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You Can't Apply for Student Loan Debt Relief Right Now. Here's the Latest

Student loan debt forgiveness has been blocked and the application site is currently down.

An illustration of a pile of books with a graduation cap on top with a gold coin attached
If the court order is overturned, those earning less than $125,000 in 2020 or 2021 can get their student loan debt canceled.
Getty Images

Student loan debt forgiveness has been blocked by a court order and the Department of Education is no longer accepting applications. For those who have already applied, their applications will be on hold. If the legal orders are overturned, those who are eligible could get up to $20,000 in student loan debt relief.

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If it becomes available again, the application asks for your name, Social Security number, date of birth, phone number and email address. You'll be contacted by the Education Department if it needs you to provide proof of income. The application was set to remain open until Dec. 31, 2023, but it's unclear if that still holds.

We'll keep the details below for how to apply if the application is able to reopen, as well as the information about eligibility. For more, avoid student loan debt scams by spotting red flags, and learn which states are taxing student loan forgiveness.

Read more: 'Paying for the Rest of My Life.' Student Loan Debt Is Crushing an Entire Generation

Why is there a court order to stop student loan debt relief?

On Oct. 22, a court hearing a lawsuit by six Republican-led states to stop the student loan relief program issued a temporary injunction for the debt relief plan

The states -- Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina -- argue that the Biden administration is overstepping its legal authority. 

Most recently, a federal judge in Texas issued a court order to stop Biden's student loan forgiveness plan, ruling that it's illegal. The Student Aid website now says it's "seeking to overturn those orders."

For now, student loan debt cancellation will continue to be on hold until a final decision is made.

Who could be eligible to have their student loan debt canceled?

Under President Joe Biden's plan, the Department of Education would cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for individual borrowers who make below $125,000 per year or less than $250,000 for married borrowers or those who are heads of households. 

You may also be eligible for an additional $10,000 in relief if you received federal Pell Grants while enrolled in college, totaling up to $20,000 in debt relief.

The White House assured borrowers that debt cancellation would occur before federal student loan payments restart on Jan. 1, 2023, but it's unclear if this date is still attainable.

Read more8 Million Student Loan Borrowers Get Debt Relief Automatically

How do you apply for student debt relief?

Most of the estimated 40 million borrowers seeking student loan relief will need to apply for forgiveness using the Education Department's online form if and when it reopens. Here's what you'll need to do if the application reopens: 

The department said if you submit an application, it will be processed, and you won't need to resubmit. 

Note that if the Department of Education already has your income information on file, the department may have enough information to automatically forgive your debt without applying. The group who will automatically qualify may number as many as 8 million borrowers and mostly includes those who are enrolled in income-driven repayment plans. The department recommends filling out the form anyway if you think you are in this group in case it doesn't have enough information to automatically cancel the debt.

If the department doesn't have your income details on file, you must complete the application to supply the information the department needs to determine if you qualify to have your debt canceled. 

You don't need to upload supporting documents or use your FSA ID to submit your application. Prior to the recent court order, the application had been available through desktop and mobile browsers in both English and Spanish versions, but that is on hold pending appeals.

Once you submit your application, it'll be reviewed to determine your eligibility for debt relief, and the department will work with your loan servicers to process your relief. You'll receive an email after you submit the form, notifying you it has successfully received your application, and the department will contact you if it needs additional information, such as proof of income. You'll also receive updates when your application is approved and sent to your loan servicer to process your relief.

Once your loan servicer approves and applies the debt forgiveness to your account, it will notify you and share any additional information necessary, such as your remaining balance.

What information do you need to fill out the student loan relief application?

The Department of Education application for student loan debt forgiveness includes two sections: The first, labeled "Borrower Information," has fields you'll fill out to provide information the department needs to determine your eligibility.

The application requires the following personal information from borrowers:

  • Name (including a former last name if applicable)
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Phone number
  • Email address

The second section, labeled "Review and Submit the Agreement," is a sworn statement that you are eligible for debt relief. It asks borrowers to affirm that they're requesting loan forgiveness, that they're eligible based on the income requirements and that, if asked, they'll provide proof of income to the Department of Education before March 31, 2024.

Hand holding Stack of 100 dollar bills

You could be eligible for $10,000 to $20,000 in student loan debt forgiveness.

James Martin/CNET

How do you access the student debt forgiveness application?

The Education Department's online form to apply for federal student loan debt relief is currently closed. If it becomes available again, you'll visit studentaid.gov/debt-relief/application to apply.

What is the deadline to apply for student loan debt relief?

Borrowers who are eligible have until Dec. 31, 2023, to apply for forgiveness.

During an Aug. 26 press briefing, National Economic Council Deputy Director Bharat Ramamurti said that after borrowers complete their applications, "They can expect relief within four to six weeks." It's not clear, however, how postponing student debt cancellation will affect that time frame.

"Borrowers are advised to apply by roughly Nov. 15, in order to receive relief before the payment pause expires on Dec. 31," Ramamurti said.

To learn more about the student loan plan, go to the Department of Education subscription page and sign up to receive "Federal Student Loan Borrower Updates," the first checkbox in a long list of education topics.

If you made payments on your student loans during the moratorium, you can now request a refund from your loan servicer. For anyone who's not eligible for the student loan forgiveness -- or who will still owe money after the debt is canceled -- payments and interest are still paused until January 2023.