An application for student-loan forgiveness is set to become live in early October.
Education Sec. Miguel Cardona said it wasn't ready in August because Biden needed to give the green light.
"We couldn't create an application if it hadn't been a policy that the president would have put forth," he said.
President Joe Biden's Education Secretary has an answer for why an application for student-loan forgiveness wasn't ready when relief was announced.
At the end of August, Biden announced up to $20,000 in debt cancellation for federal borrowers making under $125,000 a year. It was a long-anticipated announcement, and the key question many borrowers wanted an answer on was how exactly they would get the relief, and how soon. The Education Department said that eight million borrowers will automatically receive debt relief because their income information is readily available, but the majority of borrowers will have to apply through an online form that will become live in early October.
As to why the application couldn't be ready immediately, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told NPR in a recent interview that the department needed Biden's official green light before moving ahead with implementation.
"It was really important that the president communicate on this topic that was critically important to do," Cardona said. "And we couldn't create an application if it hadn't been a policy that the president would have put forth. Right?"
Cardona also assured borrowers that "we're going to make the process simple. We're going to make the process quick, and we recognize the user experience matters. Look, you know, when you think of loan processing, that's not something that makes people think, 'Oh, easy process.' We're going to try to do our best to change that perception, make it simple so that folks can get on with their lives and not be mired down in trying to take advantage of this benefit."
Leading up to the announcement, advocates and lawmakers expressed concerns with how effectively the relief would be implemented. Both Democrats and Republicans sent letters to Cardona over the summer requesting information on how quickly debt cancellation would be carried out, and advocates cautioned against enforcing an application process because of its potential to leave eligible borrowers out of the relief.
Even student-loan companies raised concerns with the lack of guidance from the department, saying they need additional information to communicate to borrowers on the process for applying for and receiving relief. But, as Cardona told NPR, this is the first time student-loan forgiveness has been announced at such a large scale, and there are "many moving parts" to consider over the next few months.
"Just like there was no playbook for reopening schools, there was no playbook sitting anywhere on how to [cancel student loans]. But we're going to do it, and we're going to do it better than people expect," Cardona said.
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