The U.S. Department of Education will forgive $39 billion in student debt by updating a technical requirement under a long-existing program.

The change, announced Friday, will help more than 804,000 borrowers. It comes as the Biden administration pursues alternatives to a $400 billion student loan forgiveness plan that the Supreme Court struck down in June.

The new plan counts more payments toward a forgiveness program that kicks in when struggling borrowers have made the equivalent of either 20 or 25 years worth of payments.

“For far too long, borrowers fell through the cracks of a broken system that failed to keep accurate track of their progress towards forgiveness,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

Income-driven plans allow struggling borrowers to make smaller payments and are different from President Joe Biden’s broader attempts to alleviate student debt, which is well in excess of $1 trillion.

While Biden has been thwarted by the Supreme Court, the administration has discharged $72 billion in targeted loans, such as for students whose for-profit schools closed.

“We will not stop there,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in a statement. “Our administration will continue to fight to make sure Americans can access high-quality postsecondary education without taking on the burden of unmanageable student loan debt.”

The Education Department said it will begin notifying eligible borrowers Friday and continue to identify those who reach the threshold for eligibility every month until next year. Discharges start within 30 days after email notifications are sent.

After the Supreme Court decision, Biden said he would attempt another mass debt forgiveness plan using a different legal rationale than the one rejected by the court’s conservative majority.

Representative Virginia Foxx, a Republican who chairs the Education and the Workforce Committee and opposes forgiveness, called the change announced Friday “illegal” and “shameful.” 


(With assistance from Akayla Gardner)


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