In two recent moves, the federal government is fast-tracking federal student loan forgiveness for hundreds of thousands of borrowers who need it most.
First, the U.S. Dept. of Education has announced that it is streamlining and fast-tracking loan forgiveness requests for student loan borrowers who attended the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges chain. Thousands of students have submitted requests for debt relief under the poorly-defined “Defense to Repayment” clause, and the Department has been slow to respond since there is no formal application or defined process for review. However, the government just announced the creation of a simple online form that former Corinthian students can complete to request forgiveness under Defense to Repayment. Former students of 91 campuses in 20 states will be granted automatic federal student loan forgiveness after submitting this form. This has the potential to benefit nearly 100,000 students who were defrauded by Corinthian. If the Department expands loan forgiveness eligibility to graduates of all Corinthian campuses (it is unclear if this will actually happen), approximately 350,000 former students may benefit.
This week, the Obama administration also announced the fast-tracking of federal student loan discharges for borrowers who are totally and permanently disabled. A disability discharge has existed for federal student loan borrowers for quite some time, but few people know that this program even exists. Furthermore, the disability discharge application process has historically been a long, complicated and heavily bureaucratic experience, effectively locking out many borrowers who would clearly be eligible. The federal government intends to address these problems by proactively reaching out to federal student loan borrowers who would, under federal law, be automatically eligible for a disability discharge due to their disability designation by the Social Security Administration. This has never happened before, and nearly 400,000 disabled borrowers may benefit from these outreach efforts.
All in all, this is excellent news for student loan borrowers who are struggling with debt that they will never be able to repay – either because of a disabling impairment that prevents them from working, or because of a predatory educational institution that engaged in fraud and other illegal conduct. This is part of a larger effort by the Obama administration to more strongly address the student debt crisis – it’s certainly not enough to address the systemwide problems, but it’s something, and more may be on the way. Stay tuned.