You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Education Department releases new data on 25M applications for Biden's student debt relief

POLITICO 1/27/2023 By Michael Stratford
New graduates line up before the start of a community college commencement. © Seth Wenig/AP Photo New graduates line up before the start of a community college commencement.

The Biden administration on Thursday released new, more complete data about the more than 25 million Americans who signed up to have their student debt canceled before the program was blocked by the courts.

The Education Department received 25,031,094 applications for President Joe Biden's student debt relief program during the four weeks that the program was operating between Oct. 14 and Nov. 11, according to the new data, which was obtained by POLITICO under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Department officials approved 16,485,454 of those applications and sent them to be processed by loan servicers, according to the data. That process was also halted by federal court orders, and none of the approved debt relief has been carried out on borrower accounts.

Biden administration officials had previously only provided approximations of the number of borrowers who filled out applications to apply for the program, which provides up to $20,000 of debt relief for federal student loan borrowers.

The new federal data details, for the first time, the precise number of borrowers who filled out applications and where they live.

The Education Department received the most applications from some of the nation’s most populous states: California (2.2 million applications); Texas (2 million); Florida (1.5 million); New York (1.5 million); Pennsylvania (1 million); Ohio (1 million); Illinois (1 million); and Georgia (about 950,000).

The data does not include information on borrowers who did not apply but were deemed automatically eligible for relief because the Education Department already had their income information on file. But many of those borrowers also submitted applications.

The Biden administration was widely praised among Democrats for setting up an easy online application for borrowers to apply for the debt relief program. But the data also highlights some significant gaps in which borrowers filled out the application compared to the White House’s earlier estimates of the number of borrowers who may be eligible.

For example, the data shows that Massachusetts borrowers submitted 563,740 applications in the first month of the program — nearly 70 percent of the 813,000 borrowers that the administration estimated would be eligible in that state.

Wyoming borrowers, by contrast, submitted 26,869 applications — only about half of the 49,600 borrowers the administration estimates qualify for the program.

The new data also shows the huge influx of applications in the days after the Biden administration launched the application in mid-October, just weeks before the midterm elections.

Several million applications poured into the Education Department each day in the week following the announcement. In the following weeks, the department continued to receive hundreds of thousands of applications each day. More than 100,000 borrowers were applying each day when the application was taken offline on Nov. 11 in response to a federal court order.

About 76,000 borrowers applied for student debt relief using the Spanish-language version of the application, according to the data.

The Supreme Court is preparing to decide the fate of Biden’s student debt relief program in the coming months. The justices in February will hear arguments in two legal challenges brought by six Republican-led states and a conservative group.

Full state-by-state data as released by the Education Department under a FOIA request:

State/Location Application Count
California                              2,202,565
Texas                              2,035,304
Florida                              1,541,485
New York                              1,503,527
Pennsylvania                              1,097,017
Ohio                              1,028,607
Illinois                              1,010,760
Georgia                                 950,796
Michigan                                 825,115
North Carolina                                 756,341
New Jersey                                 728,853
Virginia                                 647,129
Massachusetts                                 563,740
Indiana                                 509,517
Maryland                                 501,545
Tennessee                                 486,453
Minnesota                                 478,809
Arizona                                 467,406
Washington                                 460,471
Missouri                                 455,114
Colorado                                 442,594
Wisconsin                                 438,453
South Carolina                                 411,260
Louisiana                                 355,256
Alabama                                 351,250
Kentucky                                 346,467
Oregon                                 312,521
Connecticut                                 307,628
Oklahoma                                 253,233
Iowa                                 248,375
Mississippi                                 234,906
Puerto Rico                                 224,268
Kansas                                 212,824
Arkansas                                 207,871
Nevada                                 188,656
Utah                                 172,465
Nebraska                                 144,049
West Virginia                                 124,330
New Mexico                                 117,728
Idaho                                 116,052
New Hampshire                                 113,643
Maine                                 108,789
Rhode Island                                   92,322
Delaware                                   77,408
District of Columbia                                   70,979
Hawaii                                   70,849
South Dakota                                   68,698
Montana                                   68,338
Vermont                                   49,615
North Dakota                                   47,884
Alaska                                   35,907
Wyoming                                   26,869
All Other Locations                                   53,734
Not Yet Matched to Borrower Data or Address Unavailable                                 686,129
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon