly 27 million borrowers will be eligible to receive up to $20,000 in relief. For Mike Sartain, a SLCC and University of Utah graduate who has taken advantage of financial assistance, debt relief is an exciting prospect.
“I took out as much as possible,” Sartain said. “I was bartending at the time, so the extra money was nice to have. I’m absolutely going to apply – I owe about 60 grand, so this would help out immensely.”
Since the announcement of loan forgiveness, scammers have taken advantage of the situation and begun targeting borrowers, according to NPR. Katie Paul, director of the Tech Transparency Project, told the publication that as the payment pause nears its end, scammers may become more likely to prey on desperation.
Montavon said to be vigilant as no government entity is currently phoning or emailing borrowers about loan forgiveness.
“I’d recommend that if you don’t hear it from federal student aid or you’re not hearing it on broader news … don’t buy into it,” Montavon said. “If somebody calls you and says they’re from federal student aid, and then they ask you for your social security number, it’s not a legitimate knowledge source.”
For students who don’t qualify for loan forgiveness, Montavon said the free application for federal student aid, or FAFSA, is the best place to start.
“[FAFSA] is really the key that unlocks a whole bunch of types of mutual aid,” Montavon said.
General eligibility requirements for FAFSA include that applicants have financial need, are a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, and are enrolled in an eligible degree or certificate program, according to the Department of Education.
To fill out FAFSA, visit the form’s online web page. Additionally, the office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at SLCC assists students in completing the form. For walk-in times or to schedule an appointment with the office, call 801-957-4410.
For more information regarding loan forgiveness, visit the plan posted online by the Department of Education. To view a full list of financial assistance that SLCC offers, including grants and tuition waiver programs, visit the financial office’s web page.