More than 600,000 Louisiana student borrowers are eligible for debt relief of up to $20,000 under President Joe Biden's plan with about half of those eligible to have all of their student loans forgiven, according to data released by the White House Tuesday.
Biden’s plan will cancel up to $10,000 in student debt for most borrowers and up to $20,000 for those who received Pell Grants, which are awarded to students who have shown exceptional financial need.
In all, 40% of all Louisiana adults who attended college are eligible for relief and 13% of the state's population is eligible.
"The impact in Louisiana is wide-ranging," said Jordan Matsudaira, chief economist at U.S. Department of Education, in an interview with USA Today. "It is one of the states that will see the biggest benefits proportion to population."
Applications aren't available yet, but most borrowers will have to apply for the debt forgiveness.
The Education Department says borrowers should file an application for student debt forgiveness before Nov. 15 for adjustments to be reflected in student loan monthly payments beginning in January, but the actual deadline is Dec. 31.
For more information, visit StudentAid.gov/debtrelief.
Borrowers can also sign up to receive updates at www.ed.gov/subscriptions by providing an email address to the U.S. Department of Education and click on the top box "NEW!! Federal Student Loan Borrower Updates."
"This is about buying breathing room for a lot of working-class Americans who have invested in themselves," Matsudaira said.
Matsudaira said 70% of student borrowers in Louisiana - 425,200 - will qualify for up to the highest amount of $20,000 as Pell Grant recipients. That compares to an average of 62% in other states. In all, 608,000 are eligible for some relief with 298,000 of those projected to have all of their student debt erased.
"It underscores the fact that a lot of borrowers in Louisiana are coming from working-class families," he said.
Biden’s plan covers only federal student loans, not private ones, and is limited to individual borrowers with incomes less than $125,000 or household incomes of less than $250,000.
Matsudaira said he didn't have a total dollar amount Louisiana borrowers will be eligible to have erased, but data from the Education Data Initiative estimates Louisiana residents are carrying a combined $22.5 billion in student loan debt.
Biden's program also extends a moratorium on federal student loan payments that was implemented during the coronavirus pandemic “one final time” through Dec. 31, 2022. Monthly payments will be capped at 5% of monthly income for undergraduate loans.
Biden’s plan was met with blistering criticism from Louisiana’s Republican congressional delegation, which includes all but lone Democratic Congressman Troy Carter of New Orleans, who praised the debt relief.
On Wednesday Republican Louisiana U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said Biden's and the Democratic Congress' spending plans have contributed to record inflation, describing the appropriations as creating "sugar highs."
But Carter thinks Congress should do even more to provide student debt relief, "building on the president’s today and passing legislation such as my Student Loan Relief Act of 2021 so that every American can pursue their dreams.”
A USA TODAY/Public Agenda poll in July found that nearly 60% of Americans support “forgiving a significant portion of government student loans for college graduates who have excessive debt.” That rate of support dropped when Americans were asked about forgiving debt for all graduates, regardless of income.
Greg Hilburn covers Louisiana politics for the USA Today Network. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: 600K in Louisiana can claim Biden's federal student loan debt relief