The Biden administration's student loan forgiveness application site opened up Friday, allowing tens of millions of Americans to begin the process of having at least some of their debt forgiven.
The program covers more than 40 million Americans, who are eligible if, in 2021 or 2020, they earned under $125,000 as an individual or $250,000 for families. Applicants can receive up to $20,000 if they were a Pell Grant recipient or up to $10,000 if they were not.
The application — which is due over a year from now, on Dec. 31, 2023 — is extremely short and straightforward, requiring little more than the applicant's contact info and Social Security number.
The site is now in beta testing, and applications will not be reviewed until its official launch sometime before the end of October, a Department of Education spokesperson told CNN. Those who apply before then will receive a confirmation email.
After the launch, when application processing begins, applicants should receive their benefits in a matter of weeks.
"This testing period will allow the department to monitor site performance through real-world use, test the site ahead of the official application launch, refine processes, and uncover any possible bugs prior to official launch," the spokesperson said.
Many people are praising the application process and encouraging others to get theirs done ASAP, saying it took them less than a minute to complete.
According to data shared by the White House, 87% of the program's benefits will go to people who earn less than $75,000 a year.
"All of this means people can start to finally crawl out from under that mountain of debt to get on top of their rent and their utilities, to finally think about buying a home or starting a family or starting a business," Biden said in the announcement speech. He also announced that loan repayments, which were first paused at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, would be suspended one more time through Dec. 31 of this year.
Biden's plan came under fire just as soon as it was announced, with some criticizing debt forgiveness as "unfair" to people who already paid off their loans. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called it “a slap in the face to every family who sacrificed to save for college, every graduate who paid their debt, and every American who chose a certain career path or volunteered to serve in our armed forces in order to avoid taking on debt.”
In September, likely in an effort to fend off legal challenges, the Biden administration announced changes to the plan that made more than 700,000 people ineligible for relief. The affected borrowers are those who took out loans under the Federal Family Education Loan Program or the Federal Perkins Loan Program.
Though many are celebrating the easing of their debts, Biden's plan has also been criticized for not going far enough. For those most heavily burdened by their loans, the benefits they stand to receive are little more than a "drop in the bucket," some have said.
One eligible borrower, 31-year-old Taylor Scrivner, previously told BuzzFeed News that he will still have $54,000 to pay back after his benefits come through. “I’ll still have significant student debt … but I'm excited to have at least a little bit of a breath,” he said.
If you qualify, you can apply for student loan relief here.