College graduates STOCK
Washington CNN  — 

The Department of Education is making more changes to the federal student loan system that will help bring millions of borrowers – some of whom may have previously been in forbearance – closer to receiving debt forgiveness.

These new actions, announced Tuesday, are the latest moves by the Biden administration to make it easier for federal student loan borrowers to receive forgiveness that they may already be entitled to under existing programs.

By the end of March, more than 700,000 of the 43 million federal student loan borrowers had seen their outstanding debt discharged under President Joe Biden, totaling more than $17 billion in relief. He recently extended a pandemic-related payment pause for federal student loans until August 31.

Tuesday’s actions will bring more than 3.6 million borrowers at least three years closer to receiving forgiveness through what’s known as the income-driven repayment program, or IDR. The program, which offers four types of repayment plans, allows borrowers to avoid loan default by lowering their monthly payments based on their income and family size.

IDR also promises loan forgiveness after 20-25 years of payments are made. Several thousands of borrowers will immediately see forgiveness through the IDR program after Tuesday’s actions are fully implemented, according to the Department of Education.

Another 40,000 borrowers will receive immediate forgiveness through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program because they will get credit for more of their payments.

“Student loans were never meant to be a life sentence, but it’s certainly felt that way for borrowers locked out of debt relief they’re eligible for,” said US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement.

“Today, the Department of Education will begin to remedy years of administrative failures that effectively denied the promise of loan forgiveness to certain borrowers enrolled in IDR plans,” he added.

Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Dick Durbin of Illinois called on the Department of Education last week to investigate mismanagement of the IDR program and to provide borrowers with debt relief. The lawmakers’ letter cited a recent report from NPR that found that very few borrowers were able to get the loan forgiveness they were promised by the IDR program.

Fixing past errors

The changes announced Tuesday will help federal student loan borrowers who did not get accurate information from their loan servicers about their repayment options and were steered into forbearance – which allows for a temporary stop in payments – when they could have been enrolled in an IDR plan.