Education Secretary Cardona takes NPR's questions about Biden's student loan plan (2023)

Updated September 17, 2022 at 1:31 PM ET

President Biden's student loan relief plan could fully erase the debts of an estimated 20 million borrowers. Emphasis on "could," because, with the exception of some 8 million borrowers who already have income information on file with the U.S. Education Department, everyone else will need to fill out an application attesting to their income before their debts can be canceled.

Millions of borrowers are anxiously awaiting that mysterious application, expected in October. The wait has stirred questions and confusion from our readers and listeners, and this week, NPR had a chance to put some of those questions to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, during the Pittsburgh stop of his back-to-school bus tour.

When to expect the student loan relief application

First, a reminder of the highlights of Biden's plan: Borrowers who earn less than $125,000 a year, or couples earning less than $250,000, can qualify to have up to $10,000 in federal student loans canceled. Borrowers who received a Pell Grant to attend college, because they were lower income at the time of attendance, qualify for up to $20,000 in debt relief. And, even if they qualify, most borrowers will have to fill out an application to prove it.

NPR: The application is coming in early October. Can you give borrowers a realistic sense of how long they should expect to wait, once they submit that application, before they can expect to see their debts erased?

(Video) Education Secretary Miguel Cardona discusses student loan relief plan

Cardona: Look, this is unprecedented. Just like there was no playbook for reopening schools, there was no playbook sitting anywhere on how to [cancel student loans]. But we're going to do it, and we're going to do it better than people expect.

We want to make sure that it's a simple process, an easy process where those who are eligible get the loan relief that they are entitled to. So, early October, and we expect the process to be a smooth process, a simple process, a quick process.

While I'm not going to share timelines right now, I will tell you, [by] January 1 when [loan repayment resumes], we have to have all that set up. So we know that, between October and before the loans restart, not only is the information going to be needed by all borrowers, but we're going to have to be done with that process.

NPR: I've heard from a lot of borrowers who have been getting phished in this interim moment – between President Biden's announcement and the October release of the application. Is the department doing – or can it do anything – about the profiteers out there?

Cardona: We know there are a lot of bad actors out there, even in education. That's why we've gone after [predatory for-profit colleges like] the Corinthians, the I.T.T.s. And what we're telling folks, "Go to our website,, to get information. And don't go anywhere else. Don't open up those emails. Don't."

Our [Federal Student Aid] team is working really hard to make sure that we make the process simple and clear, and we're directing folks to come to our website. They can sign up there for an automatic email so that we're sending information to them from our official websites.

(Video) U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona talks Biden administration moves on student loans

But you're absolutely right: There are bad actors out there. What we want to do is make sure that we're taking that into account when we're coming up with the planning on how to roll it out.

NPR: Why announce this [debt relief plan] before there's an application?

Cardona: It was really important that the president communicate on this topic that was critically important to do. And we couldn't create an application if it hadn't been a policy that the president would have put forth. Right?

With that said, we're going to make the process simple. We're going to make the process quick, and we recognize the user experience matters.

Look, you know, when you think of loan processing, that's not something that makes people think, 'Oh, easy process.' We're going to try to do our best to change that perception, make it simple so that folks can get on with their lives and not be mired down in trying to take advantage of this benefit.

The upcoming deadline on Public Service Loan Forgiveness

At this point in the interview, we jumped to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) waiver. The Biden administration used this waiver to overhaul the troubled program last year, making it easier for borrowers who work in public service to qualify for debt relief after 10 years. But that limited waiver is set to expire at the end of October, raising concerns that thousands of borrowers who qualify won't apply in time.

(Video) Student loan debt cancellation meant ‘to address the impact of the pandemic’: Education Secretary

In fact, Cardona's bus tour this week included workshops designed to help teachers through the PSLF application process.

NPR: Do you think you're going to be able to get that PSLF waiver extended or should folks be working on the assumption it's done November 1?

Cardona: Look, Public Service Loan Forgiveness – talk about fixing a broken system. Ninety-eight percent of those who were applying for it were being denied. We're talking teachers, nurses, those who are stepping up during a pandemic. We provided that waiver, a one year waiver to create a wider net for people that were misguided in the past, lied to in the past, so they can take advantage of it now.

That waiver does end October 31, and we're pushing really hard to get that information out. So for those of you who are not sure about it, I would say apply for that. It's better to get your name written down there and then find out later that maybe you didn't qualify than to be eligible and not sign up.

So, More than 175,000 people have benefited from it. Over $10 billion in loan relief for those people who made a career choice to serve the public. We want to make sure we're taking care of them and we got their backs just like they're taking care of the community.

A response to borrowers who are concerned about past mismanagement of student aid programs

For our last question, we pointed to multiple NPR investigations into the ways the department and its loan servicing companies grossly mismanaged previous federal student aid programs, including TEACH Grant, PSLF, Total and Permanent Disability Discharge and income-driven repayment.

(Video) Miguel Cardona addresses legality of Biden's student loan handout program

While many borrowers are hopeful the administration will make good on its latest debt relief plan, they are also justifiably skeptical – even cynical – about the Education Department's ability to pull it off.

NPR: What do you say to borrowers right now who may be excited but also worried about being too hopeful – because they just don't trust that the system's going to work?

Cardona: Well, look, we recognize how many moving parts are here. And we've been thinking about this for many, many months. We're working with our loan servicers. We're communicating with them daily. We have update meetings daily. And we're making sure that when we roll this process out, it can be smooth. And that's the expectation. The president campaigned on $10,000 [of relief per borrower]. [He's also] delivering $20,000 for those who are eligible for Pell.

Now we have to deliver.

(This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.)

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

(Video) Biden’s Student Loan Relief Plan Is Now Live. Here’s How It Works


How do I get my student loan forgiven by Biden? ›

Who can apply for Biden's student loan forgiveness plan?
  1. You're a current federal student loan holder.
  2. You earn less than $125,000 a year or your household earns less than $250,000 a year.
  3. You're a Pell Grant recipient with loans held by the Department of Education (this is required for additional forgiveness)
17 Oct 2022

Will new student loans qualify for forgiveness? ›

Yes, current students with loans are eligible for this debt relief. However, if a parent claims you as a dependent on their taxes, the Department of Education will use their income to decide if you qualify. Borrowers who received student loans after June 30, 2022 are not eligible for forgiveness.

At what age will my student loans be forgiven? ›

Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) works much the same way as Pay As You Earn. Under this plan, your payments will be capped at 10% of your discretionary income. Undergraduate loans are forgiven after 20 years, while graduate school loans are forgiven after 25 years.

Which student loans are not forgiven? ›

As of Thursday, borrowers with student loans through the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program and Perkins Loans who have not already consolidated their debt into direct loans will now no longer be able to do so and are no longer eligible for federal debt relief, the Education Department now says.

How can I get my student loan completely forgiven? ›

If you work full-time for a government or not-for-profit organization, you may qualify for forgiveness of the entire remaining balance of your Direct Loans after you've made 120 qualifying payments—that is, 10 years of payments.

Are student loans forgiven at age 70? ›

Are student loans forgiven when you retire? The federal government doesn't forgive student loans at age 50, 65, or when borrowers retire and start drawing Social Security benefits. So, for example, you'll still owe Parent PLUS Loans, FFEL Loans, and Direct Loans after you retire.

Can student loans take your Social Security? ›

By law, Social Security can take retirement and disability benefits to repay student loans in default. Social Security can take up to 15% of a person"s benefits. However, the benefits cannot be reduced below $750 a month or $9,000 a year.

Are student loans automatically forgiven after 20 years? ›

Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven if you haven't repaid your loan in full after 20 years (if all loans were taken out for undergraduate study) or 25 years (if any loans were taken out for graduate or professional study).

Who will have student loans forgiven? ›

If Biden's program is allowed to move forward, individual borrowers who earned less than $125,000 in either 2020 or 2021 and married couples or heads of households who made less than $250,000 annually in those years could see up to $10,000 of their federal student loan debt forgiven.

What kind of student loans will be forgiven? ›

Current students and borrowers who have federally held undergraduate, graduate and Parent PLUS loans that were distributed on or before June 30, 2022 are eligible for the relief, says Megan Walter, a policy analyst for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

What conditions qualify for student loan forgiveness? ›

You may be eligible for discharge of your federal student loans based on borrower defense to repayment if you took out the loans to attend a school and the school did something or failed to do something related to your loan or to the educational services that the loan was intended to pay for.

Do student loans go away after 7 years? ›

While negative information about your student loans may disappear from your credit reports after seven years, the student loans themselves will remain on your credit reports — and in your life — until you pay them off.

Are student loans being forgiven after 10 years? ›

Under the federal program, eligible borrowers can have their loans discharged after 10 years if they meet eligibility requirements.

Can my student loans be forgiven if I am retired? ›

“People close to or in retirement who are unhindered with student loans don't have the burden of maintaining those monthly payments, freeing up more money for retirement accounts and investments,” Reynolds says. The federal government now offers up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness.

What type of student loans will be forgiven? ›

You qualify to have up to $10,000 forgiven if your loan is held by the Department of Education and you make less than $125,000 individually or $250,000 for a family. If you received Pell grants, which are reserved for undergraduates with the most significant financial need, you can have up to $20,000 forgiven.

How do I know if my Navient loan will be forgiven? ›

Borrowers need not apply for the Navient settlement to get their loans forgiven. There isn't a “Navient Settlement Application.” By July 2022, Navient will send you a letter like the one below, showing which of your loans will be canceled.

Will new student loan changes affect me? ›

The proposed changes to student loans will mean many students end up paying back more overall. But although they will pay back more of the balance of their loans, most will end up paying less interest on them. This is because of a proposed change in the way interest on student loans is calculated.

Will student loan changes affect existing loans? ›

Most aspects of the student loan are staying the same, including the amount you can borrow for your maintenance loan, your tuition loan and the repayment threshold. The only thing that is changing is the amount of interest you'll earn on your overall loan amount.

Who qualifies for the student loan forgiveness program? ›

To be eligible, your annual income must have fallen below $125,000 (for individuals) or $250,000 (for married couples or heads of households). If you received a Pell Grant in college and meet the income threshold, you will be eligible for up to $20,000 in debt relief.

Are student loans in default forgiven? ›

Are Direct Loans that are in default eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)? Defaulted Direct Loans are not eligible for PSLF. However, a defaulted loan may become eligible for PSLF if you resolve the default. Learn how to resolve the default through rehabilitation or consolidation.

Who is eligible for Navient debt cancellation? ›

Only loans held by the Department of Education are eligible for the loan cancellation program. As of September 29, 2022, ED issued a FAQ announcing that borrowers with federal student loans not held by ED cannot obtain one-time debt relief by consolidating those loans into Direct Loans.

Will my Navient debt be Cancelled? ›

Navient will notify eligible private loan borrowers of the discharge of their private loans in writing by July 2022. Consumers who are eligible for the private loan cancellation under the settlement do not need to take any action.

Who gets forgiven Navient? ›

Navient student loan forgiveness is available for your FFEL Loans if you earned less than $125 thousand in 2020 or 2021, worked in public service anytime after Oct. 1, 2007, or have paid on your loans or been in forbearance for at least two decades.

What are the changes to student loans 2023? ›

From 1 September 2022 to 30 November 2022: The maximum interest rate will be 6.3% for all post-2012 (Plan 2) loans, reflecting a further reduction of the Prevailing Market Rate. From 1 December 2022 to 31 August 2023: The maximum interest rate will be 7.3% as announced on 11 June 2022.

Do parents savings affect student finance? ›

Student Finance NI will always count your own income. This will include non-earned income, such as interest from savings, but not casual or part-time earnings during your course. They may also count income from your parents or partner, depending on whether you are classed as a 'dependent' or 'independent' student.

Will the student loan pause be extended? ›

Will the student loan payment freeze be extended again? The pause on federal student loan payments is slated to expire on Dec. 31, 2022, with payments expected to resume on Jan. 1, 2023.

What is the new law on student loans? ›

Introduced in House (03/18/2021) This bill requires the Department of Education (ED) to forgive the outstanding balance of principal, interest, and fees due on federal student loans for eligible borrowers who meet certain income requirements.

Will the government extend student loan payments again? ›

Payments for federal student loans have been paused continuously since early 2020, giving borrowers temporary relief from their student loan balances. “The payment pause will likely be extended again, probably until Jan. 31, 2023,” says Robert Farrington, CEO of The College Investor.

Why has my student loan repayment doubled? ›

This usually happens if your earnings vary throughout the year, so at one point you're earning an amount above the repayment threshold, but your total annual income is less than the threshold. This might happen if: You only work for part of the year. You take on extra shifts in a specific month.


1. How Biden's student loan forgiveness program will work
(CBS News)
2. Economic impact of Biden's student loan forgiveness plan
(CBS News)
3. Biden announces student loan forgiveness plan
4. Biden's student loan forgiveness threatened by lawsuits
(KOIN 6)
5. LISTEN: The state of student loan forgiveness
(PBS NewsHour)
6. As pressure builds, Biden makes plans to cancel some student loan debt
(PBS NewsHour)
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