Education Department releases new data on 25M applications for Biden's student debt relief
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:
District of Columbia
All Other Locations
Not Yet Matched to Borrower Data or Address Unavailable